The Presidential Committee on Flood Relief and Rehabilitation set up by President Goodluck Jonathan in the wake of the recent flooding in some states have toured some of the affected states with the promise of hope and rehabilitation, Festus Akanbi reports
From Philippine to India and even the United States of America, flooding has been a concern to major economies in 2012. Nigeria has its own share of the pain when flooding caused by torrential rain paralysed parts of the country, forcing tens of thousands to flee their homes and closing their markets, offices and schools.
So, when the Federal Government decided to take the bull by the horn and face the problem of flooding squarely, while also rehabilitating those affected, the most acceptable choice, to head the committee was Aliko Dangote, Africa's richest man and President of Dangote Group.
Not a few Nigerians were surprised when Aliko Dangote was named a co-chair of the Presidential Committee on Flood Relief and Rehabilitation (PCFR&R). This is because the passion with which Aliko Dangote gets involved on issues bordering on the wellbeing of his fellow countrymen and women is unfathomable. It sounds paradoxical that in spite of his stupendous wealth, his humility still remains unparalleled.
At the fund raising ceremony for the flood victims in Abuja earlier, Dangote, in an attempt to encourage others to identify with the victims with whatever they have, had said; "The soul of business is not making money but making people happy. I believe quite strongly that people make the difference-and not the balance sheet. We impact positively on the lives of the people, not by how much money we have accumulated, but by how much goodwill we have accumulated."
This explained his resolve to set the ball rolling by donating a sum of N2.5 billion. He also promised that every kobo realised for the purpose of the rehabilitation of the displaced flood victims would be judiciously used and in view of this, he said whoever donates what and every activity of the committee would be on the internet for all to see. Rather than sit in Abuja and determine what the victims would need, Dangote made the committee to be divided into sub groups with each group visiting the victims in their various camps to ascertain the condition and what palliative would be needed to bring about immediate succor to them before permanent rehabilitation.
It was against this background that he led a seven-man sub-group of the committee of which the Secretary of the whole committee, HajaraModu, is a member, to Edo, Delta, Rivers and Bayelsa states recently to have an eyewitness view of the conditions under which the victims live. Suffice it to say that even before the constitution of the presidential committee, Dangote had already visited some of the victims and donated both cash and relief materials worth hundreds of millions of naira.
Therefore as he visited the states, he went along with his personal relief materials being distributed by Dangote Foundation in the name of the Presidential Committee. On arrival in Benin, Dangote and his team members were received by Governor Adams Oshiomhole, who briefed them on the efforts of the state to resettle the displaced persons and lessen the pains they are going through. Dangote who later visited the camps sympathised with the government and people of the state.
He said: "This committee is made of heavyweights from the various professions. They are not here to make money out of this. We are trying to see if we can raise one hundred billion naira. We had a fund-raising at the villa at Abuja and we have actually raised twelve billion. I want to assure you that the displaced Nigerians would not be left to suffer. We will come to their rescue. We will help not only in terms of flood but we will make sure that they would be better off than they were before," he noted.
Governor Oshiomhole thanked President Goodluck Jonathan for providing the leadership to galvanise support for the victims of displaced persons because the challenge of the flooding is enormous. According to him, the flood disaster has thrown up fresh policy challenges on how to guard against future occurrence.
The governor, who commended Dangote for the personal interest he has shown in the industrialisation of the state and for devoting time to these humanitarian efforts, stated that, "I am confident that the additional relief materials which I hear is quite a lot will go a long way to make the camps more comfortable. I want to assure you that only those who deserve to benefit will benefit. Your visit will give them a lot of psychological relief that people they have heard of and not seen, but this disaster has brought them to the local communities" he added.
The committee handed over the relief materials to the newly sworn-in Chief of Staff to the governor, Patrick Obahiagbon, as the governor and committee members headed to the camps to see things for themselves. The committee donated 1,500 bags of 5kg rice, 1,500 bags of 5kg gari; 1,500 cartons of noodles; 3,000 bags of 1kg bags of salt; 2,000 bags of water; 1,500 1 litre pack of palm oil; 7,500 1kg bag of sugar; 750 sanitary packs; 250 mattresses; 1,000 blankets; 700 clothing materials for men and 700 packs of Ankara materials.
Dangote was in Asaba same day with his team and was received at the airport by a team of Delta State government officials led by Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan. They headed straight to the Institute of Continuing Education (ICE), the displaced persons camp, where Dangote told the delighted victims of his mission. Speaking philosophical on why God had allowed the disaster, he said his visit would afford the committee the opportunity to give the right recommendations to the Federal Government on better ways to help the flood victims to begin life afresh.
The business mogul, having gone round the camp, where he saw the displaced persons being trained in various vocational skills and conducted round the make-shift health centre. He showered encomiums on Delta State Government for the uncommon arrangement at the camp. Dangote, who was surprised at the beauty of the camp, the health system, the smiles on the people's faces and the skills acquisition centres put together by the state government, told the people they needed not be sad because God was on their side and assured them that all Nigerians shared in their agony.
In his comment earlier, the Delta State Governor reeled out all the measured being applied to care for the victims since the flood began on September 24, 2012. He told the committee that a total of 14 local government areas were affected in the state and four were completely submerged. And to care for them, he said 18 camps were created around the state. Some were put in classrooms and some in temporary structures.
Uduaghan explained that the initial challenge was providing food, healthcare and water for them.
Speaking in pidgin English in a rather comical manner, to the admiration of all, Uduaghan commended Dangote for his success in piloting the presidential fund raising committee. The governor told the people; "when you hear his name wetindey come your mind?" after a brief silence the people chorused 'money'.
And on arrival at the internally-displaced peoples' camp located at Mbiama, Rivers State in company with Governor Rotimi Amaechi, the committee met the children in the camp enjoying mathematics class been taught by a volunteer. Addressing the victims, Dangote described the flood as a national disaster needing urgent attention. He said his committee was in the camp on fact-finding mission to interact, commiserate and share in their burden as well as possibly find long lasting solution to the problem and forestall future occurrences.
He said, "We are aware that the flooding has brought untold grief and hardship to many people who have become internally-displaced. This is a challenge we must tackle. We are challenged as individuals, corporate organisations and governments to leverage our resources, time and talent to respond to this scourge of nature."
He said through the efforts and initiatives of the committee, the private sector and public-spirited individuals were now joining hands with the government to assist the internally displaced victims.
On behalf of the committee, Dangote announced the donation of relief materials which included bags of rice, bags of garri; cartons of noodles; bags of salt; palm oil; bags of sugar; sanitary packs; mattresses; blankets; clothing materials for men and packs of Ankara materials.
Governor Amaechi expressed gratitude to President Jonathan and members of the committee for intervening to rehabilitate the flood victims from the state.
At Government House, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, the committee through its co-chairman Aliko Dangote disclosed that though they have raised about N12 billion, it is aiming to raise N50 billion. Dangote stressed that the fund was meant to cushion the effects of the flood on the victims.
Responding, Governor of Bayelsa State, Henry Seriake Dickson said that the state is the worst hit. According to him, "Bayelsa is the real delta of the Niger. The state is below sea level. Our farm lands have been washed away. People have lost their means of livelihood. Public institutions across the state are submerged".
However, he said that with the flood receding, the camps, which were established in schools were shut down to enable schools resume in the state. Dangote assured the state of the willingness of his committee to assist in rehabilitating and ensuring that the victims live better lives than before the flood.
The visit of the presidential committee to the four states left a beautiful impression behind in the mind of the people. It showed that there is a government that cares for the needs of its people. Since their movement to camps, many of the people had never seen the personalities who had been visiting them before, not even on television, let alone at a close range. The displaced person were happy and showed it as one of them picked up the microphone to than Dangote and his team for coming around.