Stop The Lip-service, Relocate Gutsura

Gutsura has been experiencing flood since 2003. Located in Gummi local government area of Zamfara state, Northwest Nigeria, the village has a population of about 3,000 people, dominated by the Hausa tribe. The major occupation of Gutsura people is farming.

Gutsura suffers loss of lives, crops and properties due to heavy flood during raining season. Nothing was put in place to assist the people, since the first major flooding in 2003 until “Follow The Money,” a monitoring project by Connected Development (CODE), a non-governmental organization based in Abuja, started creating awareness about the plight of the people.

IMG_20140617_115149During the visit to Gutsura with a team of “Follow The Money”, the journey was a story on it own, as we had to travel for hours. I thought we were traveling out of Nigeria- it was a long distance within a state. We traveled on motor-bike because the road that leads to Gutsura village is very rough and slippery. After a while, we alighted from the bike and walked to avoid accident. After a short distance, we had to cross a river using a canoe.

Entering Gutsura is indeed a legendary experience of traveling by vehicle, motor-bike, foot and canoe.

Alhaji Nasarawa, the community head, welcomed us as other villagers gathered around.

Dressed in ‘baban riga’ and a cap, Alhaji sat calmly on a mat and narrated the situation in the community. According to him, Gutsura has been suffering for years because of flood. He said that they have lost children who drowned in the flood; farm produce, which has resulted to shortage of food; they are faced with displacement because the flood washes their homes away.

community head

During heavy flood, the people in Gutsura get trapped as the whole community becomes surrounded by water. It becomes difficult to move in or out of the village. Traveling by canoe becomes even more risky. However, the people depend on it during medical emergencies due to lack of health centres in Gutsura.

There are plans by the government to relocate Gutsura. “The governor came and told us that the new Gutsura will be completed by July,” Alhaji said. Although there is no indication of this happening, the people still hope that the government will relocate them to the new site as promised before the raining season increases.

“Gutsura should be relocated to avoid re-occurrence of disaster and also the damage of farm produce worth about N9 million,” Alhaji said.

Their spokesman, Tukur Muhammad, took us round the community.

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Tukur told us that the governor came by air during his visit because he could not travel the rough path that leads to Gutsura.

During the walk around the village, we saw how the villagers work hard- rearing animals such as cows, donkeys and camel etc. in order to earn a living. But their labor is threatened by the re-occurring flood.

The spokesman said the land that the government has allocated to relocate Gutsura is lying fallow because the people do not have the money to start building a whole village. Although money has also been donated, the people are yet to receive any.

He also took us to the land allocated for the construction of new Gutsura, which currently has a few houses built by the people of Gutsura. One of the houses belongs to Tukur.

If the people of Gutsura are to build for themselves, what will happen to the money, over 100 million naira, allocated for the constructions by government?

All attempt to speak with Commissioner for Environment proved abortive as we were told he was unavailable during our visit. However, Hamzat Lawal, the co-founder of Connected Development, said that when “Follow The Money” online campaign was launched, it got the attention of government leaders. They have promised to start construction of the new site by the end of this month, he said. The government has made financial commitment of over 120 million naira through the Zamfara state emergency unit.

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As a young female journalist, Happiness has a keen interest in rural growth and development, as it affects the lives of children, girls and women. She currently covers grassroots stories from rural communities in Northern Nigeria. Happiness Titus Zirra ventured into Journalism as a member of the Press Club Niger State College of Education. She served as the 'Editor-in-Chief' for one academic year and also served as a reporter. She was awarded a certificate of attendance on News reporting and News writing by Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Niger state council and also a certificate by Press Club,Niger State College of Education Minna.

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