FLOOD WARNING: WHO WILL RESCUE THE RIVERINE PEOPLE?
Still reeling from the effects of last year's natural disaster that rendered many people homeless and made many to become beggars as a result of last year's floods which destroy farm lands, life stocks and human settlements, at the beginning of this year's planting season which most victims of last year's adversity had hoped to use in rebuilding their shattered hopes and dreams, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) came up with another rounds of warning about floods!
It will be recalled that most of the last year's victims are yet to be fully resettled before this year's warning! For example, according to Thisday Newspaper editorial of Monday April 15, 2013, entitled: “The Unending Agony of Flood Victims”. It reads: “With the sordid tales coming from the relief camps established after the unprecedented flood of last year, it is obvious that the agony of families who lost loved ones, their homes and source of livelihood are yet to ebb. While many have been ejected from the camps without being provided alternative shelters or any means of livelihood, several others have become permanent refugees at these camps where they live under sub-human conditions. For these unfortunate ones, their state of helplessness has now been compounded by the various committees constituted by states and the Federal Government to provide them relief material for which they have no access”. “Today, there are sundry tales of insensitivity on the part of the managers of the various relief camps who were said to have turned their assignments in to another enterprise to line their private pockets”. With this type of mindless and unscrupulous treatment in place, what do we think will be the reactions of the affected persons on hearing NIMET warning this year again? Is life fair to all? How do we fight for justice within human affairs when nature it's self is not fair to its human guests?
In a nation-wide broadcast to the nation on the devastating effects of last year's flood, President Good Luck Jonathan announced the release of N17.6 billion to all states affected by the last years flood. Also, the President announced the composition of a 34-member committee with the mandate of rising about N100 billion to be used in providing succour to flood victims. According to Thisday editorial: “…the committee members were expected to make donations and, as promised, they were to brief Nigerians regularly on the cash flow that would ensure judicious expenditure, particularly at the various camps in the states. To date, the committee is yet to render account of how much it has raised and how much it has expended with specific details on its activities”.
However, from the look of things, flood has become a global phenomenon, as more people are been entangled by this natural disaster. Every problem has its own solution! Hence, as parts of the strategy to proffer local solutions to local problems, the Federal Government of Nigeria promised to build dams along the country's two major rivers; River Niger and River Benue so as to whittle down the current of these rivers during rainy seasons. Till today, what has happened? With this reality, how can the people overseeing the affairs of flood victims extricate themselves from the accusation of Mr. Dennis Igbana quoted in Thisday editorial as saying: “Our situation is that of the abandoned child, we are treated as if we do not belong to this state or country; we are being abandoned as if we chose to be affected by flood. Now some people in government are making jest of us, they took advantage of our situation to enrich themselves. While we live in abject poverty, they are constantly praying for yet another flood because of what they stand to gain”. Now that, the number of states that would be affected in this year's flood has increased to about 30 according to predictions, what reasonable defense can those accused by Mr. Igbana put up as reason for not doing things rightly?
Nonetheless, since government agency responsible for predicting our weather and climatic conditions have raised alarm about the impending flood that will accompany this year's rainy season, the next thing expected of other appropriate government agencies is to help evacuate these people from the riverine areas to hinterlands where they and their loved ones would be safe and secure. It is not enough to raise alarm and watch the already battered, haggard and death-seeking people to fend for themselves. Government should go beyond just raising alarm, to taking more concrete and palliative steps that would make the would-be make-shift tents a home –away-from home for these Internally Displaced Persons (IDP). The fact is that, we can be subjected to the hallowing experiences of these people, no matter the transient office we occupy.
Since Nature is becoming more hostile to its mortal guest in this part creation, all which is required among the co-travelers of this earthly pilgrimage is unity of purpose; unity that reflects the common humanity we share as finite beings!
Comrade Edwin Ekene Uhara is an activist and public affairs commentator. He is also the National President of Young Nigerians for Change.
No. 29, Ben Mbamalu Crescent, Achara Layout, Enugu State.