Traditional rulers, community heads in Rivers accused of diverting relief materials
BY JIMITOTA ONOYUME
…N300m not enough for Flood victims—Rivers Deputy Governor
FOR the 830,000 victims of the flood disaster in Rivers state, life has never been the same since they relocated to camps set up by the state government for victims of the flood disaster.
Chairman of the state Flood Relief Committee and Deputy governor of the state, Engr Tele Ikuru confirmed that eight of the victims had passed on at separate times at the camps. Saturday Vanguard also gathered that in Ahoada three women were delivered safely of their babies.
Some victims at the camp blamed the death on poor sanitary condition. The Deputy governor who was silent on the cause of the death said the state government was making frantic effort to shore up sanitary state of the various camps.
Engr Tele Ikuru said the federal government should raise provision for the state for victims of the disaster. According to him, a total of 183 communities have been affected, adding that the money would be grossly inadequate to cushion the plight of victims.
He said so far the National Emergency Management Committee had brought five hundred mattresses and two hundred bags of assorted food items so far to the state.
“From our assessment, and the reports we are getting, there is more to be done. We still need relief materials as the water is yet to dry up, and there are more predictions that the experience of the last few weeks are not yet over as our water levels are expected to rise in to the impacted areas,” he said.
Adding, the traditional ruler of Ekpeye kingdom, Eze Robinson O. Robinson wondered why the federal government grouped the state in category C when a large part of the area had been submerged in water. “I don’t see how people living under water are categorized as C. Who are in A and B? The state is under water how then do you categorize us as C?
Describing the categorization as an error on the part of the federal government he said it should redress it with the state this time in category A.
Some victims at the camp said they were yet to feel the impact of the federal government. According to them relief support had only been from the state government, churches, companies and individuals.
Mrs. Patience said she heard the federal government earmarked money to cushion the pains of victims of the disaster in the state, adding that she was told the money would come through various bodies before it gets to the camps.
According to her, over fifty percent of the allocation would likely have found its way into private pockets before relief provisions would get to displaced persons.
She was not alone in this line of thought. Mr. Frank said it was another move to reward party stalwarts and loyalists. He said the government should have released the funds directly to the various state governments for victims of the disaster.
Traditional rulers, community leaders divert relief materials Some traditional rulers and community leaders have been accused of diverting relief materials meant for camps in their areas.
Deputy governor of the state and Chairman of the Flood relief committee, Engr Ikuru who confirmed the accusation said there are already complaints from the various camps.
He warned that the government would not hesitate to deal with any one caught. According to the Deputy governor, reports had it that some of the traditional rulers were giving more attention to their loyalists at the camps.
“It is absurd for chiefs and leaders of some communities to bring their chieftaincy and communal problems to the camps, and engage in willful, illegal favoritism and criminal diversion of relief materials meant for the flood victims.
“Such acts of criminality will not be condoned henceforth, and defaulters will be made to face the full wrath of the law.” When Saturday Vanguard visited some of the camps in Ahoada West and East local government areas, victims corroborated the findings of the state government. They accused some persons in charge of distribution of relief materials of deliberately shortchanging some families.
They said these persons were guided by certain parochial considerations in the distribution. They listed some to include age long chieftaincy disputes among families, land related problems and marital differences
They said there were situations were items meant for some camps were deliberately reduced because of some of these factors. They further appealed to the state government to come up with measures to checkmate the abuses.
At the camps in Okobe community, Ahoada West local government some of the displaced persons said they had to rally round themselves to raise money to buy soup items such as fish and other ingredients for meals. They said they get rice, beans, groundnut oil, pepper, onion salt and other consumables from the state government relief agency.
They said the impassable state of the East West road had made it difficult for some relief materials meant for them to get to their camps. According to them, Mr. Sunday Ijeoma who is in charge of the camps in the community, they go to Ahoada to get relief materials meant for them because vehicles cannot drive through their portion of the East West road to them. He enjoined the government to fix the road.
Adding, Mr. Felix said the relief items were kept at Ahoada East and from there they are distributed to all affected camps in the two Ahoada local government areas. He further urged the government to urgently make the road motorable. He said they had to wait until when they see big vehicles like 911 that can drive through the pool of water on the road before they go to Ahoada for relief materials. He said this was affecting what they get from there.
Life at the camps
At most of the camps in the two Ahoada local government areas, residents wake up very early to pray. After the morning devotion they do some cleaning until about 9am when those in charge of distribution of relief materials start arriving.
Mr. Ijeoma said he goes to camps in Okobe from 9am because men and women live together. He felt going there early would not be too fine for the women. He said by 9 to 930am he had finished distribution of consumables like rice and beans to them. He said the people organized themselves into various groups that handle the cooking.
He said the relief committee distributed pots, spoons and plates to the various camps. So they have utensils to cook and eat with. He said they also provided the camps with kerosene for their cooking.
He said he comes to the camp by 4pm again to distribute what they should cook.
We want generators Some of the camp residents who spoke the Vanguard expressed gratitude for the attention from the government. But they said the government should provide them with generators, adding that at night the camps were too dark.
They said after their meals in the morning they go on canoes to their various farms to harvest what is left. On Sundays they organize themselves for their congregational and nondenominational worship. Pastors according to them come from neighboring churches.
Government should not be in a hurry to close our camps
Some residents at the camps said they were not in a hurry to relocate. They pleaded with government not to shut down the camps immediately after the flood dries up. They said they should be given enough time to plan for their relocation.
“We don’t have any where to go to after here”, they pleaded. They said they lived in mud houses which the flood swept off. “We will need time to build our houses.”
Some other women said they had noting to live on when they move out of the camp because their harvest had been swept off by flood. “We could not harvest our cassava, yam and groundnut. The flood swept off everything””, they said. They enjoined the government to assist them with funds to set themselves up when the camps are due to be shut down.
Donations flow into camps
Churches, companies and individuals have been visiting the various camps in Rivers state to donate relief materials. A chieftain of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, Prince Tonye Princewill was among individuals that had donated items to the camps.
Also Indorama Eleme Petrochemicals limited donated relief materials valued at several millions of naira. They include one hundred and fifty bags of 25 kg rice, 300 cartons of indomie, 45 bags of 100kg garri, tomatoes, vegetable oil etc.
Managing Director of the firm, Mr. Manish Mundra said the company was deeply touched by pains of victims of the disaster. He assured that the firm would continue to support effort to mitigate their pains.