PEOPLE in Taraba State are making the point about speaking out for their rights. They are getting succour even if that would not completely change their circumstances.
Almost a year after the floods that devastated some States, the people of Taraba complained that they had not got the promised relief from the Federal Government.
Officials who managed the funds promptly defended the exercise. The money, they said, was used in buying seedlings for affected farmers. The people protested louder. Some said they were given only N200.
Taraba State acting Governor Garba Umar has intervened by sacking five Commissioners, the Secretary to the State Government, Director of the State Emergency Management Agency, and two Special Advisers. They were accused of embezzling N400 million the Federal Government allocated to the State for its flood victims.
Earlier, a report of a committee of the Taraba State House of Assembly indicted the officials in their handling of the funds. Another committee the Governor set up turned in the same verdict. Governor Umar promptly sacked the officials.
The Governor’s action is commendable. He however needs to complete it. The affected officials should be prosecuted and made to refund the money. These would set higher standards of probity in managing public funds.
Other Nigerians should imitate the tenacity of the people of Taraba. If they had kept quiet nobody would have known how the funds were managed. There are other States in similar situations with the management of the flood funds. Their silence has denied them justice.
A lesson from Taraba is that the people have a major role to play in their fate. From those they elect and their responses to the activities of governments, Nigerians need to stand up more. Someone could listen and act, as Governor Umar did. Silence when we disagree with actions of governments almost forecloses any chance of redress.
The Federal Government should also lead the charge to compel Nigerians who voluntarily pledged huge sums of money to the Aliko Dangote Committee on the flood disaster of 2012, to pay. The committee had threatened to publish their names by the end of June. We think it should.
Like the “Taraba Eight”, they too deserve to be prosecuted, not only for failing to redeem their pledges, but for fraudulently accessing the incentives meant to encourage the private sector to contribute to the flood funds.
We should maintain a policy of zero tolerance to fraud, no matter the shape or form it takes. It is abhorrent to segment the law such that when the high and mighty run against the law they are given special treatment to shield them from the consequences of their crime.