Sewese, 37, is a civil servant at the Ministry of Information with a fish farming business on the side. Having gone without receiving remuneration for her day job for about 8 months, Sewese had lived satisfactorily with the revenue from her fish farming.
She reared cat fish which are then sold to retailers and wholesalers. She also engaged in the production of feed which she sells to other fish farmers.
Before the flood, she had about 5000 fully grown cat fish in different ponds within her compound. By October 5 this year, her business would be 5 months old and it has been quite lucrative. A kilogram of fish sells at N900 at retail price and at N700 for wholesale. Her workers earned reasonable wages to cater to their personal affairs.
She told me about a student of Benue State University in her employ who takes care of his tuition from his wages received from fish sales. Each employee received N1000 per 100kg’s worth of feed sold. The production process involves mixing, drying and extruding the feed. They also make extra income when they helped with the relocation the fishes to other ponds and delivery of fish to customers.
Now, without guarantee of payment of salary arrears and the looming threat of the complete loss of earnings from her farm, Sewese’s main concern has been how to service the loan she took from a bank to start her business. Of course, there’s the more urgent issue of daily survival and payment of staff.
Over the course of the next few days, I met more people like Sewese. People who weren’t swept away by the floods; along with their properties and life’s acquisitions. Rather, people who have been spared only to have to start all over especially with their means of sustenance.
For these people, the IDP camps mean little or nothing. Like Sewese, they just desperately need the reassurance that they won’t have to start again. But like Sewese, many of them are stranded, desperately praying to get to a place of hope.
As Sewese confided in me towards the end of our encounter, “a financial boost to resume her business and salvage what was left of the wreckage caused by the flood” is all she needs. But her quivering voice and that manner of speaking, which I later deduced could only be resignation betrayed her lack of conviction that anyone (besides herself) was looking out for her.
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