10 November 2012

Nigeria: Floods - Hardship, Anger Rage in Camps

Photo: Emmanuel Gbemudu/IRIN
Women with a dug-out canoe in front of their flooded homes in Toru-Orua in Sagbama.

Recently, President Goodluck Jonathan announced that the federal government would assist states ravaged by flood with N17.6bn. In this report, HAMZAT BABA, Lokoja, KOLA NIYI-EKE, Asaba, OSA OKHOMINA, Yenagoa, MUAZU ABARI, Yola, PATRICK OCHOGA, Benin City, ACHOR ABIMAJE, Jos, EDEM EDEM, Calabar, NNAMDI MBAWIKE, Enugu, ABU NMODU, Minna, assess the state of affairs at the displaced peoples' camps across the states, with a view to measuring the impact of the released funds on the victims' plight.

The "Nigerian factor" appears to have crept into official efforts to bring relief to hapless citizens sacked from their homes by rampaging flood. Investigation by LEADERSHIP Weekend revealed that many unscrupulous public office holders seem to have taken the N17.6 billion earmarked to bring succour to the victims as manna from heaven they could lap up as usual, leaving the displaced people in the lurch.

KOGI STATE: In Lokoja, the victims of the flood devastation that recently ravaged the state seem to be confused, as they are in the dark on the next line of action the state government would take concerning their plight. LEADERSHIP Weekend visited some of the camps set up by the state government and observed that the displaced were finding it difficult to stay in their temporary abode, despite efforts to make them comfortable there.

Consequently, some of the victims have already relocated to some other places where they found comfort.

Hafsat Abu told LEADERSHIP Weekend that her family would leave the St. Luke Primary School, Adankolo camp" because we hear that the camp would soon be closed down."

However, Abu pleaded with the state government to help them to settle down, saying "we have no other person or institution to turn to for assistance except the government."

A farmer, Salihu Abdulhamid, urged the government to assist him and others financially "to start farming all over again."

He equally urged the government to monitor those saddled with the responsibility of feeding them at the camp. According to him, "food is not getting to us regularly, and nobody seems able to explain this bad development. This has been going on now for four days."

While Mr. Jonathan Ekele said the government might have done all it can to help them, "there is need for improvement, as the food we get here is too small. More than 50 of us share a bag of rice. The impression out there is that we are enjoying at the camps. This is not true and government needs to take interest in what is happening to us here.

Last week Friday, the flood victims rattled security agents by staging a protest in Lokoja. The demonstrators, who said they were unhappy with the turn of event, staged the protest at the Unity Square where they urged government to be alive to its responsibilities.

Spokesman of the group, Aaron Haruna said: "We are yet to see the millions we have been hearing on television and radio. The government must give us part of the cash donations they have so far received. We cannot continue to remain in primary schools when nothing seems to be forthcoming anymore."

But addressing the leaders of various camps in Lokoja, the state Deputy Governor, Yomi Awoniyi, urged the flood victims not to take government's benevolence for granted.

Meanwhile, Governor Idris Wada has assured that all the donations received as a result of the disaster would not only be judiciously utilised, but that they would get to those who needed them the most.

DELTA STATE: At the Ice camp in Asaba, Delta State flood victims alleged poor security situation at the facility, adding that the state government's insensitivity to their welfare in spite of the donations might force them back home.

"We are not enjoying anything in the camp. We want to go home because government officials are using us to make money for themselves," one of them said in tears.

The state's Commissioner for Special Duties, Tony Nwaka, confirmed that the state government had received N500 million from the federal flood relief fund.

In most centres visited, the situation was quite pathetic as many of the victims lamented over poor feeding system and unbearable cold that had landed no fewer than 16 interns at the Oleh camp in hospital.

Those who could not bear the dire situations at the camps anymore have chosen to go away while those still at the facilities complained of the dangers posed to them by mosquitoes and snakes.

Meanwhile, Delta state governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan has charged a 12-man Flood Committee to manage theN500 million the state got from the federal government prudently.

ADAMAWA STATE: Investigations by LEADERSHIP Weekend revealed that the Adamawa state government has already received N500 million from the federal government to support the flood victims. In turn, the state has set up a flood fund disbursement committee headed by the Secretary to the state government, Mr. Kobis Thinnu Ari.

The committee, LEADERSHIP Weekend learnt, has finished compiling the list of all the flood victims both within and outside the camps. Some of the victims have returned home while others are living with friends and relatives.

While the committee is poised to start disbursing the funds to the affected people, there are fears that those who had left the camps might be short-changed in the process, considering the allegation of relief material diversion levelled against officials.

However, victims continued to complain of poor conditions at the camps across the state, even as they pleaded for more assistance.

EDO STATE: Flood victims at the nine camps in Etsako Central, Etsako East and part of Esan South East in Edo State, are still waiting for the water to recede so that they might return home.

The Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, released N100 million for the procurement of relief materials for theflood victims before the federal government intervention fund of N400 million was given to the state.

At Fugar, headquarter of Etsako Central local government relief materials were seen being moved to the various camps under the supervision of the Executive Director of the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Hajiya Maimuna Momodu.

Momodu, who commended the state and federal governments for their interventions, confirmed to LEADERSHIP Weekend that Edo had received N400 million from the federal government meant for the flood victims.

She said the money would be used to resettle the victims, even as she urged them to remain at the camps until after their homes must have been fumigated.

BAYELSA STATE: When the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) and the United Kingdom-based group, Stakeholder Democratic Network (SDN), alerted the people of Bayelsa to the rising cases of alleged theft of relief materials by some politicians in the state, the question was: What would then happen to the N500 million offered to assist the state by the Federal Government if mere food was being stolen by officials in charge of the camps?

The CLO and the SDN also raised issues bordering on the welfare and security of flood victims at the relief camps. Chairman, CLO, Nengi James, alleged that the state officials were guilty of improper documentation of victims and homes affected by flood as well as slack funds and material management.

Country Coordinator, SDN, Inemo Samiama, also condemned alleged poor and uncoordinated relief operations for the displaced.

There are allegations that politicians and some individuals involved in the relief efforts on behalf of the government are stealing the materials and funds meant for the flood victims.

It was gathered that in spite of the cry by the state government for donations and support, N20 million was allegedly released to the 24 members of the state Assembly purportedly towards the relocation of their constituents affected by the flood.

Governor Seriake Dickson himself discovered that two state officials had set up illegal relief camps, leading to the suspension of one of his aides.

Secretary to the Bayelsa State Government (SSG), Prof. Edmond Allison-Oguru, said the government was concerned that some politicians and political appointees were bent on feathering their nests through the relief operations.

However, Allison-Oguru assured that these crooked individuals would be checked.

On the victims' complaints of food shortage in the camp, Dickson implored them not "to expect to have the kind of comfort they are used to in their homes as government would not be able to meet individual taste and preferences at a time like this."

However, he assured them that the government would continue to meet their most pressing needs" within the limits of available resources."

The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), the CLO, the National Union of Bayelsa State Students (NUBSS) and the Nengi James Foundation have asked the state Government to review the composition of the various committees on the emergency relief efforts in order to include students and civil society groups.

PLATEAU STATE: Although Plateau was ravaged by flood, Commissioner for Environment, Mrs Serah Yusuf and spokesman of the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, (North Central) Yohana Audu, told LEADERSHIP Weekend the state had closed all relief camps set up to shelter the victims.

According to Yusuf, Plateau was able to achieve the feat through the quick intervention by the state government following the flood disaster.

She also disclosed that the state has received N500 million intervention fund from the federal government, which a panel was working on in order to disburse to the victims.

The School of Islamic Studies in Rikkos and Gangare Primary School used as camps for the Jos flood victims were empty when LEADERSHIP Weekend visited them.

CROSS RIVER STATE: Facilities at the Primary School, Eja in Obubra local council, Cross River state are currently overstretched by nearly two thousand flood victims camped there.

The victims, most women and children, complained of a mosquito invasion, which has raised fears of a malaria epidemic, as the camp lacked mosquito nets. Children are also reportedly coming down with communicable diseases like diarrhoea.

On a visit to the camp, LEADERSHIP Weekend observed that the victims need urgent medical help in order to prevent an epidemics. The victims are yet to benefit from the N400 million donated by the federal government.

However, the state government has constituted a flood management committee headed by the Deputy Governor, Efiok Cobham.

The state emergency management agency confirmed that Cross River has received N400 million for the flood victims.

Lamenting their plights, the victims said the idea of living in a camp was alien and degrading to them.

A teary Mrs. Ofaha James said her home was swept away by the flood, stressing that "this wrapper is the only cloth I have for now. Only God can save us."

ENUGU STATE: LEADERSHIP WEEKEND gathered that victims in the state are yet to receive any disbursement from the N250 million offered the state by the federal government.

A leader of the Iggah community, which was affected by the flood, Chief Maximus Okuta, called on the state government to disburse the fund to the flood victims.

Okuta said but for the prompt intervention of the Uzo-Uwani local government chairman, Cornel Onwubuya, who donated relief materials to the victims, the situation in the temporary camps would have been worse.

He also urged the government to set up a health centre in Iggah to take care of the sick among the displaced.

Commissioner for Information, Chucks Ugwoke, declined to confirm whether the N250 million flood fund has been received by the state government.

NIGER STATE: Some of the camps opened in the state are thinning out as the flood victims go back home or are resettled.

In one of the camps in Mokwa the people have even returned to their homes on the river banks to start fishing.

Some residents of Gbogifu and Lemfa Kuso who were in the camp told LEADERSHIP WEEKEND that they left the camp despite being taken care of by the government out of boredom.

In Shiroro, a resident, Musa Jagaba said they decided to return home as the water had receded and with the hope of taking to dry season farming.

However, the camp in Lapai was still full when LEADERSHIP WEEKEND went there. But the flood victims in the camp stated that they were ready to be resettled in land areas near their ancestral homes.

Director-General of the state emergency agency, Mohammad Shaba, said the state had released N20 million for the victims' feeding.

Governor Babangida Aliyu said the state government had matched the N400 million released by the federal government to Niger with N150 million to meet the immediate needs of the people.

TARABA STATE: On Monday, the Taraba State government swung into action by deploying massive relief materials to the affected areas in the state. Items worth hundreds of millions were taken to camps in the state.

These included food, farming implements, beddings and fishing nets.

The state government had set up a committee to assist the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) in its work. The committee is headed the Deputy Governor, Garba Umar.

On Wednesday, some members of the committee, in conjunction with SEMA, were in Kunini, Lau local government to distribute relief materials to the people.

According to the Commissioner of Information, Emmanuel Bello, the relief materials were procured with the N400 million given to the state by the federal government to address the flood crisis.

Other reporters Osa Okhomina, Nnamdi Mbawike, Edem Edem, Achor Abimaje, Hamzat Baba, Patrick Ochoga, Kola Niyi-Eke, and Muazu Abari.

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