Water in a Basket II: Susan is too distressed to be stressed

Since the floods, Susan, 31, and her mother-in-law, 55, have lived in the IDP camp at the Ultramodern International market. Together with 3 of her kids and 2 brothers-in-law, the women have shared one of the 300 store-turned-rooms set aside for flood victims inside the market complex. The ultramodern market on Owners Occupiers road in Makurdi was built originally with 1500 stores and commissioned in 2015.

 

Her husband, a student at the National Open University in Makurdi took up residence with a friend in town.

“The flood destroyed most of our properties, My farm produce stored in a barn, my husband’s school books everything is gone” she said.

When I asked Susan about the living arrangement on camp, it was obvious immediately from her expression that things were, at best, uncomfortable.

“Each family has an occupant tag which serves as an ID to get the reliefs when distributed depending on what is available. Often times, some of the reliefs are not even shared at all and are mostly kept in the store room. Two weeks ago, Tuface came into the camp to give wrappers for the aged people. None of the wrappers have been distributed; my mother-in-law is yet to receive anything as such”.

 

“In the camp, we have no bathroom; my mother-in-law wakes up at 4am in the morning to have her bath while it is still dark. Each room accommodates 4 families irrespective of the number in a family. We are 7 in my own family”.

Susan and I could not talk for longer but she promised to show me to their home the next day. It made sense anyway, considering the fact that there were rumours that the camp would be closed on Friday, 22nd September. It was already Thursday.

****

 

When I arrived at the International Modern Market camp the next day, it appeared the rumours were true.

Susan quickly dispelled that rumour, when I found her. “We will be moving back home”, she told me but it wasn’t because the camp was closing. The flood had cleared out of their home and it would be easier for the kids to go back to school from home.

Her eldest son, Kevin led me to the house behind the Government Model College off Old Otukpo road in Kanshio. The house is on the same road as Radio Benue. There, his father, Susan’s husband, was already cleaning in anticipation of their return.

****

Spencer, 37, was the student-father/husband who had been squatting with a friend in town. He was studying Criminology and Social Issues at the Open University in Makurdi.

Spencer was on his way out of the house for training – he plays professional football but is currently not signed to a club.

We enter the house, a flat with four rooms including the now scanty space where the living room and dining area used to be. The floors were still wet and I could not tell if Spencer had just cleaned it or if it was just what was left of the pool in which the flat was inundated.

 

He was clearly agitated.

“When I heard my mum, my wife and children had gone to the IDP camp I was pissed at first, because I feel that the discomfort at home is better than the one they are going through at the camp. Though we had flood high-up to my waist in the house, we could have just all gone to stay with family and friends.  I am currently staying with a friend in town.”

“But they were there already and now it seems like the government have since been using them and other families to get funds from sympathetic Nigerians into their own pocket. Many of the helps the state have been getting has not been serving their purposes. You can imagine just yesterday my wife called that they will be leaving the camp today because they will be shutting the camp down. Only for today to come, the Deputy Governor said the camp shouldn’t be closed”

Spencer believes that the more time people choose to spend on the camps, “the more money they [FG] make”

He reminded me of something his mother had told me earlier on the camp:

“Na only rice and beans dem they give us since, no oil, no pepper nothing nothing. How dem  want make we take cook all dis thing? And them people dey give dem money make dem take do us better.”

Yet, Spencer’s biggest fear was not about his perceived sense of injustice. He feared that nothing will be done about the block drainages and this will turn out to be just the first of a series of terrible floodings.

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Read the previous instalment in this series:

Water in a Basket I: No one is even talking about rebuilding our homes yet

Read the next one here.

 

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