Special Report

October 27, 2012

Is FG’s N17.6 billion for flood victims in right hand?

Flood victims. Inset: President Jonathan

By Emmanuel Edukugho

Responding to clamours for financial assistance in the wake of the flood disaster nationwide as governors  of affected states sought ‘’federal might’’ to bail them out from the deluge, President Goodluck Jonathan promptly came to the rescue.

He announced a total amount of N17.6 billion package to tackle the flood. The President told a beleaguered nation that out of that amount, N13.3 billion had been allocated to affected states while Federal Government agencies whose activities directly impact on the flood amelioration programme will get N4.3 billion.

According to Jonathan, based on the present assessment, the states were categorised into four groups, A to D.  In Category A are eight states consisting of Adamawa, Oyo, Kogi, Anambra, Bayelsa, Delta, Benue, and Plateau who received N500 million each.

Category B states are Jigawa, Kano, Bauchi, Kaduna, Niger, Nasarawa, Taraba, Cross River, Edo, Lagos and Imo getting N400 million each. The Category C states are Kwara, Katsina, Gombe, Ogun, Ondo, Ebonyi, Abia and Rivers with N300 million each.

While Category D states included Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, Yobe, Enugu, Ekiti, Osun, Akwa Ibom, Borno, and the FCT (Abuja) having N250 million each.

Also allocated funds to further intensify their intervention activities, are critical agencies of the Federal Government which included Ministry of Works, N2.6 billion, National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, N1.1 billion, National Commission for Refugees, N150 million, and the Technical committee on Floods Impact Assessment, N100 million.

A 34-member National Committee on Flood Relief and Rehabilitation was established chaired by wealthy businessman Alhaji Aliko Dangote together with Mr. Olisa Agbakoba, a  Human Rights activist and lawyer and including eminent Nigerians like Dr. Dora Akunyili, Frank Nweke Jnr. Tunde Lemo, Deputy Governor CBN, Dr. Mike Adenuga, Chairman of Mobile Communication giant Globacom who was named chief fund mobiliser, Alhaji Isiaku Rabiu, Mrs. Folorunsho Alakija, Mr. Tony Elumelu, Senator Florence Ita-Giwa, Alhaji Mohammed Indimi, and many others.

Their mandate was to raise funds to complement government’s resources to provide urgent relief for victims of the floods and the post-impact rehabilitation of affected persons and communities. The committee is also expected to advise government on the ‘’judicious utilization of funds raised’’ and to co-opt any other person or oganisation that it may find useful in carrying out its assignment.

Jonathan had noted in his October 9 national broadcast that the floods ravaged many parts of the country rendering tens of thousands of fellow Nigerians homeless and causing massive destruction of property, farmlands and infrastructure across the country.

His words: ‘’It is sad that this global phenomenon of devastating flood has come to Nigeria at this time. I want to reassure all Nigerians that the Federal Government is prepared to do everything possible to mitigate the impact of this natural disaster.’’

Most of the affected states have set up camps for the displaced persons. Saturday Vanguard learned that some of these camps are overcrowded, lacking essential facilities such as clean drinking water, medications, food and hygienic environment suitable for human habitation. The camps along Lokoja/Abuja highway were said to be dirty, smelling, stinking with the likelihood of epidemic breaking out.

Flood victims. Inset: President Jonathan

Many of them lacked toilet facilities, waste disposal facilities while hygiene is at the lowest. Even these temporary camps for flood victims are being threatened by water in some places. Not enough food for the refugees.

There are about 17 camps in Bayelsa State, believed to be the worst hit. Some of these camps are located in the sports complex at Yenagoa, Igbogene Helipat, Demiari Grammar School, Tombia, etc.

The challenges experienced at these camps include lack of toilets, food insufficiency, electricity, possible outbreak of epidemic diseases such as cholera, malaria, and also the metropolitan nature of the location which allowed for so many people who are not displaced to troop down for daily ration of food. In Rivers State, some officials allegedly diverted relief materials for flood victims.

The case of Bayelsa State is so pathetic as even the house of President Goodluck Jonathan in Otuoke is said to be under water.

It was gathered that the water level is still rising in Bayelsa State due to its geographical location which places it below sea level and also the fact that major rivers and tributaries empty into the Atlantic Ocean through the state. Communication facilities and public infrastructure have virtually collapsed.

Governor Seriake Dickson has set up Flood Management Committee of 20 members chaired by the Deputy Governor, Rear Admiral Gboribiogha John Jonah (Rtd) with Prof. Edmund Allison Oguru who is secretary to the state government as secretary of the committee while commissioners, Special Advisers and representatives of local governments are members.

It was reported that most of the state has been submerged to the extent that the Minister of Petroleum Resources Mrs. Deziani Allison-Madueke had to use chopper to fly over her hometown as she could not land due to water.

Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan has set up Flood Management Committee and called for proper statistics of victims, locations and properties destroyed to guide government in post-flood planning. About 70,000 victims of the flood in 12 local government areas are kept in 18 relief camps in Delta.

President Jonathan himself has been visiting states ravaged by the flood and offering victims assurance of assistance and words of hope. He had been to Kogi, Adamawa, Bayelsa, Delta, Taraba, Rivers, Anambra, Benue.

At the Institute of Continuing Education (ICE) Asaba camp in Delta State for displaced persons, he raised their spirit saying that they are not alone in their predicament as he has come to sympathise with them He assured flood victims that they will be provided with high yielding seeds that will grow fast and quick for them to have something to fall back on when the flood recedes.

Some well-meaning people have called on governors who had the responsibility of disbursing the funds to be accountable, transparent and prudent.

A former Deputy Comptroller of the Nigeria Customs Service had advised governors whose states are affected to set up committees of eminent citizens (as some had already done) to oversee the disbursement of the funds provided by the Federal Government for victims. This is the crux of the matter as some may be improperly disbursed, abused, diverted and eventually going into wrong hands.

Many prominent Nigerians are worried about the need for the funds to reach the victims and alleviate their hardship. They fear about the so-called the Nigerian factor likely to mitigate against proper utilization and disbursement of the funds. Already, there are indications of inadequate food supply at the camps and lack of social amenities needed and which could have been provided for from the allocated funds. There are speculations that a bulk of the money may end up in private pockets or diverted considering the high level of corruption in the country.

The Federal and state governments have not put effective monitoring mechanism in place to checkmate fraudulent motives and actions by corrupt officials.

Just recently, Rivers State governor had cause to warn officials, traditional rulers against diverting relief materials and funds meant for flood victims.

Responding to questions during a World Press Conference in Lagos to mark 10th anniversary of Covenant University, Dr. David Oyedepo expressed disappointment over the lack of accountability and transparency that could trail the disbursement of the funds earmarked by the Federal Government for flood victims.

He slammed the culture of corruption that has become the hallmark of Nigeria’s national life in which people who stole public funds are often celebrated instead of indictment.

‘’The only sector working today is politics. People see political office as chance to make money from the top to bottom,’’ adding that ‘’even money for the flood victims could be diverted.’’