How Nigerian Officials Stole Billions Meant For Flood Disaster Victims

Flood victims

By Hassan Adebayo

Corruption and climate change vulnerability produced a near-fatal cocktail in several communities of Delta State after hundreds of hunger-torn flood victims, denied of basic relief materials, resorted to eating corn seedlings, which unbeknown to them were already treated with pesticides.

Women, children and the elderly were the worst hit in a mass food poisoning that was initially mistaken by local health officials for an outbreak of epidemic.

Overnight, hundreds of people in communities like Ossissa, Isele-Egwu, Olor and Onu-Aboh were left looking gaunt with bloated tummies and sunken eyes, forcing families who could afford it to rush their sick members to hospitals while others resorted to prayer houses.

This mass poisoning recorded in 2012 in Ndokwa-East Local Government Area of the oil-rich state exposed the underbelly of the flood disaster management and victims’ rehabilitation committees set up by the state in the wake of a ravaging flood that washed away homes, farmlands, roads, bridges, markets and businesses across 22 states of the federation.

With corrupt government officials routinely diverting cash, food and relief materials meant for disaster victims, the survivors were left with little recourse but to feast on the only thing that was supplied in abundance – the pesticide treated corn seeds doled out to victims, in addition to cassava stems, to encourage them to begin a new planting year.

The 2012 flood disaster in Nigeria remains one of the harshest spinoffs of climate change in sub-Saharan Africa. Delta was one of the 22 states ravaged by flood after neighbouring Cameroon was forced to release water from its Ladgo Dam, leading to an unprecedented overflow of many rivers, especially Niger and Benue. Hundreds of kilometers of urban and rural land in those states were inundated by flood.

According to the Post-Disaster Needs Assessment Report of the National Emergency Agency (NEMA) 363 lives were lost, thousands of livestock drowned, over two million people displaced and N2.29 trillion worth of properties and economic means washed off.

Delta received N500 million intervention funds from the Federal Government to assist flood victims in the state. This is in addition to internal funds already set aside by the oil-rich state for the same purpose. In one of his numerous speeches during the crisis period, the then governor of the state, Emmanuel Uduaghan, announced the allocation of 49 trucks of food items to internally-displaced people in the state but it didn’t appear that those eating pesticide-treated corn seedlings saw any of the food trucks. A cash relief of N5,000 to adults and N3,000 to youths was equally announced but the monies instead went into private pockets.

Mr. Alexander Nwanji, a farmer and cassava-mill entrepreneur trained by ActionAid in Good Governance and Citizens Participation told PREMIUM TIMES that nobody in his Ossissa community received any cash or food items. Official records had it that 11,810 internally displaced persons took refuge at the Oleh camp alone in Isoko Local Government Area of the state.

It is difficult to say how many, if any, received the cash payment. But with three kids fed with only one packet of noodle, the disaffection and neglect in the camp was such that the IDPs began to “discharge themselves” from the camp.

Flood victins

 

In the face of starvation, many abandoned the camp in search of friends and families to take them in.

The next time the governor came calling, the same thieving officials who had diverted foods and pocketed cash meant for the displaced persons told him that they had successfully helped most of the flood victims to return home. The number of people left in the camp was only 3,640.

If the governor smelt a rat he did not say it. However, in the course of yet another speech before television camera, he found it necessary to throw in this:

“I beg you in the name of God do not short-change or divert these materials to other persons or channel them for personal use. Let them get what they are supposed to get because that is why we have trust in you,” the governor said.

Alluding again to widespread official corruption, this time in the data collation of flood victims, Mr. Uduaghan would at another location plead against the falsification of data and using same for personal gains.

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The governor was directing his words at members of the Flood Fund Management Committee, political appointees and state lawmakers who had invented clever ways to make fortunes out of the pervading misery.

Alexander Nwanji, a victim, told PREMIUM TIMES that although he lost his farm and cassava mill, his name didn’t appear on the official list of farmers to receive post disaster assistance. He also did not get the N5,000 meant for adult IDPs. He accused politicians and government officials of populating the list with ghost beneficiaries, adding that the 11,810 IDPs at the Oleh camp alone were robbed of about N59 million.

Other people who told this newspaper they got nothing from the flood relief funds included Larry Onyia of Ashaka village and Benjamin Ogbogu of Igbukwu village who said the only thing he got was a mattress and that that came from an oil company operating in his community.

Officials in Delta State were evasive when this newspaper sought their comments on the administration of the N500 million relief fund the state received from the federal government.

The State Ministry of Environment would not provide information in respect of the utilisation of the funds. Rather, its spokesperson, Anita Ohagwa, directed enquiries to the Bureau of Special Duties under the Governor’s Office, where the spokesperson, a woman who would not give her name, said, “we had nothing to do with flood relief funds. Go to the Emergency Management Agency.”

However, the Director of the Emergency Management Agency said he was new on the job and could not comment on the utilisation of the funds.

As it is Delta, so it is in other states

Investigation of corruption in the administration of the 2012 Flood Relief Fund took this newspaper to five of the affected states – Kogi, Anambra, Delta, Benue and Oyo. The Federal Government had provided N17.6 billion as relief funds from which the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory got N13.3 billion while Federal bodies received N4.3 billion for victims support.

In addition the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development had announced that a total of 40, 000 metric tons of food items were to be taken from silos and distributed to flood victims.

Authorities in Abuja had, even before a flood impact assessment was done, released N9.7 billion for food and agricultural seedling and N2.5billion to the Ministry of Health for disease control.

The flood relief fund was further swollen with contributions from the organized private sector mobilized by the Presidential Flood Relief and Rehabilitation Committee.

Led by billionaire businessman, Aliko Dangote, the 34-member committee garnered N12 billion in fund raising. Mr. Dangote donated N2.5 billion; N200 million of which he gave to the Kogi State government. Among others, Globacom boss, Mike Adenuga, gave N500 million; Zenith Bank’s Jim Ovia and businessman Arthur Eze donated N1 billion each while the then governor of Anambra state, Peter Obi, gave N1.8 billion on behalf of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum. Construction giants Julius Berger, RCC, Dantata, Setraco were also reported to have donated generously.

Flood victims, initially euphoric with the announcements of big monies donated towards their cause. would soon be plagued with rising misgivings. It was gathered that rather than translate the funds into palliatives and post-crisis rehabilitation, the fund managers in the various states instead went into a contest of who can be more disingenuous in fund diversion. They crafted promises and lies in equal measure and dished same out to the public through press releases.

In Benue, a regime of lies

In Benue State, for instance, flood victims at Gyado village, along the Makurdi-Gboko road, recalled that the Commissioner of Environment at the time of the disaster, Eugene Aliegbe, on a local radio station to say that the Benue State Government used the relief funds to build clinics in the affected local government areas as well as drainages along the Markurdi-Gboko road at a cost of N300 million.

Our investigations, however, revealed that no clinic was built. Residents said the only drainage constructed along the Gboko-Makurdi in the wake of the 2012 disaster was from the Ecology Fund.

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Former IDPs spoken to in Benue State included Tsav Reuben, a business man; David Awuhe, Friday Yua, Christopher Idoko, all farmers; Terkimbi Osu, also a farmer; and Matina Ukagye, a septuagenarian. From Makurdi to Agatu Local Government Area it was the same story of self-help with the ordinary people saying they were “abandoned and left to suffer with no compensation either in cash or in kind.”

At Mu, a community in the outskirts of Makurdi, the septuagenarian, Matina Ukagye, said, “it has been difficult to eat and we are in hardship. My family lost rice, maize, cassava farms and about five persons to the flood disaster.”

Tsav Reuben said he would never forget how water submerged his entire neighborhood with houses deep in water up to the lintel.

“We lost an entire economic foundation to the flood. Our farms are gone and with the monies meant for our economic rehabilitation stolen by the government, it is not only the present that is endangered but also the future of our children,” Mr. Reuben said.

Efforts to speak to the new Commissioner for Environment were rebuffed by the ministry’s spokesperson, Simon Aliegbe, who insisted there was no information to be given in respect of the utilisation of flood relief funds.

No accountability in Kogi

In Kogi State, the threat of the River Niger, which submerged most of the entire Ibaji local government area in 2012, was still evident in October 2015 when this newspaper visited.

On the road to Ibaji, from Idah, the River Niger had already consumed villages both to the left and right. And there was just such a little land to walk before getting to a point where it was only possible to go farther by boat.

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Since 2012, displaced people have been taking refuge on the Idah-Ibaji road, with absolutely no attention from government. Almost living like destitute in shanties, the IDPs said they were hoping the water would recede sufficiently enough someday so they can go back to what used to be their homes.

Victims who lost their farms like Acholo Abel and John Eguda said they got nothing in assistance from the government even though they were asked to fill forms for compensation.

“I have four children and one wife and we were rich with our large rice farm,” Mr. Abel said, standing on the road where he and his family were taking refuge. “But flood took away everything. They brought forms for us to fill. But they gave us nothing. Now life is difficult for my family though we have been able to return to subsistence farming by ourselves without any help from government.”

“Na for this road we dey sleep because water don displace us. But wetin we see for 2012 pass this one,” Mr. Eguda said in Pidgin English.

Michael Ojone, leader of about 10,000 victims, who fled from Kogi to Ogwugwu in neighbouring Anambra State, said, “we were compensated but very little.”

He went cynical as he narrated how the National Emergency Management Agency provided mattresses, second-hand clothing, palm oil and five bags of rice “for 10 thousand people.”

Mr. Ojone confirmed that Kogi State government gave cash compensation to each village. However, while there were victims who got nothing at all eventually, those who did got “just about N1,500” as compensation.

“But then this a country we found ourselves, where those who were not victims got from the money,” said Mike Abu, media aide to the Deputy Governor, Yomi Awoniyi, whose office handled the flood issues.

The Deputy Governor’s office explained how Kogi State utilized the N500 million flood relief fund given to it. Mr. Abu said N300 million was spent to build a post-flood housing estate in Lokoja. N131 million, he said, went to the affected local government areas and the victims got N500,000 each to start a new life when they were leaving camp.

The deputy governor, however, said only victims in Lokoja, a relatively less affected community, got N500,000, while victims in the worst -hit places like Ibaji either got no compensation or got a paltry N1,500. Try as we did, however, this reporter could not find any victim in Lokoja who confirmed receipt of N500,000 as claimed by officials.

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Talem, a taxi driver, who was a flood victim, furiously countered the official claim as he thundered: “Na who dem give N500,000? It’s a lie!”

Blessing Edogbe, also in Lokoja, said: “We were victims; the River Niger displaced my family and we lost all our valuables in the house. Even the flood killed someone in that house. But we were not given N500,000. I am not sure any victim was accommodated in the post flood estate they said they built. We had to move to Okene and abandoned our means of livelihood. It was difficult at that time.”

In Akabu, Kogi-Kotonkarfe local government area, Abdurahman Ibrahim said the state government promised to relocate upland about 30 communities affected by the flood to avert future occurrence.

“Not only that they reneged on the promise to relocate us, we did not get anything as compensation,” Mr. Ibrahim said.

“Yes, we had plans to relocate people in the communities prone to flood but resources were limited,” Mr. Abu said, adding that the Kogi State Government had appealed to the Federal Government for assistance to build infrastructures that would avert future flood event.

“It is not what we can do alone but there has not been response from the Federal Government,” he said.

In Anambra State, 58 communities in eight local government areas were affected by the flood.

The government’s interim report states that a total of N537 million was spent on the resettlement and rehabilitation of 125,000 victims of the flood disaster.

In communities like Aguleri Otu and Nzam in Anambra East and Anambra West LGAs respectively, victims said they received “little” compensation from government. Anambra State claimed it contributed N128 million to the resettlement fund; N400 million came from the N500 million it received from the Federal Government, and another N9million coming from public donors.

In some areas like Atani in Ogbaru local government area, victims like Josephine Osadebe said there was no relief or compensation from government.

“We were abandoned by the government even though we heard big money came from Abuja,” Mrs. Osadebe said.

Checks in Oyo State produced similar tales of woes, although the state also received N500 million from the Federal Government. Residents at Apete, Oju oja, Papa Alago, waterside said they were abandoned even though the flood washed off businesses like car wash, fish ponds, restaurants and barbers’ shops from their communities.

They said relief materials like food items and mattresses came only once and were provided by a federal lawmaker.

The University of Ibadan was seriously affected by the disaster. But the University’s Director of Communications, Tunji Oladejo, said no assistance was received from the Oyo Government.

“We raised appeal funds; so, there was no assistance from Oyo State Government,” he said.

Efforts by our reporter to get information in respect of the utilisation of the relief funds from the offices of the Deputy Governor and Head of Service were unsuccessful.

Short changed by corporate bodies

Just as government officials in their respective states robbed the flood victims, some corporate organisations may have deliberately taken advantage of their misfortune.

It was gathered that many of the corporate bodies failed to redeem their pledges included in the N12 billion raised by the Dangote committee. The then President Jonathan had wooed corporate donors with tax incentives if they would donate to the flood relief fund.

However the Dangote committee would later disclose that, in what was a new form of corruption, some of the companies merely made big pledges, took the tax incentives but refused to redeem their pledges.

Meanwhile, in June 2013 and April 2014, the Dangote committee announced intention to build housing estate and other disaster relief infrastructures in 22 states.

But no such infrastructure provided by the committee exists in any of the five states of Anambra, Oyo, Kogi, Benue and Delta at the time our reporter visited.

The investigation was done with the support of Ford Foundation and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting.

 

One thought on “How Nigerian Officials Stole Billions Meant For Flood Disaster Victims

  1. Dr. Tony Nwaka

    - Edit

    RE: How Nigerian officials stole billions meant for flood disaster victims.
    I feel obliged to respond to the post on the above subject which appeared on the web portal, PREMIUM TIMES, on March 28 2016. Although the publication seemed like an overview of the 2012 flood experience in the affected Nigerian states, the primacy given to Delta State in the report and the sweeping condemnation of her management of the crisis left much to be desired.
    Whilst I appreciate and commend any effort to bring governance closer to the people through credible information dissemination, the half-truths and outright falsehood in your report gave the impression that the intention was to malign the character and disparage the hard work of the various persons who laboured tirelessly day and night to rescue and cater for their fellow citizens in those very extra-ordinary circumstances of the 2012 Nigerian flood experience.
    Given that the general drift of your submission was laced with offensive inaccuracies, I have attempted to highlight such elements of the presentation as were evidently central to your argument.
    “Several communities of Delta State where hundreds of hunger-torn flood victims, denied of basic relief materials, resorted to eating corn seedlings, which unbeknown to them were already treated with pesticides…Overnight, hundreds of people in communities like Ossissa, Issele-Egwu, Olor and Onu-Aboh were left looking gaunt with bloated tummies and sunken eyes, forcing families who could afford it to rush their sick members to hospitals while others resorted to prayer houses…The mass poisoning recorded in 2012 in Ndokwa East Local Government Area of the oil rich state exposed the underbelly of the flood disaster management and victims’ rehabilitation committees set up by the state…with corrupt government officials routinely diverting cash, food and relief materials meant for disaster victims, the survivors were left with little recourse but to feast on the only thing in abundance-the pesticide treated corn seeds doled out to victims, in addition to cassava stems, to encourage them to begin a new planting year.”
    For purposes of preliminary clarification, let me state that the 2012 flood which ravaged more than twenty states of the federation and submerged thousands of communities was unprecedented in the climatic history of the country. The sheer magnitude of the disaster took everyone by surprise. It swept across Delta State from September to December 2012, with 40% of the state under water for much of the period. Fourteen Local Government areas of the state were affected by the flood; Udu, Ughelli North, Ughelli South, Oshimili North, Oshimili South, Ndokwa East, Ndokwa West, Aniocha South, Bomadi, Burutu, Isoko North, Isoko South, Patani, and Warri South West.
    From day one of the impact, the government of Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan deployed boats, lorries and buses for the rescue and evacuation of thousands of persons that had been displaced from their houses, many of them trapped in the seas. It is easy now, five years after the event, to ridicule the rescue mission of the gallant men and women including officers of the Red Cross who risked their lives to accomplish that task. Rehabilitation centres which never existed in any part of the state before then were immediately constructed across the state to accommodate the influx of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). In many cases, this included the construction of boreholes, temporary shelters, bathrooms, toilets and medical units. All happening at the same time that boats, lorries, buses and cars were being mobilized in the continuing rescue mission. The two communities mentioned in your report (Ossissa and Issele-Egwu) were major points in the rescue effort. Many of the IDPs rescued from the waters were taken to Issele-Egwu before they were transported by buses and lorries to the IDP camps in Ossissa and Kwale. To now say that it was at these two locations that the services of government were lacking, clearly betrays the motive of the writer. It would have been understandable if the shortcomings were said to have taken place in remote communities that could not be immediately accessed by relief workers.
    To give you an insight into the experiences of the time, there was an unforgettable experience when everyone woke up the next day to see that the IDP camp that had been laboriously constructed at Ashaka in Ndokwa East LGA had been circled by the fast moving flood. Another emergency effort commenced to quickly abandon the place and relocate the displaced persons that had been quartered there, thereby laying to waste all the efforts that had gone into construction of the site. You can imagine the chaos that followed the rush to secure enough vehicles (Lorries, buses, cars, motorbikes etc) to move the hundreds of women, children, boys, girls (some with health challenges) and aged persons with all the matrasses, cooking materials, domestic belongings amongst which were the goats and chickens of some of the IDPs. It may sound like fairy tale now but that was the reality of the time.
    At the peak of the crisis in October and November, there were twenty two IDP camps maintained by Delta State Government across the state. Each one with a health center manned by doctors and nurses from the state Ministry of Health. The IDPs were fed three times a day in all the camps. These camps were no fictitious creations. They included St Patrick’s College Asaba, Oneh Primary School, Asaba, Institute of Continuing Education ICE, Asaba. Illah camp, Kwale Stadium/Technical College Kwale, Ossissa Secondary School, Ossissa, Oniye Primary School, Oleh, Oleh Primary School Oleh, Civic Center (for orphans) Oleh, St Michael’s College Oleh, Ewu Grammar School Ewu, Federal Polytechnic site, Oginibo, Otor-Udu Primary School, Otor-Udu, AGGS, Ozoro, Notre Dame College, Ozoro, Ogbe-Ijoh Primary School, Ogbe-Ijoh, Ogbe-Ijoh Microcredit Bank premises, Mein Grammar School, Kiagbodo, Bomadi camp 1 and Bomadi Camp 2. These locations are still there today, though some of the temporary support structures for the IDPs may have been pulled down. But anyone can always confirm the existence of those camps from people living in these communities. It should be noted too that these locations were chosen because they were largely not affected by the flood and the likelihood of the flood getting to them was very remote.
    Some of the camps had as much as ten thousand persons, like the Oleh camps combined. The Kwale, Ughelli and Ozoro camps had about five thousand persons each while the other camps had between five hundred to one thousand persons. To feed these multitude three times a day and maintain some semblance of order within the premises was no tea party. This would become clearer when it is noted that these were people from different communities and of different characters and backgrounds.
    Some of the communities which found themselves in one camp had existed as bitter neighbours over the years. To manage their historic frosty relations in the camps posed a challenge of its own. But thanks to the patience, political skills, administrative competence and selfless service of the men and women deployed by the then Governor Uduaghan to manage those camps. Every camp had a management team of about seven distinguished persons, some of them from the host communities. These did not include men of the red cross, civil defence and the police that patrolled the area.
    To get feedback from the camps, the Governor, Deputy Governor and other top government functionaries visited the camps daily to monitor the activities and collate any issues from the camps. Throughout the duration of the flood, at least two officials from each camp were in Government House, Asaba, every night where the Governor met with officials of my Ministry and other top government functionaries to review activities at the camp.
    To now suggest after almost five years that the IDPs were living in starvation, and their children were walking around in bloated tummies and sunken eyes is a great disservice to the efforts of people who sacrificed their time and resources to ensure the rescue, survival and welfare of these our brothers and sisters. If there was anything that was abundant in the camps it was food. Beyond the regular provisions made by the Uduaghan administration for the daily upkeep of the camps, public spirited Nigerians truly demonstrated that in times of adversity they really could be their brothers’ keepers.
    People from all walks of life, including the host community of those IDP camps, donated generously to the maintenance of the camps. They brought clothing, food items, cows, firewood etc to the IDPs. The only thing Governor Uduaghan barred all the government officials from accepting, of which he repeatedly made public announcement, was cash donation, whether in cheque or physical money. He rather advised that such contributions should be converted by the donors into food items or clothing and sent to the IDPs. Thank God that he took that decision. One can only now imagine the accusation that would have followed if money was given at that period.
    If truly there was starvation in the camps, how come we never heard about it all through that period? There were about twenty two camps with about thirty five thousand IDPs in fourteen local governments of the state. Journalists from all over Nigeria, including observers from outside the country freely visited the camps. Yet there was no single report of protests or riots in any of the camps until now that starvation is being alleged, five years later.
    Rather, what everyone saw was the commendation that came the way of Delta State for the exemplary way it managed the crisis. In fact, in the heat of the crisis, a formal letter was written by the Deputy Governor of Kogi State thanking Delta State and expressing the gratitude of the government and people of Kogi State for accommodating the displaced Kogi indigenes who fled their communities to the Delta State IDP camps. Officials of the United Nations and the Dangote led committee who visited the state all adjudged Delta State to have put up the best response to the 2012 flood disaster. Could all this have happened if the picture painted by PREMIUM TIMES was the reality? It even came to our knowledge at a time that persons not affected by the flood were sneaking into the camps to eat with the IDPs. When we tried to stop them Governor Uduaghan, in his magnanimity directed that we should not send them away. He said that if they had enough to eat in their houses they would not subject themselves to the humiliation of begging to eat with displaced persons. How then could anyone say today that there was no food in the camps?
    “Delta State received N500 million intervention fund from the Federal Government to assist flood victims in the state, this was in addition to internal funds already set aside by the oil rich state for the same purpose.”
    It is true that the Federal Government disbursed the sum of N500 million each to some states affected by the 2012 flood. Some other states got less than N500 million, depending on the severity of the impact as categorized by the Federal Government. Delta State received the sum of N500 million being about the worst hit by the disaster. In the wisdom of the then governor H.E. Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, he directed that no government official should be involved in the management of the fund. Governor Uduaghan set up a Rehabilitation and Resettlement Committee to independently, without any interference from government, determine the priorities of the exercise and expend the N500 million accordingly.
    The chairman of the committee was a retired judge of the Supreme Court of Nigeria. The highly respected Justice Francis Tabai, whose community in any case was also affected by the flood. To ensure utmost transparency and broad participation, Governor Uduaghan drew the membership of the committee from eminent Deltans from the various ethnic groups of the state and civil society groups. It had representatives of the Nigerian Bar Association, the Nigerian Society of Engineers, the Nigerian Labour Congress, the Nigerian Medical Association, the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Christian Association of Nigeria etc. No single government official was a member of the committee. Only the secretary of the committee was picked from the civil service to take records and ensure documentation.
    I must confess that some of us had frowned at the idea of excluding our agencies from the management of the N500 million, considering the pivotal role our offices had played in the entire rescue and resettlement efforts. How fortuitous that decision by Uduaghan to exclude all government officials has come to be today.
    In any case, I am aware that the N500 million was duly released to the Hon, Justice Tabai committee. I am aware too about the cash disbursements and agricultural materials they provided for affected persons and communities. I know too that they prepared a formal report detailing their activities. The Hon Justice of the Supreme Court and members of his committee are still alive. I believe they can be reached for an account of their stewardship. To suggest that such a team of eminent Nigerians would procure and distribute pesticide laden seedlings to their distressed brothers and sisters is simply to malign the character and dignity of these distinguished Nigerians.
    Although the Tabai committee was not answerable to me and I do not wish to hold brief for them, my honest opinion about the N500 million from the Federal Government is that it was like a drop in the ocean, considering the magnitude of the calamity that struck the state. It may interest you to know that in the course of the crisis, Governor Uduaghan also set up a technical committee on flood impact assessment. The committee was headed by the then Vice Chancellor of Delta State University, Professor Eric Arubayi.
    The committee was made up of seventeen eminent professors whose specialty ranged from Geology, Ecology, Bioengineering, Hydrology, Sociology, Economics to every conceivable field related to the disaster. The expert report, a copy of which is currently before the United Nations, had put the estimated total cost of the tangible impact of the flood on Delta State at N9.6 billion. It is against this background the inadequacy of the Federal Government’s N500 million appears in bold relief. It truly was like a drop in the ocean.
    Let me also add that outside the N500 million intervention fund of the Federal Government, the totality of internal funds that were made available by Delta State Government to the State Emergency Management Agency for the 2012 flood was just about N400 million, which was released in instalments as the need arose. As earlier stated, Delta State Government from day one of the crisis embarked on massive rescue efforts, hiring boats, buses lorries etc for the period it lasted. Construction of temporary shelters, daily feeding and welfare of the IDPs across the state, purchase of matrasses, blankets, generators, plates, pots, cups, spoons, establishment of skill acquisition centers and purchase of starter packs for the participating IDPs (hairdressing, baking and sewing machines etc) and provision of transport allowance of N5000 per adult and N3000 per youth for the over 35,000 IDPs. All these made up the expenditure of the state government. I honestly do not know if the social media is the appropriate place to outline the accounts of government, but details of the foregoing expenditure can be obtained from the State Emergency Management Agency.
    “Emmanuel Uduaghan, announced the allocation of 49 trucks of food items to internally displaced people in the state but it didn’t appear that those eating pesticide-treated corn seedlings saw any of the food trucks.”
    Whilst, once again, I take strong exception to the bogus claim that IDPs were eating pesticide-treated corn seedlings, I wish to state that apart from the twenty two camps accommodating the over thirty five thousand internally displaced persons across the state, the state government was also sending food items and clothing to various communities whose indigenes refused to move to state-run IDP camps. This experience had its own peculiar challenges. Apart from stretching the lean resources of government there was the problem of determining who and who were truly victims of the flood disaster in those places.
    On sighting the trucks of the state government carrying relief materials, virtually every person in the community would cluster around the vehicle claiming to be victim of the mishap. Unlike the official camps of the state government where we could account for every one of the IDPs, reaching and monitoring those far flung communities was like a nightmare. That was the reason that until the last days of the crisis we kept appealing for every affected person to take advantage of the vehicles and boats provided by government and move over to the available IDP camps. When you add those locations that were outside the official supervision of the State Emergency Agency to the twenty two camps scattered across the state, you would begin to realize how thinly spread out would have been the 49 trucks of food items you talked about.
    “A cash relief of N5000 to adults and N3000 to youths was equally announced but the monies instead went to private pockets…It is difficult to say how many, if any, received the cash payment. But with three kids fed with only one packet of noodle, the disaffection and neglect in the camp was such that the IDPs began to ‘discharge themselves’ from the camp.”
    Nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, Governor Uduaghan directed that every of the documented thirty five thousand persons in the twenty two officially recognized IDP camps in the state should be given transport fare back to his community. I believe that the government of Dr, Uduaghan was the only government that did so among all the affected states. N5000 was approved for adults and N3000 for children. I need to clarify that the amount was for only those staying in the IDP camps. Any person who claims today, after almost five years, that he did not receive the money was either not in camp or must have left prior to the official closure of that camp and probably never returned.
    It must be stated that few of the IDPs who felt that the waters in their communities had dried up actually left camp on their own volition even before government conceived the idea of transport allowance. But even at that, they virtually all later returned on hearing about the transport allowance and were still attended to, after it was proven that they were duly registered as IDPs in that particular camp. Moreover, the over 35,000 IDPs did not only go with their transport allowances but were also allowed to leave with the matrasses, blankets etc bought for them by government. They also shared amongst themselves the remaining foodstuffs in the stores of the camps. It is sad that many persons who never got near the camp are now making all manner of wild allegations.
    But come to think of it. Is it possible that 35,000 IDPs in the 22 camps across the state would peacefully depart the camps knowing that the allowances with which they were to transport themselves back to their various communities had not been paid? Or for some to be paid and others were not. Particularly after the N5000 and N3000 transport allowances had been publicly announced and jubilantly welcomed by the IDPs. Yet no single protest or riots in any of the 22 camps. Is it not curious that such alleged non-payment of stipends is coming almost five years after the camps across the state had all closed and the IDPs all peacefully returned to their homes? Could it be that somebody is trying to do a hatchet job here?
    “Mr Alexander Nwanji…told PREMIUM TIMES that nobody in his Ossissa community received any cash or food items.”
    This is a typical example of the deliberate falsehood I am talking about. Ossissa community was where we had established one of the IDP camps. The village was largely not affected by the flood. That was the reason an IDP camp was located there. The Ossissa camp was about the smallest in the state, with just about five hundred persons who were brought there from other affected communities. It was easy to manage the camp unlike those with 5000-10,000 IDPs like Oleh, Ughelli and Kwale. Who then in Ossissa community was this so-called Mr Alexander Nwanji talking about? Interesting, isn’t it?
    “Meanwhile, in June 2013 and April 2014, the Dangote committee announced intention to build housing estate and other relief infrastructure in 22 states. But no such infrastructure provided by the committee exists in any of the five states of Oyo, Kogi, Benue and Delta at the time our reporter visited.”
    Yes I am aware that the Dangote committee had proposed to build housing estates and other relief infrastructure in the affected states, as permanent sites for temporary relocation of disaster victims. Indeed before we left office in May 29, 2015, some of their officials had visited the location we had made available for the projects in Ogwashi-Uku in Aniocha South LGA. The idea was to situate such projects in upland areas of the state where the over-flooding of the Niger River would have no effect. Until we left office, nothing was done on the site. But information reaching me indicates that the project was later relocated to Alisimie, in Ika South LGA and substantial work may have been done there. PREMIUM TIMES may do well to confirm that information, please.
    “Alexander Nwanji, a victim, told Premium Times that although he lost both his farm and cassava mill, his name didn’t appear on official list of farmers to receive post disaster assistance. He also did not get the N5000 meant for adult IDPs. He accused politicians and government officials of populating the list with ghost beneficiaries, adding that the 11,810 IDPs at the Oleh camp alone were robbed of about N59 million.”
    Haba! Alexander Nwanji again? I thought he said he was from Ossissa community? What was he doing in Oleh camp, a distance of about 50 kilometers from his Ossissa village, with the Kwale and Ozoro camps in-between. Was he also an IDP at one of the Oleh camps? How did he know what was happening in Oleh camp from his Ossissa location? You see what I mean. When you are so desperately bent on doing a hatchet job you will always forget to tie up the loose ends. I will leave this to the judgement of the readers.
    “Alluding again to widespread official corruption, this time in the data collation of flood victims, Mr Uduaghan would at another location plead against falsification of data and using same for personal gains.”
    Indeed I would be making a mockery of rationality if I paint a totally rosy picture of the 2012 flood experience. Were there challenges in data compilation during the period, particularly in determining the exact number of persons affected in the different communities? Yes there were. The issue of accurate data had been a perennial Nigerian problem. But while I admit to the paucity of data regarding the exact number of truly affected persons in some of the communities the issue of data within the camps did not pose significant problems. Did governments at all levels satisfactorily address the issue of post-flood restoration of the livelihood of victims after they had returned to their communities? I do not think so. The resources of government, particularly at the state and local levels, were clearly overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the disaster. Were there cases of misconduct by officials of government assigned to the camps? As far as I can recall, there was such a case at the Illah camp in Oshimili North LGA. But it was an isolated experience. Yet in spite of the efforts of the said officer to explain the situation, the Governor immediately directed that he should be removed from the camp and never to be seen anywhere near any of the camps again.
    Yes, there were challenges and shortcomings. But to make a sweeping condemnation of all the efforts that were put in to ensure the success of the exercise is unfair, especially considering the unprecedented circumstances of the time. Indeed no human endeavour is ever perfect. I believe that the 2012 flood experience left us with experiences that would be invaluable in managing subsequent disasters. But the popular culture of using stories that do not stand the test of logical scrutiny to demonize every preceding administration is definitely not the way to advance our collective heritage.

    Dr. Tony F.E. Nwaka.
    Former Commissioner for Special Duties and Head of Delta State Emergency Management Agency.
    29th March, 2016.

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