Daily Trust (Abuja)

10 January 2013

Nigeria: FG's N17.6 Billion Flood Aid Trapped in Red Tape

Following the flood incidents in parts of the country the federal government disbursed over N17.6 billion to states categorized A, B, C, based on the extent each was affected by the flood. Nearly two months after the money was released and most of the flood victims returned to their homes, Daily Trust investigation in the states that benefited from the federal government flood largesse shows that the victims have been left 'koboless' to fend for themselves.

Benue:

Benue State was rated a grade 'A' state and granted N500,000 million by the federal government to assist victims of the flood in the state. After officially closing all displaced persons camps in the state, victims are yet to get any compensation from the state to help them get their lives back on track.

The victims of the flood disasters returned to their homes following the closure of the camps early in December and were told to wait until the final outcome of an assessment being conducted by the state.

Commissioner of Water Resources and Environment John Ngbede said the post flood assessment team constituted by the government was still yet to conclude its findings.

According to him, the total cost of damage would determine the sharing formula of who gets what share; after completion of the mopping exercise in its holistic approach to ascertain the entire losses is properly documented.

"The damage assessment covered properties of affected persons, farmlands, livestock, buildings and other necessary consideration to ensure nothing worth inclusion is left out of the exercise," Ngbede said.

Meanwhile, the state government has continued to receive donations from individuals, corporate and non-governmental organizations to ease the sufferings of the flood victims.

The latest item was received last week by the Deputy Governor of the state, Chief Steven Lawani from the federal government's Presidential Committee on Flood Relief and Rehabilitation.

Chairman of the committee, Tunde Lemo who spoke on behalf of the committee at the government house in Makurdi while delivering the relief items to Benue state flood victims said the gesture was meant to lend a helping hand to the state government considering the magnitude of the disaster suffered in the state.

Also, the Makurdi branch of Sterling Bank made their own contribution which includes some bags of rice, toiletries among others.

State Emergency Management Agency's Executive Secretary, Adikpo Agbatse said the donation were still coming in even in the new year, adding however, that very soon the government would start the disbursement of fund to beneficiaries across the state.

One of the victims, Mr Austin Audu said they were still waiting for the assessment to conclude, hoping that what they would be given would be sufficient to make up for the losses they encountered.

Bayelsa:

Bayelsa State was also rated as an "A' states and got N500 million from the federal government having suffered badly from the flood that ravaged the state towards the end of last year.

Many public spirited individuals and corporate organizations empathized with the state government and by extension the victims of the deluge and made donations in both cash and relief materials.

The state government had set up an Ad hoc Relief Management Committee headed by the Deputy Governor, Rear Admiral John Jonah (retd). However the work of the committee was called to question by many stakeholders owing to the shoddy manner the committee went about the assignment as allegations of hoarding and diversion of the relief materials rent the air.

The state government had sought and obtained the House of Assembly approval of the sum of N1.5 billion to resettle the displaced victims of the flood.

The Chairman of Globacom Telecommunications, Chief Mike Adenuga, made the highest individual donation of N500 million to the state relief fund.

Some observers also put the total of the other relief fund yet to be made public to the tune of over N1 billion. The state Deputy Governor, Rear Admiral John Jonah who coordinated the relief materials was quoted as saying that the onus of giving the total of what the state realized from donations in cash rests with the state Accountant General.

The buck passing raised a lot of dust in the state as there were hue and cry that the money might have been tampered with, more so with the shabby treatment given to the displaced persons while in the various camps during the height of the flood.

Daily Trust findings revealed that no individual or organizations has received any cash from the state government emanating from the relief fund.

The Sarkin Hausawa, leader of the Hausa community in Bayelsa state, Alhaji Badamasi Salihu said that even during the flooding, the Hausa community was on its own as the highly politicized relief materials did not reach them.

The Chief Imam of Ekeki Central Mosque in the state capital, Kasim Yusif, said that four of their mosques were submerged by the flood, but no assistance has come their way. He said they were even saddled with the responsibility of taking care of their displaced members because of the high level politics that attended the distribution of the relief materials.

Even journalists affected by the flood have not received any succour. Chris Ejim, Bayelsa state correspondent of Nigerian Compass newspaper told heart rending stories of what his family suffered during the flood, adding that no assistance has come from the state.

The work of the 15- member Post Flood Management Committee established by the state is stalled following the death of Gen. Andrew Owei Azazi, who until his death was the committee chairman.

But even in the midst of the allegations of mismanagement of the funds meant for the flood victims by officials of the state government, the Senior Special Assistant to Gov. Dickson on Civil Society, Tony Nathan says money meant for the development of the state cannot be given to the flood victims.

"I don't think that money meant for development can be given to people because their houses were flooded. If you want to give money, then you will give the entire Bayelsans, a state of 1.7 million people," he argued, stressing that every part of the state was affected by the flood.

Cross River:

Cross River State got N400 million from the federal government to cushion the impact of the flood on affected persons in the state.

When the Vice President, Arch Namadi Sambo visited the state, he was touched by the damage caused by flood and the plight of the people that were displaced as a result of the flood.

At the many Internally Displaced Peoples' camps in both central and southern senatorial districts of the state, Sambo told the victims that the federal government was not losing sight of their predicament and that was the reason the state was given N400 million to cushion the effects of the problem.

In order to properly manage the windfall from the federal government for the flood affected communities, the state composed a Flood Disaster Management Committee headed by the Acting Governor of Cross River State, Barrister Efiok Cobham with Director-General of the state Emergency Management Agency, Vincent Aquah as secretary. But David Akate, the public affairs officer of the agency said that it was not certain if the state has yet received the money. The state Commissioner for Environment, Sandy Onoh said only the flood disaster committee could be able to confirm the actual position as to whether the state has received the N400 million or not.

Meantime, at Eja Village in Obubra Local Government Area where the state government opened a camp for internally displaced persons, amidst challenges of unfavourable weather, mosquito bites and other harmful insects, Mrs Janet Ogwashi said that she was one of the women badly affected by the flood but that she was yet to receive any money from government.

"Government people visited us when the incident happened and promised that they would come back to give us some supports and rebuild our structures. Up till now we are still awaiting their coming," she said.

Former IDP, Mrs. Ofaha James who lamented slow response of government to their plight, said the idea of living in a camp was alien and degrading for the people of the area but were forced to do so because the entire community was ravaged, leaving no space for them to stay. She was however grateful to God that through communal efforts and supports from their relations in distance towns, some of them were able to begin life again.

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