A post flood assessment carried out by Benue State government has shown that the recent flood in the state was responsible for damage so far put at over N19 billion suffered by the people of Benue State. Commissioner of Environment and Water Resources John Ngbede who spoke to our correspondent in Makurdi, said the post flood assessment team set up by the government was still busy in the field. Ngbede also highlighted expectations for the water sector in 2013.
How would you describe the state of the environment after the flood?
The flood assessment is still ongoing. The mopping of the streets is also still ongoing. The desalting of the drainages is ongoing too. We are trying to make sure our environment looks like what it was before the flood. We are still doing mopping here and there, it is not yet completely over.
We are also appealing to members of the public to help us take care of their own areas. The drainages are directly under the care of Benue Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency and they have been doing clean-up of the environment. What is amazing me, however, is the attitude of most people who have turned the streets into refuse dumps. I walk around the streets at times and see how dumps are deposited everywhere, I think that's not correct because there are designated areas for such purposes.
How would you quantify the damage done by the flood to Benue considering that the assessment is still going on?
The damage done already, as we earlier put it, is over N19 billion. This includes damage done to property, buildings, houses, livestock and farmlands. So far, that is what has been destroyed. You will also recall that the federal government sent in assistance of N500 million to grade 'A' flood affected states and Benue happens to be one of them, the money is basically meant to take care of those affected in the recent flood to enable them resettle. To that extent, a committee was set up to ensure that the people are properly rehabilitated.
There are insinuations that the money from the federal government has been disbursed?
No, not all. The money is still intact and has not yet been disbursed. The processes of quantifying the actual damage is still on-going.
How much improvement has your ministry made in the water sector last year?
We have been trying to make sure people get water at their various houses. We have been doing some repairs of leakages here and there just as we are also doing some connections.
The governor has approved N20 million for the water board to enable them do this and they are yet to access the money. I'm very certain that as soon as the money is accessed, there would be a lot of improvement in the sector generally and that also implies that the various leakages would stop. This will lead to increase of supply of water in the Makurdi metropolis and its environ. We shall also use that advantage to effect repairs on leakages that construction of roads have caused to our water pipelines.
We appeal to members of the public to avail the water board with information about leakages wherever such is noticed, so that they can have access to clean, safe water. The leakages are all over and the water board has records of all leakages, we still need individuals to report affected water lines wherever such is found in their neigbourhood.
Has any of those destroying pipelines been prosecuted?
We have not noticed anybody mal-handling our water projects. But, we have had the MTN and Airtel services provider linkable affected many of our lines. I have directed the water board to stop them from further destroying the pipes.
The general manager was likely to meet with the commissioner of police to report the matter since it is affecting our water pipes, I wouldn't know how far they have gone in that aspect as they are yet to brief me. Let me say that anybody that does anything to affect our water lines will definitely face prosecution.
What changes should the people expect to see in the water sector in 2013?
In the coming year, we will focus more attention in the rural areas. The rural environs would benefit immensely from the provision of water as embedded in 2013 budget. More communities would have clean water for their consumption.
How much did government expended this year on the water sector?
This year alone, we commissioned most of our water project; the greater Makurdi water works, Otobi water works, Kastina-Ala water works and Anyin water works were all commissioned this year.
The governor also approved the contractor handling the Otukpa water scheme and the Obagaji water scheme. Soon, when all these monies are released for the projects to be carried out in earnest, we will see that a lot has been done in the areas of provision of water. So far, there are no regrets whatsoever because we have done our best for our people and we are happy with what has happened.
What next should the people hope for as this year draws to a close and a new one beckons in 2013?
The people should have faith in the government which is doing everything necessary to ensure that water is made available to the people of Benue state. This government is one that promises and would definitely fulfill its side of the promise.
When the governor went around during his electioneering campaign, he made some promises and I'm assuring the people that all those promises would see the light of the day before the end of this tenure. The people should be patient with the government and endeavour to cooperate so that together we can enjoy the dividends of democracy.