AGONY OF A FORSAKEN COMMUNITY
The rainy season is known as a harbinger of blessing and freshness. But for residents of Malam Fori, a sprawling community in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, the period is a season of sadness and anxiety.
There is no good road that links this community with the other parts of the city and that makes access to the area impossible during the rainy season.
Apart from this, children attending schools outside the community are compelled to abandon their studies as soon as the River Ngadabul that separates the area from other parts of the city overflows its bank.
'It could be a risky venture for any parent to allow the children cross the river in July, August and early September. Those who are courageous may take the risk but then they live with apprehension every day that their children or wards depart for school. You know some children have drowned in the past,' Abubakar, one of the residents, told Daily Sun.
Malam Fori community in Maiduguri strikes you as a promising settlement because of the peculiarity of its location in the metropolis. Situated behind a military formation, the 21 Armoured Brigade of the Nigerian Army, the sprawling community overlooks the University of Maiduguri from the right flank of the Bama Road. Little wonder inhabitants of Malam Fori are mostly serving university workers, retired public servants, especially former staff of the university, undergraduates and a few others apparently due to its proximity to the citadel of learning.
But then, Fori, as it is called by its residents, is cut off from the city. Residents claim they have been neglected by the government as no good roads links the community with the city.
It is the same River Ngadabul that flows down to Customs Road and Lagos Street with the popular Lagos Bridge. But the Fori people seem to be left to bear their bitter cross alone. Ironically, the river is the only thing that separates the community from the Borno State Marin Asphalt Plant where materials for road construction and rehabilitation are processed. In fact, the plant is situated around the riverbank, leading to the community.
Daily Sun observed during the visit to the area that some men were lifting sand into trucks from the other side of the river into the Asphalt Plant, an indication of the community's economic potentials. It is an area blessed with sand, including gravel for building and construction by government, corporate bodies or individuals. Fori is not just a producer of sand; agricultural products such as watermelon, tomatoes, peppers, grains and vegetable among others are also produced in the area.
Bitrus Thiza told Daily Sun he did not live in the area but worked daily in Fori. 'I live at Mari but I come to Fori everyday because of my work. I have been coming to this community for about 13 years now and I can tell you the people here are neglected because it is a big problem to cross the river during the rainy season. Even in the dry season, most people usually push their vehicles when they are stuck in the middle of the river. It's a big problem,' he disclosed.
For little Aisha, Yabawa and Maryam, all primary four pupils of a primary school at Malam Fori, the fear of getting drowned would not allow their parents release them for the third term examination. As they attempted to cross the river on their way from school that hot afternoon, one of them, Yabawa, who almost slipped into the river shouted in utmost fear: 'Wayo Allah!' She was quickly rescued by her friends. She later explained that the event that happened that day was a usual occurrence when going to and returning from school daily. 'No problem; we are used to it. But the problem is that our parents will not allow us go to school once the river is full. They are always afraid that these boats could capsize one day,' she said.
For about three months each year, as Fori residents grumble everyday over their predicament, canoe owners and their drivers smile home each day.
'It is brisk business and we can make up to N1, 000 or N2,000 a day, depending on the movement of people in and out of the area,' a middle aged man who owns and operates two canoes on the river, said.
Residents also claim that the riverbank is notorious for all forms of criminal activities, including petty robbery while hemp smokers also hide under the thick darkness of the area to perpetrate their illicit act. It was gathered that residents are often attacked in the night when returning through the route on the river.
Aliyu Ibrahim, an undergraduate of the University of Maiduguri, said his parents moved to the area after his father's retirement from the civil service. He said many of the university students, who live around the area, underwent some inconveniences like high cost of transportation and fear of being drowned, among others. He appealed to the government to revisit the proposed construction of a bridge across the river to ease access to Bama Road.