Why I washed my hands off FG’s N500m
By Austin Ogwuda, Asaba
DELTA State, is generally regarded as a mini Nigeria and a State difficult to govern because of its diverse nature, coupled with high wire politics. No wonder it is a State assumed too difficult to govern.
However, the incumbent governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, a medical doctor by profession is very conscious of that fact hence he applies wisdom in what he does.
Before the Federal Government announced N500 million as the share of the N17.6billion relief to flooded States, tongue had already started to wag over the sharing formula of relief materials and cash that were coming in from kind individuals and corporate bodies that were first callers to the camps.
This reporter once overheard one of the female victims murmuring at Saint Patrick’s College, SPC Asaba the day when the member representing Aniocha/Oshimili federal constituency, Mr. Ndudi Elumelu, one the early callers, donated relief materials comprising 100 bags of rice, cartons of beverages, cartons of vegetable oil and cash of one million naira to aid in transporting their trapped property in the flood among other items.
When the lady noticed that I am a journalist, she complained aloud saying, “oga press man, come, people have been coming to donate to us but we don’t see the money, the feeding is poor”.
After that incident at SPC, grumblings either borne out of mistrust or mischief had continued not only in that camp but in several other camps that were set up by the State Government until one reporter put a question to the governor during a recent interactive session with newsmen at Government House Asaba, specially to brief the press on the flooding situation.
How the governor lashed a reporter for being inquisitive in knowing how much was spent so far:
And that question drew the ire of the governor when the reporter wanted to know how much had so far expended in the rehabilitation of the flood victims.
And this was how the governor reacted:
“Let me ask you (reporter), what have you donated to any of the camps? Sorry I am saying this because I think we are getting to a stage in this country where governance is becoming very uninteresting. Let me ask you these were the people that were virtually washed away by water. And I am struggling to give them accommodation and all that, you think it is money that I will be thinking of first. For God’s sake let’s be human because I hear all sorts of things.
“We have been preparing for disaster but not of this magnitude. I have not told them give me account of how much you have spent because that should not be my priority now. Everyday people go to the camp in hundreds but let me tell you that I know that most of the people that are coming to the camp were not affected by the flood. But they are coming there to eat but in my conscience can I drive them.
The answer is no. I am not encouraging people who are not affected by the flood to come and eat in the camps, please don’t get me wrong, but for somebody to struggle to enter that camp to go and eat the person is hungry. First of all let us think of how to stabilize those people because it is a big challenge because everyday hundreds of people are coming to the camp so if you ask me how much we have spent I don’t have the record of how much we have spent.
I am ready to spend the entire State’s fund if that will bring succour to flood vicitms – Uduaghan
On the issue of the N500 million, first it hasn’t come. Am saying this so that we don’t put so much emphasis on how much government is spending even if I have to spend all the money in the State to make these people comfortable, I will do it because if you have gone to those camps and let some of them look at your eyes, if you chop that kind of money you will not only get diarrhea not just watery diarrhea but bloody diarrhea. I am more interested in rehabilitating those people first rather than talking about money”, he echoed.
Cautioned against politicization of the flood issue:
Since the flood issue started the governor who cut short his overseas trip and returned back home had been sitting down almost on a daily basis with political appointees and members of the State House of Assembly to assess field reports. And in one of those meetings, he cautioned against politicization of the flood project.
According to him, “I will not meddle in the committee’s work. I will not disburse this money (N500m) and definitely will not be part of what they shall do. Whatever decision they take on how to disburse the fund shall be well with me. Let members of the committee decide what to do with the money”.
“These are trying times and this is not the time to quarrel and create tension. We should be our brother’s keeper. People are going through trauma and need to be comforted”.
“I have short term plan, middle and long term plans for the flood issue and we are very serious and not playing politics. When politics come we play it but not with flood issue where our people are suffering”.
The assurances over judicious utilization of the fund notwithstanding, the dust arising from rumour mongering remained unsettled. Some are still cynical about how the fund would be shared, devoid of ethnic and political bias.
Some of the displaced persons in various camps in the State although praised the State government for the care so far but would prefer some cash to start all over again.
Day Uduaghan celebrated his birthday with flood victims
They were overjoyed when the Governor celebrated his 58th birthday on Monday this week with them in the camps as they milled around the governor chanting birthday songs. Protocol was temporarily suspended as the governor mixed freely with them, a day his security aides had hectic task battling to control the surging crowd as they were very eager to have a feel of him.
What we want by displaced persons:
Displaced Mr. Tony Biosa from Omiligbome, a riverine suburb in Asaba, presently at the Institute of Continuing Education, (ICE) told our reporter: “left to me I would want the money donated to be shared on one to one basis. Government people should go to each camp ask us to line up and hand what ever they feel will enable us start life again. I wont like the money to be given to politicians because they will share it among their own boys. And as a poor man what can one do. They have the money if you talk they will lock you up”.
Also a big time yam seller who simply gave her name as Victoria at another camp in Illah said “the water cannot stay there forever. I think the water is going back gradually. So what I need is money. I am not bothered on how much was donated but if it can be shared according to the level of what one lost it will be good. I am not a lazy person. I lost everything but if I can get some money now I will start again”.
Some others who spoke on condition of anonymity echoed the same view while some others differed.
Thomas at SPC said, “we should thank God that our lives are saved first. Nigerians too talk about money. For me I am happy with the provision the government is giving to us. they cannot be as if you are living in your home. We are many but I am happy bo!, he exclaimed.
Rights group speaks:
National Coordinator Forum for Justice &Human Rights Defence, Mr. Oghenejabor Ikimi said, “I would advise the State government to plan for post flood palliatives for registered flood victims by setting aside 30 percent of its flood relief package of N500 million from the Federal Government for the upkeep of flood victims housed in various designated camps in the State while the remaining 70 percent be sued for post flood palliatives for the flood victims. No doubt the above funds though small, if well managed would go a long way to ameliorate the plights of the flood victims in one way or the other.
“Sincerely speaking, my advice to all flood victims is for them to ensure that they all register in the nearest camp close to them as government may decide to plan with the number of persons registered in the various designated camps for its post flood palliatives, if any.
“I therefore advise those flood victims not living in any of the designated camps to get registered immediately while non victims who have no business living in any of the designated camps should stay clear from the said camps in their own interest before they incur the wrath of God and man”.
Delta Information Commissioner:
On his part, the State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Chike Ogeah said, “the Delta State government has already made a pronouncement through the governor that the government would set up a committee comprising of private eminent citizens of Delta state to be chaired by a retired Supreme Court jurist, Justice Tabai.
Other members include Dr. Pat Utomi and other eminent citizens. The government will work closely with this committee and ensure that the money is applied to the most critical areas where it shall be of maximum benefit to the mass of our people
Oppositon Party reacts too:
Delta State Chairman of Labour Party, LP, Comrade Emeka Nkwoala in his contribution said, “there should be a committee of men and women with high integrity separate from the government. This committee will liaise with the various camps commandants to ascertain most critical needs of the people.
But in all, while sharing the sentiments expressed by the governor one expects that the committee of eminent persons being men of integrity would live up to expectation.
This is because a great philosopher Mark Twain once said about ingratitude that: “if you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. That is the principal difference between a dog and a man”. relief to Delta flood victims – Uduaghan