On Wednesday, November 21, 2012, scores of people besieged the Oda Road, Akure in Ondo State, where the Federal Government silo is cited for strategic grain reserve. It was a day the government released grains to the victims of flood disaster that ravaged several parts of the country.
The people, who were mainly residents of the Akure South Local Government gathered as early as 8.30am at the 25, 000 metric tones capacity silo premises. They queued to collect part of their own share of the 900 metric tones of grains allocated by the Federal Government from the strategic grain reserve for distribution freely to the victims of flood disasters.
The items, which was about 30 trailer loads and comprising 660 metric tonnes of Maize, 180 metric tonnes of sorghum and 60 metric tonnes of Garri, was part of the 40,000 metric tones of food items released from the strategic grains reserves by President Goodluck Jonathan as palliatives for the recent flood victims in parts of Nigeria.
At the Akure silo, only garri packed in 25kg bags were available for distribution to the victims while sorghum and maize would be brought for the victims from the Federal Government silo at Ibadan just as garri meant for some other states would be distributed from the Akure silo.
Though, residents of the state did not suffer much from the flood disaster when compared to the level of devastation in some other parts of the country, the eagerness demonstrated by the beneficiaries before the actual kick off of the distribution showed that hunger was already knocking on the doors of many people.
It was visible to the eye from the number of people that gathered to collect the food items on the first day of the programme, which was only expected to be for the symbolic distribution of the commodities to some flood victims in Akure South Local Government.
When the news filtered to the town that the items were being distributed free of charge to the people, the entire premises became crowded and that forced the security men at the gate to close the door because many people did not understand the motive of the government gesture.
Though, the explanation by the officials that the items were meant for those whose farmlands and fish ponds were washed away by the flood and whose names had been compiled, many people were prepared to force their ways into the distribution centre.
But before the distribution commenced by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina disclosed that the release of the food items is the first part of the four -pronged approach to the management of the flood disasters that ravaged parts of the country with economic woes on the victims.
Adesina, who was represented by the Regional Director, Western Zone of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Julius Odeyemi said the Federal Government has released a sum of N9.7 billion for the implementation of the plan nationwide.
Other components of the plan, Odeyemi said include distribution of planting materials to farmers free of charge, procurement and distribution of fertilizers and procurement of small-scale irrigation water pumps for off-season farming.
He also disclosed that a N17.6 billion all-inclusive programme of addressing housing and health challenges thrown up by the disaster has been approved by the President "to address the immediate challenges of displaced families and further put in place measures that will reduce the impact on displaced farmers."
The minister warned that the items must not be sold under any guise and that security agencies have been told to implement the directive.
He said Lagos, Imo, Ondo, Ogun, Abia, Enugu, Osun and Ebonyin States would pick their consignments of relief grains from Akure Silo Complex.
Also speaking at the event, Ondo Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr Ademola Olorunfemi, said the state had already prepared a 500 hectares of land at the site of Owena Multipurpose Dam for lowland rice cultivation, to complement the fourth component of the flood disaster management programme.
Olorunfemi said the effect of the recent flood disaster was not very devastating on the people of the state due to the proactive measures put in place by the State Government, which had engage in chanelisation of rivers and clearing of drainages across the state.
He said despite this some people suffered from the effect of flood as farmlands and fish ponds were washed away by the flood though not as pronounced as in some parts of the country.
The commissioner said the flag off was the beginning of the food distribution in the state adding that it would be carried out in all other 18 local governments.
A retired civil servant, Mr Daramola Israel Sunday, said though he lost fishes worth over N2million to the flood which affected three of his ponds, the Federal Government gesture came handy as the food items would serve him and members of his family for some days.
He expressed appreciation to President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan for releasing the grain saying the most essential need of human being is food and when food is available some other things can follow.
Daramola expressed the readiness to go back to the farm if the government's assistance from the state and Federal Government could come to take them back to where he was before the disaster.
Also speaking, Mrs Funmilayo Ogunleye, who is a widow said she lost fish worth over N500,000 to the flood that affected her pond lamenting that the effect was too much for her to bear as a widow, who has to cater for three children that were of school age.
Mrs Ogunleye therefore called on the government to provide further assistance to the victims of the disaster and urged the government not to delay in bringing other grains that are not available in Akure silo on time.