By Obas Esiedesa and Ezra Ukanwa
INDIGENES of Kogi State yesterday called on Governor Yahaya Bello, to as a matter of urgency create an oil producing development commission, as part of effort to protect oil bearing communities from flooding.
They said this was in line with the provisions of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution which created the 13 percent oil derivation fund for oil producing states to help address issues on environmental pollution, degradation, among other devastating climatic conditions.
The Kogi indigenes made this call under the aegis of Ibaji Unity Forum, IUF, in Abuja.
Recounting the menace caused by the flood, the President, IUF, Barr. Stephen Uchola, who spoke on behalf of the group, said the Ibaji Local Government Area had received the least attention and publicity of extensive damages caused by the flood.
He urged the Federal and Kogi Governments to urgently take necessary steps to rescue thousands of people trapped in different communities in the area due to the ravaging flood disaster.
He said that since the outbreak of the devastating flood that has submerged the entire local government and rendered the residents homeless, there had not been any assistance from the government and its agencies for the victims.
He, therefore, called on the government to expedite action in the disbursement of relief materials to the people of Ibaji.
According to him, the 1999 Nigeria constitution which created the 13% oil derivation fund is quite unambiguous on the use of it, noting that Section 162 (2) of constitution the stated that the fund is to assist oil producing communities in tackling environmental pollution and degradation, provision of basic amenities like healthcare, portable water, road and economic empowerment of community people.
“Except for the newly qualified oil producers (Anambra and Kogi) all other oil producing states have established oil producing development commissions to execute this constitutional mandate on behalf of the Government.
“We therefore hereby recommend the immediate creation of an oil producing development commission by the state government for ease and transparent utilization of the revenue from the derivation fund. In the interim, we recommend the opening of a dedicated account for receiving money from the 13% derivation fund.
“As a government of new direction, we expect the Governor to strictly abide by the provisions of the constitution so that the heroes of the struggle would not have died in vain”, he added.
Among other things, he fingered poor water channels as the reason for the flood, urging the government to mobilize contractors to begin water channels Infrastructural development in the area.
He said: “In Ibaji which is the worst hit of the Nine local government areas in Kogi state affected by the flood, no portion of the 1, 377 sqkm of land space was not submerged, thus forcing the people to cohabit with desperate and hostile reptiles on locally elevated platforms.
“Crops and other economic trees were submerged and destroyed. Our people are in serious perjury and in danger of post flood famine having lost everything. Even those who died during the flood season of natural causes have no place of rest; no land to bury them; their corpses are presently in mortuaries in neighboring states kind enough to accept our people as refugees.
“They will continue to stay in the morgues until the invading flood recedes. The future for the people is bleak. Experts on climate change and meteorology have warned that there may be a more devastating flood in 2023. If the prediction materializes, then we can now start preparing for the worst.
“It was also envisaged that the devastating annual floods would be controlled through adequate water channels which would arise from the construction of large and medium sized bridges on the road. However the people’s hopes have been dashed by the government’s abandonment of the road project.
“The issue of perennial flooding is both a global and national challenge that must be jointly remedied by all levels of government. Flooding and its devastating effects vary from location to location but flood prone areas like Ibaji and other places are usually worst hit. It is therefore not surprising that Ibaji became the first casualty among the nine local government areas in Kogi state affected by the 2022 flood.
“However, in spite of our vulnerability and proneness to flooding, our people received the least attention and publicity of the extensive damages inflicted by the flood. It is in this regard that we hereby make appeals to all governments, civil society organizations and all Nigerians to come to the rescue of the people.
“Our people are currently in danger of starvation, homelessness and all manner of human degradation. We have heard of donations to the flood victims through the Kogi state government; however the effects of such donations are yet to have an impact. We therefore appeal to the state government to expedite action on the disbursement of the cash and materials so received”.