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Monday, August 26, 2013

FACTS: Deadly Flood, Money Everywhere,Yet No Remedy?

Money, money everywhere, yet flood pains remain
The Federal Government, individuals and organisations donated billions of naira to victims of floods, which wreaked havoc in 22 states last year. But, one year after and despite the N17.6 billion Federal Government grants, among others, the pains are still fresh, writes Seun Akioye
Twenty-two states were ravaged. It was flood like never seen before. It also came with cash like never donated before for any relief effort around here. President Goodluck Jonathan gave a grant of N17.6 billion “in direct financial assistance to the affected states and federal agencies”.
The affected states were divided into four categories, according to the severity of the damage done. Category A states, such as Oyo, Kogi, Benue, Plateau, Adamawa, Delta, Bayelsa and Anambra, got a grant of N500 million each. Category B states, such as Jigawa, Kano, Bauchi, Kaduna, Niger, Nasarawa, Taraba, Cross River, Edo, Lagos and Imo, got N400 million. Category C states, such as Kwara, Kastina, Gombe, Ogun, Ondo, Ebonyi, Abia and Rivers, got N300 million. Category D states, such as Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, Yobe, Enugu, Ekiti, Osun, Akwa Ibom, Borno and the Federal Capital Territory, got N250 million each.
But, one year after the grants, most of the states, especially those in categories A and B, seem not to have made judicious use of the funds to rehabilitate the flood victims and fix public infrastructure destroyed by the flood.
There have been cases of misappropriation. Last month, Taraba State’s Acting Governor Garba Umar sacked the Secretary to the State Government, Emmanuel Njiwah, five commissioners and two special advisers for allegedly mismanaging the N400 million flood-mitigating grant.
A report by an ad-hoc committee set up by the House of Assembly to probe the utilisation of the funds indicted them.
“They were indicted by the House of Assembly for failing to properly account for the N400 million Federal Government intervention fund for the 2012 flood disaster in Taraba,” a statement by the Press Secretary to the Governor, Kefas Sule, said.
The commissioners affected are Anthony Jellason (Agriculture), Rabo Usman (Water Resources), Yakubu Agbaizo (Education), Jonah Agyo (Works) and Christy Green (Women Affairs).
Others are Joshua Augustine, Special Adviser, Revenue, and Manasseh Kaura, Special Adviser Border Development.
According to the statement, the Commissioner for Health, Mustapha Hamman-Gabdo, had earlier tendered his resignation, which was accepted by the governor.
“The affected functionaries are to individually refund the various sums of money misappropriated by them or face prosecution,” the statement added.
In Bayelsa State, which received N500 million from the Federal Government and another N500 million from business mogul and Chairman of telecommunications giant Globacomm, Otunba Mike Adenuga the rehabilitation of the damaged public infrastructure has not been done.
The government also took N1.5 billion from the state’s Compulsory Savings Account (CSA), to cushion the effects of the flood on the victims. It was also gathered that Dickson also recently got another N1 billion from the CSA, bringing the total of the funds to N3.5 billion.
Bayelsa has three committees committed to the flood rehabilitation programme. The Inter-Ministerial Committee headed by the Deputy Governor Rear Admiral John Jonah (retd); the Post-Flood Infrastructural Committee headed by Mr. Charles Doukou and the Post-Flood Management Committee led by Chief Francis Doukpola.
When The Nation visited Bayelsa, it was discovered that the Akragba Bridge in Otu-Asiga, which was washed away during the flood, has not been fixed. Four indigenes of Otu-Asiga constructed a plank bridge and collect a toll on it.
“We spent over N300, 000 to construct this bridge; we took the materials on credit and have been paying back the debt from the toll we have collected. We have only N30, 000 to pay now before we can start to make profit,” Wisdom Dick, one of the workers said.
Another worker, India Otuma, berated the government for neglecting the victims of the flood and called for immediate action on the bridge.
In Omiringi community in Ogbia Local Government Area, the bridge that connected the community to the rest of the state has also caved in. The children of Omiringi community have, however, devised a new way of filling their leisure time and making it profitable. From dawn till sunset, they converge on the Omiringi Bridge, which until September last year, connected their community with the rest of the state. They are manually breaking it down into stones to be sold to house builders.
Children as young as seven years are active participants in this new business; a small bag of such stones sold for N300 and, according to one of the children, they sell at least four bags in a day, making a tidy N1, 200 profit.
Chairman, Omiringi Com
munity Development Com
mittee Onwuga Onwuga said the community has been suffering since the bridge collapsed and noted that erosion is now threatening the community. He acknowledged that the community received 400 bags of cement from the committee, which was shared to 20 victims with the most critical needs.
“We lost everything to the flood, our farms and most importantly our bridge, we are expecting something tangible from the government,” he said.
In Otu-Aba, a community close to the residence of President Goodluck Jonathan in Otuoke, mud houses pulverised by the flood are yet to be rebuilt. A resident of the area, Rejoice Agu lamented: “We have not received any form of assistance from the government, even the bags of cement distributed by the committee did not go round.”
A member of the civil society, Morris Alagoa, said the people have been shortchanged by the government.
“We didn’t see anything tangible from the government; that is why we are worried. They sent 400 bags of cement to some communities; the people are asking what about the zinc, the nails and the plank? Some communities also got three bags of garri. The Omiringi road has collapsed, the bridge collapsed. This is an opportunity for the people to feel the presence of a responsible government.”
The Nation also learnt that some communities such as Ondewari clan in Olodiama, Southern Ijaw Local Government decided to build a public toilet with their own share of the cement received from the government.
The Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), Nnimmo Bassey, said: “A year after the 2012 flood, relief materials and sprinkling of cash is just reaching some of the affected communities and persons. It is unimaginable that an entire community would be given 400 bags of cement. The cement blocks that could produce would not be enough to build the foundation of a low cost house in the floodplains.”
The representatives of the United Nations in June visited the state and promised to provide technical assistance in rebuilding damaged infrastructures.
United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, who was on a two-day working visit, inspected some of the affected areas.
She said: “I am here in Bayelsa to see for myself the impact of the devastating flood of last year. I have had the opportunity to talk to the ordinary people and the Post Flood Management and Response Committee on the efforts made in the provision of food, shelter and other relief materials.
“There are lessons to be learnt and we would like to work with the state government and federal authorities to support and partner in strengthening preparedness and look at ways in which we can assist with technical support.”
Duokpola said the state was eagerly waiting for the UN to redeem its promise, adding that the committee was designing a technical report on the disaster to enable it source funds from other interventionist agencies and individuals.
He said the committee had been ameliorating the plight of the victims by supplying then with relief materials. He, however, regretted that some persons, especially community leaders, were bent on sabotaging the efforts of the committee.
He said at least five leaders of communities were in trouble for selling bags of cement donated to victims by the committee, adding that the defaulting communities were from Ogbia, Ekeremor and Southern Ijaw local government areas.
He faulted the arguments of the Community Development Committee (CDC) chairmen of the affected communities that they sold the cement to cater for other pressing needs were not tenable.
“It is unfortunate that some communities sold their bags of cement. We will identify the CDC chairmen and prosecute them. We are not taking the matter lying low. The suspects will face prosecution after investigations,” Doukpala said.
He said the committee had so far distributed 107,000 bags of cement to the communities, which were ravaged by the floods. He said the committee intended to send 130,000 bags of cement to 13,000 communities.
He said: “We are making arrangement to either build shore protection or higher grounds to prevent the looming floods. It is safer and better to prevent the floods than going into a higher ground. But it is left for the communities to choose between local shore protection or higher grounds”.
Patani Local Government
Area was another flashpoint
of the flood in Delta State. Over 61,000 households were affected, according to the flood records. Chief Bomabere Sunday, a community chief, lamented government’s lack of commitment towards reconstruction after the flood.
“No compensation was given, no road was repaired and all the damaged infrastructure are still there. In Aven community, one organisation gave each family N36, 000 for rehabilitation. Where is the government?” he asked.
An indigene, Mr. Asiuwhu Princewill, said the community received some agricultural produce from the flood committee but there is need to fix the damaged infrastructure, especially the Patani General Hospital.
When The Nation visited the hospital, a large section of the building has been destroyed; equipment worth several millions of naira, which were destroyed, have been abandoned.
But, Ogenejabor Ikimi, a lawyer and National Coordinator of Forum for Justice and Human Rights Defense(FJHRD) and a member of the Delta State Flood Management Committee, told The Nation in Warri that contrary to insinuations that the Federal Government grant has been embezzled, the committee has received only N237 million of the N500 million grant. Ikimi said the committee is not aware of any other fund aside the grant from the Federal Government.
He said: “We drew up a budget of N237 million in December last year and the money was released in April this year. We have a detailed account of how that money was spent. We distributed farm inputs, including 50,000 bags of high yielding cassava stems, groundnut seeds and vegetables this costs N60million, we made 1,800 desks for the affected schools which cost N30 million, we budgeted N18 million for the churches affected and N19million was used to procure drugs which were distributed to the dispensaries in the affected communities. We also budgeted N19 million for boreholes in the 14 local government areas affected.”
Ikimi acknowledged that though the committee received the fund late, it has done the best possible with what was given to it.
“We are working on a strict budget and from what we have; we can’t start to fix roads or hospitals. The technical committee said we will need N10 billion to fix the problems of the flood; so, what can N500 million do?”
The reports from other states are less than sterling. In Imo State, controversy continues to trail the disbursement of the N400 million Federal Government intervention fund. Coastline communities in Ohaji/Egbema and Oguta Council Areas accused the Imo State Flood Relief Management Committee of diverting the intervention fund for personal purposes after disbursing a paltry N67 million.
An embittered Ozor Chimuanya, a community leader in Oguta, said: “The government is yet to come up with a comprehensive action plan that will address the immediate challenges or proactive measures to forestall a possible re-occurrence”.
The affected communities are now at war over how to share the largesse. Chimuanya alleged that the cheques were written in the names of aides to senior government officials. Former Chairman of Oguta Local Government Area, Emma Mazi, said: “The money as we were told was meant for the flood victims to alleviate their sufferings but the Imo state government diverted it for other uses, which has not reflected on the plight of the suffering victims.”
He berated the plans of the government to build town halls for the community even in places where town halls already existed.
However, the Chairman of the Committee and Commissioner for Health, Dr. Obi Njoku, dismissed the allegations as unfounded and frivolous.
His words: “Every kobo of the intervention fund is accounted for. Apart from the N67 million earlier disbursed to the affected communities, which we are monitoring, the state government is currently building farm settlements in the 16 communities at the cost of N25 million each. This will serve as rehabilitation centers”.
Njoku said the government had expended “several millions” of naira in resettling and providing relief materials for the victims, adding that the government had augmented the intervention fund with N129 million.
He said: “That is why we are able to build the farm settlements, which will be delivered soon. I think the cause of these controversies is our blunt refusal to handover the fund to certain individuals in these communities who had thought it was another windfall.”
The conditions at one of the
temporary camps in Oguta
revealed derelict and poor sanitary conditions of the camp, which may have forced residents to abandon it. A simply calculation also revealed that the cost of the 16 rehabilitation centres being proposed by the government is N400 million, which is exactly the amount received from the Federal Government. It remains to be seen why the state chose to expend the exact amount of the intervention fund on rehabilitation centres.
Lagos, Ogun, Oyo and Ondo states were not spared by the flood. The extent of destruction indicates that the efforts of governments to minimise flooding have not yielded the desired results. It shows that regular clearing of blocked drainage channels is not enough to solve the problem. The flooding of June 27 and 28, last year resulted in massive floods which rendered thousands homeless in these states. It mostly affected people living on flood plains.
In Lagos, areas, such as Arowojobe and Akinwunmi estates in Maryland, parts of Ikeja GRA, Dolphin Estate, Ikoyi, Victoria Island, Victoria Garden City (VGC), Ibeju-Lekki, Murtala Muhammed International Airport Road, Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, Yaba, Surulere, Gbagada, Oworonshoki, Mafoluku-Oshodi, Iyana-Ejigbo, Isheri-Osun, Berger-Alagbole Road, Ajegunle, Ikorodu Road, Ogijo and Odogunyan were affected.
A resident of Akinwunmi Estate in Mende said blocked carnal should be blamed for the problem in the bulk of Lagos.
He said: “We are begging the government to come and clear the canal; it is because people build houses in the canal; that is why we are suffering like this. Raining season is a time for sadness and loss. The government should please come and demolish all those houses that are built in the canal so that we won’t experience this kind of disaster anymore.”
Parts of Ogun State, which share boundaries with Lagos, that were submerged are Akute, Alagbole, Olambe, and Ojodu-Abiodun, among others.
Lagos State Commissioner for the Environment Mr. Tunji Bello believes relocating communities located in the lowlands to the uplands would solve the problem. He listed the areas to include Eti-Osa, Badia, Amukoko, Makoko, Iwaya, Ajegunle, Owode and Agiliti, among others.
“As a proactive and responsive administration, committed to the overall wellbeing of the residents, this alert becomes necessary to sensitise all the residents, especially those that reside in the flood-prone areas to be on the alert in order to prevent the loss of lives and property,” he said.
The commissioner said residents must clean the drainage channels in their neighbourhoods, warning against making the flooding worse through the dumping of waste into canals, and erecting of structures along drainage channels.
He said the state has posted Drainage Engineers and Drainage Maintenance officers to the 57 local government areas to solve their drainage challenges, urging residents to use them in case of emergency.
Too little, too late
A recurring decimal that
has played out in most of the
affected states is delay in the distribution of relief materials or rebuilding of damaged infrastructure. In Kwara State, where 50,000 people were displaced, most of the victims complained that they were yet to receive any form of assistance from the government. In Patigi, Edu, Kaiama, Baruten and Ilorin, victims claimed that contrary to what the state’s post-flood committee chairman Alhaji Muhammed Dabarako said to the effect that N300 million has been used to purchase relief materials for the victims, no relief material has been received. However, a community leader in Asa community of Taiwo Isale Local Government Area Mallam Hammed Hakeem said: “It is saddening to raise alarm at this point that this community has never benefited in the palliative measures provided by the Federal Government to cushion the effects of the damages done to our homes in 2012 and years before.”
Dabarako said: “During the 2012 flooding, we were able to calculate over 50,000 victims and federal government gave N300, 000 million. That amount was meant for immediate relief of the people. The relief includes food items, clothing materials and other things that can make people easily go back to farming. The state government purchased those materials with the N300, 000 the Federal Government gave us.”
The situation is not much different in Ebonyi State, where the flood affected six local governments and killed three persons. The state got N300 millin and provided and additional N100 million. But the victims were seemingly left on their own until April 2013 when the money was distributed to some of them who got a paltry N15, 000.
The case of Enugu is instructive. The N250 million grant seems to have disappeared leaving no trace behind as the victims expressed anger over government’s refusal to help them.
According to one of them in Nsukka, “We have been waiting since last year but nothing has happened. The only people that visited us are local government chairmen in the state who donated to us 10 bags of rice. Anybody that tells you that SEMA or NEMA gave us relief materials is being economical with the truth.”
At Okutu community, where 230 people were affected, an angry victim, added: “For the sake of clarity, the items donated to us were 10 bags of rice; a bag of beans, two jerry cans of vegetable oil, six cartons of toilet soaps, one carton of tin tomatoes, a Ghana Must Go bag of onions and 4 bags of salt.”
The SEMA coordinator in Enugu State, Mr. Joe Offor, declined comment on the issue, saying: “I am not in a position to comment. This is a government matter. So, I have to consult with the government first.”
In some states, it is a case of the victims helping themselves while they wait for their respective governments to act. In Cross River, which got N400 million, The Nation observed that most of the affected farmers are yet to get back on their feet. Many of them are making the slow and painful journey to recovery without the support of their government.
The Afi community near Ikom, which had its river polluted by mudslides occasioned by the floods, lamented they had been left to their fate since then. A clan head, who does not want to be named, said Afi River served as the only source of drinking water for more than forty villages on its banks.
He begged for sinking of boreholes and water purifying chemicals as an interim measure to meet the needs of the affected villages. The Agwagwune and Eja communities who lived by the flood plains were promised to be relocated but nothing has since been done.
But the secretary of the state’s flood management committee, Vincent Aqua, said relief materials have been distributed to all the affected local governments. He would not disclose how much has been spent so far from the intervention fund.
Benue’s statistics of disaster was staggering. Of the 113,245 displaced persons, at least 50,000 remained in the camp for five months. The government claimed it expended N700 million feeding the victims. The victims also got N2, 000 transportation claims. But while many of the displaced still languish in squalor, the government said it is building drainage from Kyabiz Hotel to Benue State University Teaching Hospital (BSUTH), where water would be channeled into River Benue.
The Commissioner for Environment and Urban Development, Dr. Eugene Aliegba, told The Nation that his ministry is handling the drainage under direct labour and more than N300 million has been set aside for the project.
In Edo, the state government has just commenced the disbursement of the funds to the affected families. Hajia Meimunat Momodu, who is the Chairperson of the State Flood Relief Committee, said the least beneficiary would be paid N20,000; the highest would get N250,000. She blamed the delay in the commencement of the exercise on the need to do a thorough job of capturing the genuine victims of the flood.
Setting the example
Kogi is one of the few states
to publicly publish what do
nations it received and what has been done with it. According to Abu Michael, Chief Press Secretary to the Deputy Governor and chairman of the flood relief committee, Yomi Awoniyi, the state received the following donations: N500 million, N150 million, N50 million , N10 million and N10 million from the Federal Government, Aliko Dangote, Jide Omokore, Alhaji Isa Kutepa and Kano State government, making a total of N753, 092,704.00, including donations from some individuals and organisations.
Michael said the state has been sensitive to the plight of the affected people and had disbursed N139 million to the victims of the flood through the local governments which were mandated to constitute a flood relief committee. The state enumerated its projects as: Rehabilitation of schools; N81, 376,646.55, rehabilitation of the Ideh-Onyedega road and Shintaku-Odubgo-Mozum Road for N423 million. Construction of 250 Post- Flood Housing units of 1-bedroom and 2-bedroom apartments for N504 million, 6,500 hectares rice plantation established by the river plains for N200 million.
The Nation visited Kabawa Primary School, whose renovation cost N29, 735,709, all the classroom blocks was being repainted and others completely refurbished. Also, one block of classroom was newly built. In all, 11 blocks of classrooms and administration blocks were being refurbished, making a total of 27 classes ready for students. But the situation was different in LGEA Primary School, Adankolo, which was said to be renovated for N10, 863,921 and Gadumo Primary School for N7, 666,357. It was observed that no work has been done at all in the two schools.
A visit to the post-flood housing estate behind old Polytechnic quarters also shows that while work is already underway, only 80 units of two-bed and 20 units of onw-bed apartments have been constructed. One of the contractors told The Nation that the two-bed apartments were delivered at N4.8 million for two units of two-bedroom apartments while four units of one-bedroom cost N6 million.
Michael said the state insisted on using quality materials and to deliver the units by September 2013. However, no rehabilitations have taken place in Adankolo layout, which was one of the affected communities in Lokoja. Commissioner for Environment and Natural Resources Abdulrahaman Wuya said the government would still relocate those living by the flood plains to avert further dangers to lives. He said the state has been honest about the utilisation of the funds; he lamented lack of resources to implement the plans of the government as fast as the state would have wanted to do.
When The Nation visited Shintaku-Odubgo-Mozum Road in Bassa Local Government, work had already been halted as only two bridges have been built. Many Shintaku residents lamented the abandonment of the project. Michael said the contractors have been mobilised to site and the Deputy Governor has been visiting the site to ensure implementation.
The state has also spent money on a rice project. The N200 million rice project in Sarkin Nomi, according to Musa Ahmed, the supervisor of the project, has been a huge success.
“This is the first time I have achieved this result in Sarkin Nomi; we had more than 600 tons and we are yet to finish the entire harvest,” he said.
Niger has recorded achievements, mainly in the movement of the displaced people to new homes in seven re-settlement centres in the state. The state received N400 million from the Federal Government and generated an additional N150 million internally. According to the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) boss, Mohammed Shaba, funds were also disbursed to the affected local councils, according to the severity of the problem. He said: “The severity of the flood determined the categorisation and allocation of funds to the affected areas. Councils in Group A were given N22 million each, those in Group B received N17 million while N12 million each went to the last group. This give us a total of N335 million of the Federal Government intervention fund.
“We also spent N50 million on the construction of five clinics and N5 million was committed to the procurement of drugs for the clinics while the balance of N10 million was expended on logistics.”
Kano State government has also constructed mass housing for the victims using the N400 million intervention fund it received from the Federal Government and internally generated revenue. In Warawa, 70 houses have been built and allocated to people while 30 houses are under construction. Also in Makoda and Kunchi Local Governments areas, the same exercises are on-going. Of the 102 houses to be constructed in Kunchi town, 61 houses are at various stages of completion, while in Makoda, 48 of the 86 houses are at appreciable level.
Governor Rabiu Kwankwanso told The Nation that about 50 per cent of the job has been completed.
He said: “We have succeeded in moving some of them to a high land because their areas were low-lands. We have moved them to the new houses that the state government built and we are about to enter the second and third phase, while constructions on those projects have gone very far.”
The Presidential Committee on Flood Relief and Rehabilitation (PCFRR) co-chaired by Aliko Dangote and Olisa Agbakoba has not fully started implementing its programmes. Recently, the committee said it would soon begin the construction of two-bedroom and three-bedroom apartments in the affected states.
At a fund-raising dinner last November, it got pledges of N11.35 billion. The Federal Government and Dangote pledged N2.5 billion each. Heir Holdings Tony Elumelu, ex-Zenith Bank’s Jim Ovia and business magnate Arthur Eze pledged N1 billion each. Firms, such as Dantata and Sawoe, Julius Berger, oil majors and telecommunications giants also made pledges. They were promised tax holiday by President Goodluck Jonathan.
As at June, many of the pledges were yet to be redeemed, even though the firms have started enjoying the tax holiday that came with the pledges. The committee threatened to publish the name of defaulters.
However, as the nation awaits another season of flood, according to meteorologists, trouble may just have begun for those who are yet to recover from the devastation of last year’s floods.
Source: The Nation