opinionBy Salisu Na'inna Dambatta
It is true that Nigeria suffered a devastating flood that wrecked houses, damaged roads, destroyed farms, caused loss of precious lives and brought sadness to many. Data from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) indicate that the flood has displaced over two million people from their homes, many built on ancient waterways in drier years.
It is relevant at this stage to refer the reader to a national broadcast on the flood disaster by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to refresh our memories. In the broadcast, the President said: "Over the past few weeks, unprecedented floods have ravaged many parts of our country, rendering tens of thousands of fellow Nigerians homeless, and causing massive destruction of property, farmlands, and infrastructure across the country. I wish to express our deep commiseration with all those who have lost loved ones; those who have lost their property; as well as all the affected communities and institutions. It is sad that this global phenomenon of devastating floods has come to Nigeria at this time. I want to reassure all Nigerians that the Federal Government is prepared to do everything possible to mitigate the impact of this natural disaster."
The flood has also generated analyses and comments, some of them geared toward finding immediate solutions for the predicament of those displaced by the uncontrolled flowing water. The Federal Government is leading and collaborating with other tiers of government and non governmental organisations in taking significant actions designed to mitigate the pains caused by the flood. This is expected as the welfare of the citizens is the primary duty of governments everywhere.
First, it is well known that it was a federal government-funded agency, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) that alerted the nation of the probability of flooding in the country. Through its well-publicised alert and very strong warnings, the Federal Government put all Nigerians, regardless of their location, on the watch out and advised them on the necessity for everyone to take protective measures against the predicted uncontrolled flow of water, in some cases specifying the states and locations that would be hard hit. The same Agency has also warned that there was a likelihood of violent winds in the forthcoming dry season which will uproot trees, destroy homes and possibly cause bush fires. This is a fallout of climate change, or global warming. Timely warnings, such the ones cited here are of great value in such matters.
In addition to that, right from the initial stages of the manifestation of flooding caused by the release of water in a vulnerable dam in the neighboring Republic of Cameroon, the National Emergency Management Agency was proactively up and doing, evacuating likely victims from their abodes and subsequently catered for those who were displaced.
The President emphasized this fact in his October 9, 2012 broadcast to the nation thus: "The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has so far spent N1.314 billion to provide immediate relief materials. The Ministry of Works has spent N556 million on the repair of collapsed bridges and the construction of bye-passes; while the Ministry of Environment has spent N95 million on sundry relief measures."
In that national broadcast, the President commiserated with families who lost loved ones as a result of the flood, expressed sincere sympathy to those who suffered material losses and announced financial support amounting to N13.3 billion to state governments affected by the disaster to provide immediate succor to the victims, from a package of a total sum of N17.6 billion These actions represent clear demonstration of concern for the welfare of the citizens.
It should be borne in mind that the President had earlier set up a Presidential Technical Committee to assess the impact of the flood and advice the government on holistic measures to tackle and mitigate the pains it caused.
"The Technical Committee will continue to go round the country while the Vice President and I will also visit some of the affected communities. When we receive the Committee's final report, the Federal Government will further initiate medium and long-term measures to check future flood disasters," the President assured in the broadcast.
Within a few days, he inaugurated the Aliko Dangote-led Flood Relief Committee, which raised an appeal fund for those affected by the floods. The sum of N10, 000,000,000.00 was raised at its launch at the State House Banquet Hall. More money is trickling in.
The President also released the sum of N9.7 billion to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to finance several activities to ensure that the victims and the larger Nigerian society do not suffer food crisis and affected farmers return to their normal activities.
-Dambatta is director, Information in the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources