How Bagudu responded to flood-ravaged farmlands, communities in Kebbi
By Yahaya Sarki
Kebbi State is synonymous with food production, largely due to the formidable revolutionary approaches of the indefatigable State Governor, Senator Abubakar Atiku Bagudu in food production, particularly rice production. Kebbi has the potency to produce myriad of agricultural products, amongst which is rice. Indisputably, Kebbi State is fast becoming the food basket of the nation.
Certainly, happy development has indeed attracted the attention of President Muhammadu Buhari, prompting him to kick start the ‘Anchor Borrowers loan Program’ in the state in 2015, to provide loans and agricultural inputs such as cheap fertilizers, improved seeds, chemicals and water pumping machines, among others. No fewer than 100,000 rice farmers in the state had benefitted from this invaluable gesture.
The “Anchor Borrowers loan Program,” which was a tripatite arrangement between the federal government through CBN, the rice Miller’s as the up-takers and farmers on the other side as the producers.
The President luckily chose the state to launch his diversification agenda, to improve the nation’s economy, through agriculture in order to reduce over dependence on oil, bolster its food security, by achieving self sufficiency in rice production, curb importation of rice and create more employment opportunities for the teeming unemployed youths in the country.
It is interesting to note that, the federal government’s scheme in the land of equity has largely been successful due to the political sagacity, unwavering commitment and ceaseless support of Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu. Obviously, the governor had successfully and patriotically triggered rice revolution, not only in his state, but across Nigeria as a whole.
Today, many people who were not hitherto rice farmers and were just gluttonic consumers have happily and willingly gone back to the farms. This has resulted in the massive increase of rice production, stoppage of importation of rice and the establishment of small and large scale rice mills. In less than two years of starting the program, Kebbi State has tangibly recorded an impressive increase in rice production, from less than a million tone to over two million tones.
Interestingly, Kebbi state has now became the darling of many states and the investors ‘ destination, not only in Nigeria, but across Africa and entire world. The massive rice production in the state has really been instrumental to rice revolution in Nigeria.
However, very sadly, the state”s massive rice production was hampered by the recent devastating floods. Although the state had hitherto witnessed flood disasters, but none was as devastating as the 2020 floods. This is because it came when the diligent farmers of the state were expecting bumper harvests and more and more people have embraced farming. The floods came with a bang and regrettably dashed the hopes of many of the farmers.
The floods that came were as a result of continuous rainfall, making the dams to be filled to capacity and the subsequent release of the water to farmlands. So, the disaster was caused by a culmination of reasons that include the intensive rainfall and release of water from the dams.
The losses incurred by the farmers, especially rice farmers in Kebbi State were colossal and immeasurable , they run into billions of naira . Thousands of hectares of Fadama rice farms in the state were affected by the flood. Rice farms , other agricultural crops, livestock and even communities were not spared by the raging floods. The flood has even caused the loss of eight lives in Tungar Gehuru village of Jega local government area.
The colossal damage to physical infrastructure, such as roads and bridges across the state was also legendary and it runs into billions of naira also. Many major roads and bridges were washed away by the floods, with a host of communities completely cut off from the remaining parts of the state. Preliminary reports revealed that, over six bridges had collapsed as a result of the floods.
More worrisome is that, major rice producing local government areas in the state were affected by the floods, including their farming communities. Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu had to cut off his official engagement in Abuja and rushed back to Kebbi on Saturday.
The visibly agitated and disturbed governor, right from the Sir Ahmadu Bello Sardauna Airport, Ambursa, embarked on assessment visits to flood affected communities and farmlands across the state. On Saturday , precisely, on 30th of August, 2020 , the governor started his visit to flood ravaged local government areas areas in the state, to assess the situation.
The Governor, who was accompanied by officials of the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), led by its Chairman, Alhaji Sani Dododo, visited Augie, Argungu and Arewa local government, communities, to assess rice farmlands, roads and bridges affected by the flood.
Bagudu, who defied the difficult terrains of the hinterlands, took time to personally interact with the victims, commiserated with them, diligently and patiently listened to their needs, with a view to assisting them.
Speaking at Bakin Gada, in Argungu local government shortly after inspecting rice farmlands submerged by the floods, Bagudu flanked by the National President of Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Alhaji Aminu Goronyo, expressed utmost shock over the incident, describing it as regrettable.
“Things like this happen, we are not unique in the world , it is regrettable. We have seen in the hurricane laura and other hurricanes similar and other worst problems.”
The governor further expressed optimism that Nigeria, which according to him, had witnessed similar disasters before , would surmount the problem.He assured the farmers that, the federal government with its institutions like the CBN and other organisations, would respond to the problem effectively.
He averred: ”We are responding to disasters and supporting each other, and i believe the FGN, the CBN and other associations will respond to this effectively and timely too.”
While thanking the CBN and RIFAN for their concern over the flood situation in Kebbi, Bagudu equally appreciated President Muhammadu Buhari’s leadership derive to making Nigeria self sufficient in food production.
He announced that, the President would soon summon a meeting of the National Food Security Council and the problem of flood disasters, among others, would be discussed.
The National President of RIFAN, Alhaji Aminu Goronyo, while commenting on the situation, said he led the North West State Chapters to Kebbi State, to physically see for themselves the devastating effect of the flood to rice farms.
According to Goronyo, they will also pay a courtesy visit to the governor, as well as to declare the preceding dry season program, 2020 in the state. Goronyo described the devastating effect of the flood to rice farms as beyond comment, saying, “I can say that the devastating effect of the flood to farms is beyond comment. I don’t think in the most recent time, this kind of flood has happened to this level, the only thing i can say is that, the Almighty God is in control.
“Everything that we have seen is from God and we must thank Him and I know He can replace whatever we lost, with what we can even imagine.”
Goronyo assured the farmers that CBN had sent in its officials from the Development Finance Department, to come to Kebbi and assess the situation, for Imefiele’s action. The CBN governor, according to him, had directed RIFAN to mobilise one million farmers that can quickly produce five million metric tonnes of rice for the dry season commencing in November, 2020, for support.
Earlier, Governor Bagudu had visited Birnin Tudu, Tiggi, Shaharma and Agoda communities in Augie local government, while in Argungu local government also, the governor was at Matan Fada, Bakin Gada, Zanginawa and Yeldu.
At Sabon Gari community, Birnin Tudu, Magaji Amadu, the village Head of the area complained to the governor how the flood submerged their rice farmlands. He said that, the flood was a culmination of both the continuous intensive rains being witnessed now, as well as the water released from the dam.
An elderly farmer, Alhaji Aliyu Soda, while appealing for assistance from the government, said that, for over 11 years, they have never seen a flood disaster as devastating as this one. He made a passionate appeal to the government to assist them with farming inputs such as assorted seeds and fertilizers, among others.
The governor, while commiserating with the victims, assured them of his government’s intention to assist them. At Kwakkwashe village where the State Government through SEMA distributed relief materials to the displaced victims, the governor, while commiserating with the community said government was worried about their plight.
Bagudu further charged them to cooperate with the authorities, as they should temporarily relocate to a safe haven. He urged them to continue to enrol their children to schools, maintain clean environment, use facemasks to guard against COVID-19. The governor also advised the community to organise their youths, to form vigilante services, to boost security in the area.
Alhaji Sani Dododo, the Chairman of SEMA, had earlier told the governor that, apart from the efforts of the agency in the relocation of the victims, relief materials were donated to them. They included 20 bags of rice, 10 bags millet, 10 bags of guinea corn, 5 bags salt, 30 cartons of macaroni, 5 cartons of tomatoes, 50 bundles of Shadda, 50 bundles of Guinea brocade and 7 jericans of groundnut oil. Others were 5 cooking pots, 100 plastic kettles, 100 plastic buckets, 100 plastic cups, 100 plastic plates, 100 mosquitoe nets, 5 cartons of bathing soaps, 100 plastic mats,100 blankets and truckload of firewood.
The District Head of the area, Alhaji Suleman Mera (Sarkin Gobir Lailaba), thanked the governor for the quick response of the government,while he described the government of Senator Abubakar Atiku Bagudu as people oriented government.
The governor and his entourage had also inspected various roads and bridges damaged by the floods in the local governments he vidited. At Jefeji community, in Kangiwa local government, where the community was cut off by the damaged bridge, the governor expressed readiness of his government to repair the bridge.
The governor was accompanied at the visit by SEMA officials, RIFAN officials, State House of Assembly member representing the area, the Chairmen of Augie, Argungu and Arewa among others.
On Sunday again 31/8/2020 in continuation of his visit to assess farmlands and communities affected by flood in the state, the Kebbi State Governor, Senator Abubakar Atiku Bagudu for the second day running visited Suru, Bunza, Kalgo and Birnin Kebbi local government areas. The governor started his visit in Suru area on Sunday with a visit to farmlands along that axis before proceeding to Bunza local government to see the devastation caused by the floods.
At Kalgo Local government area, Bagudu accompanied by the Chairman of Kalgo Local Government, Hon. Shamsu Faruk , went round some areas in Kalgo town, particularly to assess a water logged portion caused by the flood.
In Birnin Kebbi local government, governor Bagudu was at Dukku area, along Makera road, to see the rice farmlands submerged by the floods, while farmers waved and thanked him for the visit. A rice farmer, Suleiman Bashir who stood helplessly and watched his rice farmland submerged in water begged the state and federal government to come to their aid to reduce their suffering.
“I don’t know even what to do, I have two large rice farms completely submerged by the flood. We are begging for the state and federal government to assist us, I am sure God will not let our prayers in vain.”
Earlier, the governor made a stop over at Government Girls Secondary School, Bunza and Command Science Secondary Girls School, Goru, in Birnin Kebbi local Government area, to see the ongoing construction of building infrastructure in the school. At GGSS Bunza where the Principal, Hajiya Kulu Yusuf Fakai received the governor, he also inspected a building damaged by the rainstorm. The Principal expressed gratitude to the governor for the visit.
In the same vein, Attahiru Maccido, the state’s Commissioner for Agriculture, says Kebbi State has lost billions of naira to floods and appealed to federal government for immediate assistance to farmers in the state. He made the disclosure on Sunday during an inspection visit to flood affected areas in Bagudo and Argungu local government areas of the state.
Macciddo said that flood had submerged thousands hectares of farmlands and houses, destroying farm produce and personal belongings of the farmers in the affected communities.
“In Bagudo LGA, we visited about 19 villages affected by the flood and in Argungu, many communities were affected. We call on the Federal Government to construct a reservoir. I think among the states that are into farming, Kebbi is the only state that does not have a dam of its own.
“We need large water reservoirs, to reserve the rain water, so that it can be used for other activities. Preliminary assessment showed that damage to rice farms and other produce due to the flood could be over billions of Naira.
“Compensation is a solution in a way, but we are looking for more durable plausible solutions to the recurring devastating flood. The visit is to assess the damages and see how we can get immediate remedies and succour for those who lost their sustainable means of livelihood.”
Macciddo said that, the construction of a dam would control flooding and encourage effective utilisation of water and agricultural resources in the state.
He noted that, the dam project would also mobilise participation in agriculture, as well as encourage all-year round farming, during the raining and dry seasons.
According to him, the Kebbi State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), will distribute food and other relief items to the affected farmers and households, to mitigate their sufferings.
Maccido called on wealthy individuals, agricultural firms operating in the state and key players in the rice value chain to urgently assist the affected farmers.
“This is a time they should come forward and donate to cushion the effect of the affected farmers. A friend in need, they say, is a friend indeed. Also, a stitch in time , they say, saves nine. One can only assist the living and not the dead. We are not out of COVID-19 pandemic and the flood disaster compounded the problem,” he lamented.
In a remark, Muhammadu Kaura, Chairman, Bagudo Local Government Council, said the flood washed away sorghum, millet, maize and rice plantations in the area. Kaura lamented that settlements in flood- prone areas refused to relocate to safer areas in spite of repeated warnings by the authorities, adding that the council would intensity sensitisation activities to create awareness on the dangers of the flood.
Still on the floods, the Kebbi State Emergency Management Agency, says farmers have lost more than N5 billion worth of farm produce to floods in the state.Alhaji Sani Dododo, the Chairman, Kebbi State SEMA, made the disclosure in Birnin Kebbi on Wednesday.
Dododo spoke shortly after a condolence visit to families of victims of a boat mishap in Jega Local Government Area of the state, which claimed the lives of eight persons. The boat was said to have capsized following the raging water currents of the over flowing river in the area, due to the floods.
He appealed to the Federal Government to urgently assist the state in mitigating the effects of natural disasters that have continued to destroy lives and livelihoods of people in the state.
“I want to use this medium to call on the Federal Government and International Donor Agencies to come to the aid of Kebbi State Government and its people so that we can go back and engage in dry season farming, to at least cushion the effect of the losses incurred during this farming season.
“Preliminary assessment showed that damages to rice plantations and other produce due to the flood could be over N5 billion. And this is just the beginning. NIMET’s report indicated that 102 LGAs across Nigeria are expected to be hit by flood in September, while in Kebbi State, 11 local government areas would be affected.”
Giving an account of the damage, the Chairman said the flood submerged more than 450,000 hectares of rice plantation in the lowlands, adding that, over 50,000 hectares of millet, sorghum, maize and sugarcane were also destroyed on the highlands.
“When you combine the two areas, you will arrive at about 500,000 hectares destroyed by flood this year and rice farmers were the worse hit. This is because rice constitutes about 90 per cent of the total plantation. “The remaining crops stood at only 10 per cent.
“It is very sad to state that this year, our people, both retired and serving civil servants, peasant and large scale farmers, all went back to farms to contribute to the Federal Government’s national food security programme in line with President Muhammadu Buhari’s plea.”
He stressed that, almost everybody in Kebbi State engaged in farming this year, adding that, all categories of people invested in agricultural business with a view to keeping the state on top in the rice revolution in Nigeria.
The Chairman assured that Governor Atiku Bagudu remains committed to diversifying the economy from the oil sector to agriculture.
Dododo listed the 11 LGAs affected by flooding in the state as: Argungu, Birnin Kebbi, Bunza, Suru, Koko-Besse, Yauri, Shanga, Bagudo, Maiyama, Jega and Dandi.
Irked by the disturbing flood news coming out from Kebbi and the destruction of billions of naira of agricultural crops and infrastructure, as well as loss of lives , President Muhammdu Buhari expressed his feelings in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, in Abuja on Wednesday.
President Muhammdu Buhari through his media side, Garba Shehu commiserated with people and Government of Kebbi State over the calamity .He said: “I am particularly sad over this incident because it’s a setback to our efforts to boost local rice production as part of measures to stop food importation.
“Kebbi State is the focal point of our policy to produce rice locally as part of this administration’s commitment to agricultural revival which suffered relative neglect in favour of food importation.
“With the loss of six lives and still counting, thousands of hectares flooded and estimated economic losses of more than one billion naira by rice farmers, we face a major setback in our efforts to boost local food production.
”This bad news couldn’t have come at a worse time for our farmers and other Nigerians who looked forward to a bumper harvest this year, in order to reduce the current astronomical rise in the costs of food items.”
While sympathising with the bereaved families and farmers affected, the president added, “we are going to work closely with the Kebbi State Government in order to bring relief to the victims.”, he averred.
Even though the Nigerian Meteorological Agency had forecasted that Kebbi would be among the states to be hit by flood this year, many including the authorities did not know it will cause massive destruction to crops, farmlands, roads ,bridges as well as resulted in the loss of precious lives. Kebbi State and its people are indeed in dire need of financial and agricultural inputs assistance from the federal government and international organizations .
Sarki is Special Adviser (SA) on Media to Kebbi State Governor