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Tale of woes from Kogi

By Boluwaji Obahopo

Seven months after flood devastated some communities in Kogi State, most of the flood victims are still lamenting the neglect from the State Government in addressing their plight, stressing that they are really suffering. Though government kept singing song of self satisfaction over their effort in ameliorating the victims plight, but that seems a mirage in comparison to the reality on ground.

A visit round some of the affected communities scattered around the nine affected Local Government area showed the victims are still grappling to return to normal life. Pains, anguish, stress, anger are on their faces.  Some of the victims who spoke in agony to Saturday Vanguard who was on the entourage of The National Orientation Agency (NOA) to some affected LGA lament their plight saying government promises are yet to see the light of the day as hunger, sickness and poverty have taken them over.

Victims ordeals

In Ichalla Ajode community in Ibaji Local government, the victims lamented bitterly that their children have stop going to school since the only primary school in the community was destroyed by the flood and they have no money to take their wards to Idah which is the nearest town with schools.

Spokesperson for the community, Mr. Joseph Arewa said the farm seedlings promised by the State government as a post flood assistance did not reach them (pointing to one bag of rice seedlings on the ground).“  This bag of rice seedling was provided by the European Union and that is the only available farm seedling since the flood.”He expressed.

Mr. Arewa who recounted the experience of the flood said the flood left  bitter pills too difficult to swallow. “During the flood we shifted a lot. We have to move to Idah for safety. After the camping, we return back to the community and we are yet to receive anything from the government.

We are still pleading to the State government to come to our aid because we need assistance. The flood met us unaware and because we did not prepare for it that was why the devastation was much. More than 50 houses were destroyed by the flood.

In Ejule – Onu community in Ibaji Local Government, Elder Isaac K. Abah lamented the neglect of Government to their plight and the ‘politicising’ of the money released by the state government.

”Even while we are at the camp we were poorly fed. It is by the grace of God that we survive till date. I commended the effort of the Catholic church for giving us adequate assistance at St. Boniface camp. They provided us with clothing materials, food and some other items; but the Federal Government assistance is what we are yet to see up till now. Even the State Government we only heard that they loaded trailers of fertilizers and other food stuff but as I’m talking to you the community has not gotten a single item.

Continuing he said, “the N20 million given by the state government to the LG is yet to reach our community. Some weeks ago when they ask us to converge in Idah for the disbursement of the money, we got there only to hear that the DLG of the LG who was suppose to handle the fund has gone to bury his father. It is three weeks now, we are yet to hear anything again.”

Elder Abah who said the community after the flood received only 10 bags of rice which was share a mudu per household stressed that the well in the community was sunk by communal effort since they have waited long without seeing one out of the 23 boreholes promised by the State government.

He also hinted that four lives werelost after returning from the camp as a result of lack of medical facilities and absence of health care centre. However in Ofodo community in Igalamela-Odolu Local Government, one of the victims, Madaki Abu Jaja who said they are still battling with scarcity of food and accommodation lamented that the money ascribed to their local government was used for political purpose.

Visibly angry, he said that “there was selective distribution of the money. Those whose houses were not even affected by the flood were given N20, 000 because of their political influence towards the forthcoming council election. Can you believe that our pictures  placed in the list of those affected were substituted with others.

They refused to make the village head or the youth leader part of their committee. When they came, they said they have their own list which was different from the one compiled by the community. Only ten household received N20,000 and they left. It is divide and rule system”.

The story was not different in Ofoachi community in Igalamela -odolu LG as the village head, Alhaji Musa Khadir called on the Federal Government and State government to look into their plight and provide them with farm seedling, accommodation so that they can return back to normal life.

We are doomed

Twenty-three year old Victoria James and her family are yet to revive their life again. Victoria, who returned from Ogun State to find her family house gone could not understand why and seven month later, still couldn’t find a decent place to lay her head. Her family house gone with the flood and her family scattered around other people’s houses till date.

Victoria who finished her secondary school in Ilishan High School, Ogun state laments to Vanguard the gory agony of Ichalla-Ajode community. “I returned last year to find that our house had been destroyed by the flood. Up till this time, my family is scattered around the community as my parent could not afford to rebuild their house. My sibling and I are staying with different people.

Continuing: “since we returned back to the community we have been passing through one problem to another. The children suffered rashes all over their body, children are dying. We don’t have clinic. We only have access to hospital at Idah which is far from here.

The flood brought outbreak of diseases. And here there is no clinic or health centres to take care of the sick victims. We have to take our sick people to Idah which is a bit far from here and some time, these people died before we could reach there for medical attention.”

Aside the health challenges, the education of the children also suffered set back as the only primary school in the community no longer function. “I weep for the future of my community. The future of these children is in question. The teachers have no place to conduct their lesson so they’ve stopped coming to school since.” She concluded.

The tale of woes is also recounted by Mama Ugwala Simon, an 85 years old woman who is battling to survive as those who aid her in daily needs have also been badly affected by the flood.

After the flood, some of the people of Ibaji Local Government have put their fate back in their hands returning gradually to the life they know before – Farming and fishing; but life is still horrible in the village. Since the people have nothing left in the farm, they have to fish and carry palm carnel to the market before they could feed themselves.

The chief head of Ofoachi in Igalamela-Odolu Local government, Alhaji Musa Khadir said lack of accommodation has made the people to squat with their neighbour. “In this community, those whose houses did not collapse have no option than to accommodate others whose houses collapsed; as a result, you see fifteen people in a room.”

But with NIMET warning of another flood, what is the fate of these people who are yet to recover from the 2012 episode. “We have heard that another flood is coming and so we are pleading to State Government to start building camp so that we can relocate on time.

Government should give us seedlings so that we can start early planting and harvest those crops before the flood comes so that the level of hunger and suffering can reduce. We don’t have potable water and the water we drink is salty which have adverse effect on our health. No light, no medical facilities. We are perpetually living in fears of hunger, sickness and unexpected death on daily basis.”

Government reaction

The State Government has through advertorial publication in some National newspapers claimed that the State has done much to the flood victims. The publication which refuted the N3,000 given to flood victims also explained how money received during the flood was used.

”In the aftermath of the devastating flood disaster experienced last year, the State Government embarked on tireless efforts to provide efficient relief and recovery assistance to the flood victims with its funds and funds donated to it. Till date, Kogi State has received a total of N753,092,704.00 as CASH donations to the Relief and Recovery Assistance Account.  This excludes the kind and generous donations of Mattresses, food items, drugs, personal care products, farm implements, water filters and other materials from various donors; to whom the State Government is immeasurably grateful.

The breakdown of cash donations is as follows:

(a) Private individuals and Organisations – N253,192,704.10

(b) Federal Government flood relief fund – N500,000,000.00

”In response to the plight of affected persons, Kogi State Government has provided relief assistance in the following forms:

Establishment Of Camps In The Nine Affected Local Government Areas. The total number of displaced persons at the 87 camps set up after the flood was 623,690. In addition to the donation of relief materials from private organisations, Kogi State also provided feeding and medical assistance for inhabitants of the camps for a period of six months that ended in February 2013; when the last camp at Federal Housing Estate, Lokoja was closed long after camps in other affected states were closed.

On winding down the last camp, each of the families was given the sum of N50,000 to assist them in finding alternative accommodation. Each family was also given a 50kg bag of rice and other condiments to supplement their feeding. Bulk Cash Assistance to The Affected Local Government Areas Funds were provided to the nine affected local government areas to assist in the human recovery efforts while the state government intervenes in critical sectors like reconstruction and the provision of social infrastructure. Drawing on the principle of categorisation by ‘extent of disaster’ adopted by the Federal Government, the State government divided the local government areas into three categories- Categories A,B and C.

LOCAL GOVT. AREA CATEGORY and amount received are:

A: BASSA, IBAJI, LOKOJA – N20 million each; B: IDAH, AJAOKUTA, KOGI – N15 million each while IGALAMELA, OFU and OMALA LG received N10 million each. While FHA CAMP received N4.5 million totalling N139.5 million .

The advertorial signed by the State commissioner of Information, Alhaji Yabagi Bologi read in part. “The Local Government Areas were mandated to constitute Relief Management Committees, with membership drawn from Traditional Councils, Faith Based Organisations, Security Agencies, Local Government Administrators and Political Appointees. The Local Government committees have the responsibility to decide the modality for the distribution of the funds allocated to their Local government areas after  verifying the genuine flood victims.

The state government said the remaining fund are to be channelled into: Rehabilitation And Reconstruction Of Schools Used As Camps which is to gulp N81.4 Million; rehabilitation of roads damaged by the flood which contracts is already awarded at a cost of N423 million; Construction of Post Flood 250 housing units of 1-bedroom and 2-bedroom apartments at a cost of N504 million and government Agricultural Recovery farming of 6,500 hectares Rice plantations is to gulp N170 million.

Call for calm

The State Government oblivious of NIMET prediction said they are working against the reoccurring of last year flood as the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), has embarked on a massive post flood sensitization campaign to encourage flood victims to move upland.

The state government who has commenced training of SEMA staff, stakeholders and volunteers at State and Local Government levels on effective disaster management called for calm “The damage inflicted on the state by the floods ran into billions of naira. As such, the effects cannot be fully addressed in a few months.

The Kogi State Government is not leaving any stone unturned in ensuring that its citizens who were affected by the floods are assisted to resettle quickly and properly. We therefore wish to urge all our citizens and the media to seek clarifications of such sensitive issues, whenever they arise, before rushing to the Press.

What happen to government money

The monies shared by the state government to flood victims had continued to generate controversy with many affected communities recounting they are yet to receive anything. While some communities were given selective disbursement, some victims reject theirs on ground that it was insulting and could not address their plight. Flood victims in Gadumo, Ajaokuta LG and victims of Bassa in Bassa LG who received N3,000 rejected the money which sparked off protest.

Saturday Vanguard investigation revealed that the monies got ‘lost’ between the committee set up by the State government and the subcommittee set up by the Local Government to harmonise and ensure the effective disbursement of the monies. The subcommittee and the committee turned themselves to a bottle neck and carry out the assignment using a different manual, and the chunks of the money grew winds and flew away before reaching its proposed destination.

Like Government poor attitude to management, the State government after sharing the monies to the nine local Governments failed to monitor the disbursement of the money to affected persons which gave the committee the free hands to usurp the money for their personal and some political purposes

How will these people survive from this ordeal. Where will help come from. Will there be balm in gilead. A lot need to be done for the victims life to return to normalcy.


Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.