BY EBUN SESSOU
Nigeria has been experiencing its toughest time flood and many lives, properties have been destroyed in the process. So many people have been commenting on the impact of these flood disasters on Nigerians and Nigeria, particularly, the poor.
Amidst the ongoing ravages by floods, and ensuing catastrophes, there seem to be deliberate efforts to understate the extent and magnitude of devastation by floods by the governemnt of the land.
Recently, the Federal Governemnt allocated some funds for some States in the country for flood victims in different capacities and set up committee to oversee the scheme.
But, there are insinuations that the victims of the flood might not benefit from the project. Perhaps the politicians in the country might hijack the fund.
Consequently, the poor are the ones who are mostly faced with much pain and bear the brunt of all these displacements and dislocations.
In most cases, the poor have been left to cater for themselves, as they have alternately been neglected, relegated and left in squalid conditions, extreme squalor and to their own devices.
Relief materials have been very hard to come by, and worse, there have been cases where relief materials have been commandeered by those who need these relief materials the least.
In many affluent or wealthy homes, it may not be far fetched that top members of Nigerian political class, will be directing the funds to themselves.
Relief materials ostensibly targeting the most desperate and the neediest of cases in most cases been hijacked by local political operatives, among them, so-called chiefs and traditional rulers, who ought to be, at the barest minimum, facilitators of distribution chain and be the conduit of relief material to the poor.
Relief material intended for the poor by donors, are now stockpiled in the homes of some local political aparachiks and so-called traditional rulers, all this, while the poor desperate citizens wait in the lurch, for relief materials and needful.
Some cross section of Nigerians in both Oyo and Lagos State who spoke with Saturday Vanguard lamented that funds which have been allocated by the Federal Government was only mentioned on the pages of Newspapers and on Television Stations across the nation without its manifestation.
Mr. Arowosegbe who lives in Odo-Ona Apata, Oyo State, said most of the relief materials are only hijacked by government officials and thugs in the area and not the affected people.
According to him, “Those who are affected do not benefit from any of the scheme. The government only tell us that it has allocated five hundred million, 500,000,000 to Oyo State especially those whose properties were destoyed by the flood but we have not seen or heard anything about it. The first time the incident happened in Oyo State, those who were affected have not been given any fund till date.
“I am not the only one who was affected and I believe those who were affected too had not been given anything. Over 150 people affected in my area have not benefited.
“Some people lost their houses, properties, farmlands. There was a particular family that lost seven children to the incident.
“Those who have been visting the local govrnment to find out what is going on there have not been able to come with a positive development.
“There is no farmland in my area but there was a man who was into cat fish rearing. His fish ponds were destroyed completely. Some companies including Saplet were also destroyed”, he added.
A-70 years old farmer, Elder Emmanuel Salau who spoke to Saturday Vanguard lamented that the recent flood ravaging some major parts of Nigeria has grossly affected the produce such that it is difficult to plant any product that will germinate.
“Right now, we are at the mercies of the flood and our farm produce has been grossly affected. The flood has affected us such that all the produce are totally perished.
Asked if government is helping farmers in the country, he said, “that is what they have been saying but I have not experienced it and none of the farmers around me has benefited either. I believe they know those they are supporting. Those who are not connected don’t have access to their loans or funds.
Dr. Dotun Agboju, a farmer, said with flood ravaging major parts of Nigeria, some of the agric lands have been affected. “All the farmland have been surrounded by flood all over the country and in that regard, nobody can go to the farm and the crops on the farm will be destroyed. What this means is that there will be food crisis. We heard the minister said, ”the government is doing something towards averting this problem but we have not seen anything yet. We have not seen anything on ground to show that this imminent problem will not come to pass.
On loan, government will keep making noise on the pages of Newspapers but the truth is that most of the farmers don’t have access to loan or funds as claimed by the government.
“Farmers go through difficult situations in order to access funds or loans. The situation on ground is that the political farmers have taken over the opportunities that the real farmers should benefit. The political farmers who are the friends of politicians are the ones enjoying all the benefits. While the real farmers have to go through stringent efforts to be relevant in the society.
A member of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Mr. Ipoola Omisore representing Ifako/Ijaye II, also the Chairman Committee on Special Duties and Emergencies opined Nigerian factor might mire the effective disbursement of the funds allocated to States especially flood victims.
His words: “I am not doubting anybody’s capacity. But we know what happened with the pensioners’ case and we pray that such will not happen again.
“I don’t know how much has been allocated to Lagos State but I know that the State Government is trying in its capacity to make sure that flooding is minimised. While other States are groaning, we are smiling in Lagos State.
“There have been persistence intervention by the government to make sure that drainages are cleared. The major concern is that Lagos State is below sea level and we have some riverine communities.
“We need Federal Government intervention to assist Lagos State in terms of funds disbursement. As the former Federal Capital, Lagos itself needs special attention. We have to construct more channels for proper flow of water to the canals so that the Bar Beach that is easily overtaken by Ocean Surge will be a thing of the past.
“What we have today is palliative measures unlike what is obtainable in other parts of the world where we have Ocean beaches protected.
“With the flood problem, there is need for proper planning and not reacting to situations. We need to really wake up from our slumber and not wait until flood destroys our properties.
“I pity those in other areas. Even our Federal highways are not well constructed. Flood has destoyed major parts of Federal roads. Therefore the committee set up by the federal Government needs to come to Lagos to know the right approach. I believe Lagos needs an holistic approach.
We have a list of flood victims in the State. There are some in Ifako/Ijaye, Ajegunle, and other areas. “And I believe Federal Government needs a permanent solution to appraoch the issue.”
We are always flooded in Lagos and we are aready used to it. Unlike in some other States where it is currently happening. Most of the States Government did not prepare for the flood. Now, it has become a national issue. What I am saying in essence is that those who are affected should be compensated.
“There are two camps in Lagos. One is in Ikorodu but those camps cannot contain 18 million people if they are flooded. We are urging NEMA to create more camps for us,” he concluded.