To fail to prepare is to prepare to fail. The current devastating flood which has thrown the entire nation into anguish is one of the global phenomena that is predictable and would have been mitigated in Nigeria if we had planned well. Because we failed to plan, as I put down these words, families have been forced to relocate their ancestral homes in pains and may never trace the graves of their ancestors again. Schools, markets, shops, farms and farmlands, roads, public institutions and offices have been submerged; lives have been lost and property worth trillions of naira destroyed by flood in differing degrees in different states of the federation. The least remote effect is a looming famine as food items like beans are now exotic menu.
It is true that the flood was predicted by the Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NMA) but it is truer that the warnings were not hearkened to by both government and the eventual victims. The reluctance of the victims was largely the failure of the government to provide them with alternatives. Today, the entire nation has been thrown into mourning. We mourn terrorist victims, we mourn flood victims. Nigeria as a nation has mourned enough and we should move to plot the downfall of our mourning graph.
True to Mr. President’s observation in his 7-minute Nationwide Broadcast on Tuesday October 9, 2012, in critical moments Nigerians are able to come together in pursuit of common purpose. History of emergency managements in Nigeria lends credence to this. Nigerians are crying people. We have dubious reputations of solidarity with disaster victims and turning of the victimhood into windfall. Our politicians understand our psychology and use it well. Politicians use our mourning moment as spring board to make money. They are experts in packaging palliative measures and at the same time hijacking the measures for their selfish gain.
Nigeria is a reputed bureaucratic country; she is just too good in multiplying offices and functions. That is why today we have mini-ministries competing for budgetary allocation with only few having their functions defined. Ministries and agencies have overlapping functions. Any time we have a problem, we create one ministry. We have Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and it will not be long we will see twin Ministries of Almajiri Education and Counter Terrorism. And with the flood entering Nigeria budgetary dictionary, we hope to see ministry of Flood Management soonest. I wouldn’t have been bothered if the arrangement has been working but history shows this to be a political game. We have a lot of insincere people claiming to have public interest at heart.
So far, the government can be praised for its post-flooding responses. In his October 9, 2012, nationwide broadcast, President Jonathan highlighted the efforts so far made to include setting up of Presidential Technical Committee to assess the impact of the flood. The committee which had since submitted its interim report will continue, according to Mr. President, to go round the country to gather firsthand information on the impact of the flood as well as the rehabilitation of the victims. The president noted that, so far, National Emergency Management Agency has spent N1.214bn on reliefs and the Ministry of Works has spent N556m in reconstruction of collapsed bridges and roads while its Environmental counterpart has spent N95m on sundry relief measures.
To this effect, the President announced the release of N17.6bn as direct financial assistance to affected states to help mitigate the effects of the flood and further set up a committee to help raise fund to assist the victims. The National Flood Fund Raising Committee which was co-chaired by Alh. Aliko Dangote and Olisa Agbakoba, had Michael Adenuga Jnr as chief fund mobilizer with members drawn from different sectors, agencies, organisation, media, labour, students and religious bodies.
The earmarked N17.6bn is to be shared among affected states and federal agencies responsible for emergency management. In the arrangement, N13.3bn will be shared to the affected states in 4-catergory formula while N4.6b will be shared by the federal agencies responsible for emergency management. ‘The Category A’ states which are to receive N500m each are: Oyo, Kogi, Benue, Anambra, Plateau, Baylsea, Delta, Adamawa. ‘The Category B’ states which include Jigawa, Kano, Bauchi, Kaduna, Nasarrawa, Niger, Taraba, Edo, Cross River, Lagos, Imo and Niger will receive N400m each. ‘The Category C’ states are Kwara, Ebonyi, Rivers, Kastina, Ogun, Gombe, Abia, Ondo and will receive N300m each. ‘The Category D’ states which will receive N250m each are Enugu, Akwa-Ibom, Sokoto, Yobe, Osun, Borno, Kebbi, Zamfara, Yobe and FCT. Of the N4.3bn earmarked for federal agencies, Ministry of Works is allocated N2.6b, National Emergency Management Agency will get N1.1bn, ministry of Environment; N350m, Technical Committee on Flood Impact Management; N100m and National Commission for Refugees; N150m.
Undoubtedly, these palliative measures have once again demonstrated the general belief that Nigeria government has never been bereft of policies and ideas. Nigeria’s only problem is sabotage of government initiatives. Our agricultural sector suffers rot today because agricultural subsidies finally end up in the pockets of politicians and do not get to the real farmers they are meant for. We call on government to intensify fight against terrorism but for many the Boko harassment is a windfall. People now look to the Senate to commence security probe soonest. That is by the way; my concern here is flood.
Although it is adjudged that the response of Nigeria’s government to the devastating flood is coming close to international requirements in emergency management, doubt persists on how political sincerity will follow the goodwill of Mr. President. In the past, most of the funds released to cushion the effect of disaster had ended up in the pockets of the officers of departments and agencies responsible and in cases where they came close to benefiting, they ended up in the waiting hands of fraudulent beneficiaries. The evidences on ground do not justify the quotation of money claimed to have been spent so far.
Media reports indicate that many governors of the affected states claim to have spent billions of naira to mitigate the effects of the disaster in their different states. Such bogus claims explain the minds of those who will eventually disbursed the earmarked funds. The body language within political corridors suggest that some government executives will eventually use the money allocated to their states and local governments to replace the money they claim to have spent thereby leaving the victims ever vulnerable. Again, the history of concerned agencies’ response to emergency in the country does not give confidence that this one will be different. In most cases, the concerned agencies would go cosmetic in terms of relief supply to victims.
People, therefore, expect government to adopt measures to ensure that the flood money gets to their proper destinations by co-opting trusted NGOS. The TV graphic relays of the anguish of flood victims are pathetic. It will only take hardened minds to divert funds meant to cushion the sufferings of the victims. But unfortunately most of our politicians even those closest to the masses are no less hard-hearted now than when they diverted money meant for the storm and fire victims, disabled persons, pensioners, poor classroom teachers, to mention but a few. Six years ago, my community waged costly guerilla war against a community in the neighboring state and till date the refugees still await the bags of rice and beans, salt and other relief materials donated by both NGOs and FG to help rehabilitate the victims . Those who still believe in Nigerian project can still be patient like my people and expect to see how the flood money will be distributed differently. But for us? We do not need Nostradamus to know that this N17.6bn flood relief money is a windfall.