The media has been inundated with devastating news of flooding in Nigeria. An estimated two million people were displaced in Jigawa and Kano States when the floodgates of two dams-Challama and Tiga Dams were opened, destroying over 5,000 villages, corn, rice and vegetable farmlands, a prelude to food shortage and acute famine. In Anambra State, over 8 councils and 40 communities are affected with Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) presently occupying 21 camps. In Delta State, 12 out of the 25 councils in the state are affected with 15,000 IDP
occupying 12 camps, mostly schools and churches vacated to provide temporary accommodation to these people. The story is not very different in Kogi, Edo, Bayelsa States to mention but a few. Tales of woes are told everywhere, all over the nation, by both young and old. It does appear that it is a natural disaster that came suddenly, overwhelmingly. But is that the true position? Did we really see it coming? Did someone in position of authority saddled with the responsibility to act in good faith in the interest of the masses who are now victims ignore the signs?
As I see communities and villages submerged each day, it reminds me of that bright day, a historic day, not long ago, specifically in December 2008 when the late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua signed the contract for the dredging of the Lower Niger for a whopping sum of N36Billion from Forcados through Warri, Onitsha to terminate in Baro cutting across seven states of the federation: Niger, kogi, Anambra, Imo, Edo, Rivers, Delta and Bayelsa States. It was a massive project with the promise of stimulating economic growth through water transportation. The project commenced in September 2009.
In late February 2010, the Federal Government directed the Ministry of Finance to transfer N19Billion from the allocated sum for the River Niger Dredging to the Ministry of Niger Delta for protection of the shoreline and land reclamation and further directed that the contract should be completed in four weeks. All the Governors of the seven states whose communities were to be affected by the dredging and other stakeholders were present.
It is interestingly curious to know that N19Billion was allocated for shoreline protection and also only four weeks slated for that project that will span across all 7 states with over 520 communities along the Lower Niger. In which of these communities was the shoreline protected and land reclaimed? What did the Ministry of Niger Delta do with the money? Did the Ministry of Environment carry out Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) on the dredging project?
It is now a common sight on a daily basis to see State Executives and members of the Federal Executive Council visiting flood ravaged communities with security-aides-propelled canoes with a caricature paddle to the chagrin of the hapless victims of the flood. Nothing nationwide has been heard about any of the River Basin Development Authorities saddled with the responsibilities of controlling flood in their areas of operations.
As usual, on October 12, 2012, the Federal Government in ‘response’ to the devastating effect of the flood set up a National Committee on Flood Relief and Rehabilitation Agency to tackle the problem, with the sum of N17Billion, this time around with no ridiculous time frame and no defined job description, a kind of window dressing? If we could not account for N19Billion allocated for shoreline protection and land reclamation, how are we going to account for N17Billion for relief and rehabilitation of victims of flood? Who will be the beneficiaries of this fund this time around? Should Government intervention this time just be in terms of food and relief materials that will never get to the victims of the flood? What about the poor people houses, mostly mud houses now submerged? What about the lives we lost?