The other side of midnight

Of Paul Osuyi, Asaba

The the devastating floods may have caused socio-economic upheaval in affected communities, but some local people are exploiting it for fortunes. They made arrangements to transport the stranded passengers on the flooded roads.

The Asaba-Ugbolu-Illah road in Delta State, for example, flooded portions at Mile 5 and New Mile 5, just before Ugbolu, an agrarian community where most civil servants working in Asaba reside.

Also, the Ugbolu market caters to shoppers in the capital who need fresh food items at cheaper rates. Before the flood, the transport fare from Asaba was 200 naira. At the moment it costs N500. to get to Ugbolu.

Due to the flooded road, minibuses and tricycles use an alternate hilly bypass that is considered accident-prone as well as a haunt for the underworld.

But to avoid the risk of the alternative hilly route, passengers bound for Ugbolu adopted the stopgap measure. They board a tricycle from Asaba at Mile 5 and connect with a local canoe to be transported across the water for N200.

At Mile 5, teenagers and a girl drive the canoe. They are victims of floods having been displaced from their homes. They now hibernate in makeshift structures erected with cellophane that expose them to the elements.

But no qualms, as they are deeply rooted in the local transport sector to support the family income.

Obinna, a 13-year-old high school student, told our correspondent that he has been earning up to N3,000.00 a day since he deployed his canoe to the flooded part.

“I earn up to 3,000 naira a day and my brothers inspired me. Every year we do this when the floods encroach on the road. We’re just trying to make ends meet and help people,” he said.

Obinna and his colleague are usually out of school during the first term of each academic session due to the flooding which has become an annual occurrence.

“We don’t go to school in the first term because of the floods, but some people go to school. The flood has taken over our homes and we have to manage to survive. Our parents moved to Ugbolu,” he added.

For teenage girls, the story is the same. They feel neglected and abandoned. Amaka Ofodile, 19, didn’t have much to say, but Ifesinachi Merit seemed to be more vocal.

Ifesinachi told the Daily Sun that they needed the intervention of the government, businesses and well-meaning people, adding that when they start distributing relief materials, they should come to them.

She said, “We need food, even if it’s a cup of rice. We are suffering, look at our houses, they are made of nylon. If it rains at night, we can’t sleep, the water will fall on us.

“Where we used to live, the water took it away. Let them bring relief supplies to Mile 5 for us; we’re the ones who really need it. The one we’re doing here, we’re just scrambling so that our mother can have money to buy food at the market.

Meanwhile, it was found that most of the state civil service workers residing in Ugbolu went on forced vacations as they complained about the inherent risks of coming to work during the flood season.

But some workers from private establishments on the Ugbolu-Mile 5 axis will still work.

Some of them spoke with our correspondent after using the canoe, lamenting what they described as a heartbreaking experience.

Joy Kiri is one of them. She resides in Asaba. According to her, the situation speaks to us seriously because what we normally pay from Asaba to Ugbolu is 200 naira.

“But now with the flood invading the road and the diversion across the hill, which is not safe, it’s N500. On this hill, accidents happen regularly.

“In fact, this morning someone died down the hill in an accident. This boat ride is safer, you just pay them to transport you and take other means of transport.”

Additionally, Cynthia Otegbere said, “The experience is not fun at all. It’s my first time using the canoe, it wasn’t fun. Without my friend, I wouldn’t have entered the canoe. canoeing, I was scared but she encouraged me to do it.

“Keke is an alternative but last Saturday I witnessed an accident on the hill. So I was forced to use the canoe. The keke had a brake failure on the hill and two people were seriously injured while one was fine.

An ice cream vendor, who identified himself as Nollywood Asking Boy, echoed the danger of using the alternate route which is the hilly path. He said the road was more of a desert and armed robbers operated there regularly

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