FEATURE: Losing everything in catastrophic floods in Nigeria, survivor struggles to rebuild life

After the recent devastating floods in Nigeria wiped out almost everything in his village, a survivor shared with Sputnik how his family narrowly escaped from the disaster and the challenges he faced in rebuilding their life.

John Ayotodi grew up in a house built by his father in a village in the Niger Delta in Nigeria. After his father passed away, he continued to live in the same house even after he got married and had two children. As his family got bigger, he had been trying to save money and build a new house.

“I started building the new house before COVID-19 came to Nigeria. But when COVID-19 came in 2020, there was nothing to be done. So I stopped. That’s why my new house was still not completed,” Ayotodi told Sputnik.

Unfortunately, when the heavy floods swept through Nigeria in recent months, Ayotodi’s plan to build a new dream home for his family was completely crushed.

“The floods took everything. If you saw the level of the flooding, it was almost over the house. We’ve lost everything we had,” he said.

Ayotodi, his wife and their two children had to run out of their home in the middle of the night when his village became flooded last month.

“I only had time to take my phone with me. We didn’t even have time to pack our clothes. The floods came in the middle of the night. We couldn’t take anything else with us, because we didn’t have enough time. We just tried to save our lives. We lost everything,” he said.

As the water level was rising so fast in his village, Ayotodi and his family had to take a boat to evacuate to a safe area.

“The water kept rising and rising. That’s why we had to take a boat. The boat was provided by the fishermen. We didn’t have to pay them. They just came to help us escape,” he said.

Dam in Cameroon

According to official figures, over 600 people have been killed and more than 1.3 million have been displaced in Nigeria as the country battled one of the worst floods in over a decade.

In addition to excessive rainfall in some regions in Nigeria, the release of water from the Lagdo Dam in neighboring Cameroon also made the flooding much more difficult to handle.
During an emergency technical meeting on the flooding in Nigeria last month, Mustapha Ahmed, director-general of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), stressed the impact of the water released by Cameroon, local media The Cable reported at the time.

“Based on our communication with the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency, the Lagdo Dam operators in the Republic of Cameroon commenced the release of excess water from the reservoir by September 13. We are aware that the released water cascades down to Nigeria through River Benue and its tributaries, thereby inundating communities that have already been impacted by heavy precipitation,” Ahmed was quoted as saying.

Ayotodi said his village did not experience a lot of rainfall before the floods came all of a sudden.

“No. It’s not because of the rain. The floods came from the Lagdo Dam in Cameroon. The floods have damaged many things in Nigeria. Many things have already been lost,” he said.

No money for tricycle

After fleeing from their village, Ayotodi, his wife and two children relocated to the city of Lagos in western Nigeria.

As Ayotodi lost everything he had in the heavy floods, he didn’t have money to keep his wife and children with him.

“We all ran to western Nigeria. I found a room for my wife and two children at a friend’s home. It was too much for one friend to house all of us. That’s why I am staying at another friend’s home,” he said.

Before the recent floods swept away all of his family’s belongings, Ayotodi had already faced financial difficulties because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I was a professional operator. I was working with a company from India before. Because of COVID-19, I had to stop. I tried to start my own business before the floods came. I raised small capital to buy a motorcycle. I used it to do transportation work in my village,” he said.

Unfortunately, after losing everything in the floods, it’s impossible for Ayotodi and his family to return to their village to try to rebuild their life.

“I used my motorcycle to work. But everything is lost now. My house, my farm and all my properties, everything was lost. I have to start from the beginning once again. It’s very difficult to get back what you lost,” he said.

Desperately trying to find a new job to support his family, Ayotodi hopes to raise enough money to buy a tricycle to work in the transportation business again.

“I want to buy a tricycle to work in the transport service. We use tricycles to carry people to work or transport them from one place to the next,” he said.

However, the price tag for the tricycle seems to be an astronomical figure for Ayotodi, who just lost everything he had in the floods.

“The tricycle costs about 1.4 million Nigerian Naira [about $3,200]. But I have not met anyone who could help me raise the money,” he said.

Although the Nigerian authorities have been organizing disaster relief efforts nationwide to provide food and other basic necessities to displaced victims, Ayotodi understood it was impossible to rely on the government to start over a new life for his family.

Ayotodi said he hoped that he could find someone who could offer him the financial support to buy a tricycle, which would allow him to earn money for his family.


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