• Benue flood victim who lost son, husband and means of livelihood relives experience“
BY PETER DURU, Makurdi
Two years ago, Susan Paul Mhen lost her four-year-old son, Terdoo Mhen, mysteriously at the popular Wurukum Market in Makurdi, Benue State where she traded in cassava flour.
The sudden disappearance of the son, who was allegedly abducted by unknown persons in the market at the peak of business activities, remains a puzzle to the police.
Meanwhile, Susan kept hope alive, believing that someday her son would be recovered from his abductors.
Amid the hope, her husband, Paul, passed on about one year after, leaving her with the three other children among who was a little daughter who at the time was still breastfeeding.
And for the fear of the unknown, the widow stopped trading in the market.
“I didn’t know the intention of those who took my son. I was scared that they might come after my little girl; so I had to leave the market”, Susan told Sunday Vanguard.
“And it was out of the pain of what happened to our son that my husband developed high blood pressure and took ill severally before he eventually died of heart attack a year later.”
She lamented that the death of her husband was a sad blow to the family of five.
“We didn’t know where and who to turn to and where to start from”, the widow further narrated.
“I was left with the responsibility of taking care of the three children who are currently schooling in Makurdi because I am determined to ensure that the children are educated.”
In the quest to make the best out of life and provide for the children, Susan said she gathered the resources at her disposal and also sourced for funds to establish a poultry farm from where she sustained the children.
Unfortunately about two weeks ago, the heavens opened up on Makurdi and environs and about half of the town went under water.
The type of flood never witnessed in the town since 2012 swept away close to 5,000 houses, rendering over 121,000 people homeless.
The devastation left in its wake sorrow and tears as many households and individuals lost property and valuables acquired through years of toiling and life savings.
Though the losses suffered by the victims were yet to be ascertained by experts, some people believe it could be in the region of several billions of Naira.
And in that incident, fate again dealt a sad blow on Susan whose residence in Logo II, like others in her neighbourhood, got submerged in the flood.
The poultry farm she had given her resources and energy to nurture in the last one and a half years went with the flood that almost took her life.
Whereas close to 2.000 of her birds were lost to that unfortunate disaster, and her household items went with the flood, she and her three children were rescued.
Susan is currently one of the Internally Displaced Persons taking shelter at the camp located at the Makurdi International Market for the flood victims.
“I lost all my chickens to the flood. When I realized that I could not save anything from the water, I thought of killing myself because it was an investment I was using to sustain my family”, the widow said.
“So, I couldn’t imagine starting all over again because we all know what the cost of living is today. I thought of the children and how I would be able to cater for their needs.
“The thought of jumping into the water came into me but it took the intervention of God for me to change my mind, especially when I took a second look at my children and what would become of their lives if I’m not there for them.
“The trauma is too much for me. Within two years I lost my son to unknown persons, my husband and now all our property including my poultry farm from where I sustained my children and myself to flood disaster.
“I don’t know why this fate has befallen me and my family. It is as if the world was coming to an end that night of the flood but I thank God for Governor Samuel Ortom who immediately established this camp to cater for us.
“In fact, while the three days of intermittent rains lasted, he was busy going round the town to see things for himself and to make arrangements to move the displaced persons to a safe haven.
“The governor actually rose to the occasion. While the flood was at its peak, he was everywhere with his team of officials; sometimes he visited some location severally to make sure that things didn’t get out of hand.
“I must say that it was his proactive action that helped to ensure that no life was lost in the disaster despite the magnitude of the devastation.
“In our misfortune, we are glad that somebody truly felt our pains and genuinely came to our rescue because if he had not come to help, many would have died of the trauma that came with the disaster. We are indeed grateful to the governor and his government.”
She said that despite the economic challenges, the Benue government had strived to give the camp inmates minimum comfort.
“Initially it was not easy adjusting to camp life but we have adjusted to the reality of it all. And I must laud the state government for going out of its way to ensure that we get minimum comfort but the truth is that if you are not in your own house it can never be your own house.”
This is the touching story of a mother of three who says her major challenge at the moment was how to start her life all over again.
“I and my children cannot remain in this camp forever. We desire to live a normal life and that is why I’m begging public spirited individuals to come to my rescue so that I can get a new home and also start a new business to enable me cater for my children.
“From all indications, Benue State government cannot handle this situation alone. Though individuals, groups and organisations including the federal government have been extending support to displaced persons, the state government needs all the support it could muster to be able to meet the challenge created by the disaster”.