Bayelsa: How child ferry-canoe operators profited from election day floods

child ferry-canoe operators

Destiny Monday says he wants every day to be like November 16.

At age 13, he is not yet eligible to join the voters of Bayelsa to decide who will lead the state for the next four years.

However, the young man had a spell of good fortune occasioned by the day’s event and designed by nature’s unwanted touch – flood.

His community, Sampou in Kolokuma Opokuma local government area, was among the many hard-hit by this year’s floods which destroyed hundreds of homes, leaving thousands internally displaced in the riverine state.

While the flood has calmed and the government and donor agencies are shuffling plans to salvage the situation, many communities, including Sampou are still inaccessible without a canoe.

Schools, hospitals and churches in Sampou are still partly submerged and the only route to the community is waterlogged.

Destiny and many other boys his age in the community are cashing in on this predicament. They use wooden canoes to ferry passengers to the part of the town through the flooded road – a distance of about half of a football pitch.

Election Day Bonanza

Saturday was a very busy day for Destiny and his fellow commercial canoe operators. Apart from the fact that it was an election day, Sampou is home of Duoye Diri, the Peoples Democratic Party’s candidate.

His polling unit is one of eight on the other side of Sampou and to get across, you will need to board Destiny’s canoe or that of any of his colleagues.

There were about 15 canoes at the bank of the flooded road.

Apart from INEC officials, security operatives and observers, Mr Diri’s polling unit drew scores of journalists, observers and party supporters who wanted to monitor voting there.

“I have already made N1, 450,” a smiling Destiny said Saturday afternoon as he ferried this reporter and three other passengers.

He said the boat was purchased for him by his mother at about N30, 000.

Normally, the ‘ferry boys’ collected N30 from each passenger but with the large turnout of passengers, prices increased to N50.

Destiny who was on his ninth trip said he was going to use the proceeds of the day’s business to complete his school fees.

The 13-year-old is in primary six and has dreams of becoming a lawyer even though his parents are just small scale farmers – the predominant occupation of most average Sampou indigenes.

Promise Obiri, a 12-year-old canoe operator, said he wants to be a doctor. He came much earlier before Destiny and had already made N1,900.

After crossing the flood, Mr Diri along with his wife voted in polling unit 4, Kalowoi Ward 6 in Sampou at about 11:20 a.m.

Addressing journalists after casting his vote, Mr Diri, a senator, accused agents of the APC of thuggery and electoral malpractice in some parts of the state. This, he said was done in connivance with security operatives.

But when asked what he will do about the flood situation, the senator said the only thing to discuss at the moment was the electoral process.

Mr Diri who was seeking to maintain PDP’s dominance of the oil-rich state for another four years, would later be defeated by David Lyon of the All Progressives Congress in what political observers described as one of the biggest upsets in Nigeria’s political history.

Towards dawn, Destiny was much happier. He told this reporter that his profit had risen to N2, 200.

As many of the visitors were leaving after crossing back to the other side, Destiny was giving them a long hard look, wishing the day would never come to an end.

If every day were like this, his dreams of becoming a lawyer would be coming closer, he must have thought – putting his name Destiny, in motion.

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