Madam May Zuku has been hit by double tragedy. She lost her husband some months back. And last penultimate Monday, windstorm that struck her Kilama-Biseni home in the Yenagoa Local Government Area of Bayelsa State finally did her in. He is now a homeless widow. She narrated her ordeal in the local Epie language.
“I was inside my room when, I started hearing the sound of strong wind. After a while, I noticed the ceiling was breaking. So, I decided to leave the room with the little girl that was with me in the room. By the time we got to the veranda, the wind was here and had already taken away the roof of the sitting room and my kitchen.
“I do not have hope on anyone who will come to my assistance, by getting roof over my head again immediately. I am appealing to government and public spirited persons to, at least assist me re-roof the building so that I can have shelter. Since the death of my husband, I have been helpless and, I even feel pain all over my body. My heart is heavy and, putting these incidents together gives me great concern. I am not certain of my real age, but I am above 70 years; considering my age mates who are alive''.
During a visit to the community, the widow looked truly helpless. Just like Kanarua Pinaowei, whose house was also de-roofed by the windstorm. Not only was the roof gone, a part of the building also came down. A confused Kanaurua said “we were all in the house when the rain started. We ran into the house for shelter, thinking it was just the normal rain. Suddenly, the wind started and it was unusually strong. So, suddenly it took off our roof, brought down these blocks and damaged everything. As I speak with you now, all the 10 people who were living in this house; we have been rendered homeless. We were inside the house when the incident happened. It was by the grace of God, maybe one of those miracles; nobody got a scar except that I got little bruises under my feet. The roof was taken over 70 meters away from the building, across the road.”
Expectedly, she wants members of the public and the government to take steps to help out. “I want to call on the relevant authorities, the government and NGOs; this is a passionate appeal to all of them. Come to our rescue, it is an emergency. It is an emergency case and we are all now homeless. Come to our rescue, please. I know you can do it''.
For Gift Otufu, it has been more than just losing her house. She escaped death by the whiskers. An electricity pole was uprooted by the wicked wind and the pole dropped just by her house. Incidentally, the pole landed at the very spot that she used to stay to sell. Hear her: “My name is Gift Otufu. When the rain started, we were here [with her little baby] and, because breeze used to accompany rain, I never suspected that this pole will fall. But when the wind became strong, I decided to take my child and go inside house. So, as I just picked up my child and was about moving, I saw the pole as it started falling. I withdrew immediately to one corner and watched as it landed on the ground; scattering the zinc of my shade and table where I used to stay and sell. The things I was selling, groundnut and others were scattered, destroyed''.
Rose Abariso, another victim narrated her experience thus: ''We were inside the house when the wind just came and scattered the town. Even my house, as I was inside; the wind just carried away the roof. Since that day, we have been at the mercy of rain. Apart from removing the roof, it affected other things inside the house, my clothes, buckets and breakable plates were all damaged. We need help to replace our roofs. Staying at the mercy of the sun and rain is a great source of worry. If there is a way to prevent this kind of wild wind, they should help us stop it''.
The windstorm did not only wreak havoc on the ordinary people. A traditioanal ruler was also affected. And as at the time of filing this report, many of the victims are still homeless and hopeless. Chief Lawrence Benneth, deputy paramount ruler of Kilama community said in an interview that “on Monday, around 5:00pm, we were all in our houses and what we observed was that there was a little rain. After that, we saw a very big storm; just from Orashi River over side [direction across the community]. It came from that direction into our community and affected so many of our houses. Most of the victims have no place to stay for now, suffering. So, we need government to come in and render help to us because we don't have money to re-roof our damaged buildings. That is why we are appealing to the government. Tambiri 2, a neighbouring community in Biseni was also affected''.
It is about two weeks now and the people are still waiting for the government. Although, TNN learnt that a member of the state house of assembly from the area, Mr Gentle Emela has visited the area but it was not confirmed if he did anything for the victims. It was also learnt that the state commissioner for housing and urban development, Julius Otele, also from Biseni visited the place on Friday. But the natives say he did not come there as an official of the government but as a native who came just like any other person. On Saturday, however, the paramount ruler said Otele did promise that the government would do something for them. And he said they were still waiting.
Mr Morris Alagoa, an environmental rights activist who has visited the area three times since the incident told TNN that “today makes it the third day the Environmental Rights Action has visited Biseni communities affected by the violent, cyclonic storm recently
“But, even though the incident which left several houses deroofed, farms destroyed and electric poles downed; on Monday, 5th March, 2018, five days after the incident, there has not been any official visit by any government agency, federal or state, even local government.
“It is sad, unfortunate and highly condemnable because, this is a natural disaster that has overwhelming impact of the communities and people. Biseni has experienced serious natural disaster in our recent history, the 2012 great flood and the flood of 2017 and in all these; the government has not shown the sort of concern and seriousness the occasion demands.
“As we have seen in other countries and even some part of Nigeria, a responsible government ought to wade in immediately to assess the situation and do the needful in terms of rendering assistance to victims and restoring normalcy.
“The relevant government agencies such as the National Emergency Management Agency and its state counterpart cannot feign ignorance. It is expression of hypocrisy if public office holders will hear only when they are abused in the media and pretend not to hear when serious issues requiring their attention is sailing in our communities. Going to communities only when the people's votes are needed is selfish and not beneficial to society. If this incident at Biseni is not natural a disaster, what is? More so, crude oil and gas is pumped out from this environment 24/7. If it were to be blocking of crude oil production by the communities, I guess by now soldiers would have flooded Biseni”.