N750m: Flood Victims Attack LASEMA Boss
The N750 million donated by President Goodluck Jonathan for the victims of the 2010 flood which ravaged some communities in Lagos State has resulted in an attack on the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, Dr. Oke Osanyintolu. The victims of the flood which wrecked havoc on Ajegunle and Agiliti communities located close to Ikorodu in September last year could not understand how the amount which the State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, had promised to share among the victims disappeared in the hands of the LASEMA GM.
As a result of the devastating effect of the flood, the State Governor had moved the victims from the affected communities to the LASEMA Relief Camp in Agbowa, another community in the State.
Before their relocation, President Jonathan had visited the scene and made a donation of N750 million. However, trouble started when the victims got to Agbowa. The victims, as Huhuonline.com realised, later realised that were subjected to various treatments which they would not want to remember. According to them, their sordid experience started with the type of food they were subjected to at the camp. As they alleged, the government often made provision for meat by giving the camp made of 1, 100 victims a live cow each week. But throughout the ten months they spent in the camp, they never tasted meat.
One of the victims who spoke with journalists and gave his name as Joshua Ojebor explained that whenever a cow was killed, the victims only saw it. "The meat would disappear before our very eyes. Once it is killed, Osanyintolu and other officials of the agency would come with their vehicles and share the meat. They would then instruct the cook, who is an in-law to Osanyintolu, to feed us with the type of fish called kote or shawa.
"The cook also treated us like we are hopeless creatures because we now depended on the State government," he said.
He said they decided to m aintain calm after the LASEMA boss informed them that the food being provided was funded from the State government's purse and that the President's donation would be made available to them to begin life again when they are ready to leave the camp.
Armed with this piece of information, their spirit was raised and they co-operated with the officials since then. They also went through vocational training to equip them for life after the camp and looked forward to getting the money promised them.
Continuing, Ojebor said Osanyintolu, in the last four months, did not visit the camp. The only day he came was when he brought the information that the victims have been ordered by the Governor to quit the camp. He did not tell them the reason for the action.
As a result, many of the victims who became homeless as a result of the long stay at the camp rushed into Agbowa to get accommodation with a promise that when they are paid their entitlements, they would offset the rent. They said days within the week, they heard in the news that the state government had made a provision of N250, 000 for each couple and another N150 for each of the single individual at the camp.
The scales soon fell from their eyes when according to them, the actual plan of the LASEMA boss manifested on July 29, which was two days to the expiration of the quit notice given them.
According to them, Osanyintolu came into the camp that day, asked them to come out and form a single file into the main hall at the camp and they obeyed thinking they would be given the amount due them. He ensured the journalists who accompanied him took photographs and video shots for news and while speaking with them, he said the government had made available tangible amount of money that would keep each of them comfortable after that day. He made them praise the government before the camera men.
He thereafter made them file out again and addressed them informing them that henceforth the government would not be responsible for their welfare.
Then he allegedly brought out a list and started calling names of those to benefit from the gesture and handed them envelopes. The victims said they were shocked to realise that those who were called were not part of them. They claim they have never been in the camp with them before and wondered where the LASEMA boss found the list.
The few people who benefited among the victims said some of them got N25, 000 while others said they got N9, 500m yet others said they got only N1, 500. Those who collected the envelope were asked to sign against a blank space which was supposed to have the amount they received.
At the end, to 80 per cent of them did not find their names in the list and so were not given anything. He was said to have asked them to leave the camp after then and they vehemently refused. Osanyintolu, who spoke with journalists about the issue, said they held him hostage within the camp and shattered his vehicles. This forced him to invite men of the Rapid Response Squad and the State Task Force. While the former sprayed tear gas at the victims, the Task Force officials arrested others. At the end, the victims claimed over 80 of them were arrested.
Many of the victims including nursing mothers slept in a cemetery within the area that night, as many were beaten and sustained injury as a result.
Defending himself, Osayintolu said the victims were asked to quit after they had been trained on various vocations to allow the victims of the recent flood in the State to make use of the place. He also said that against their claim, each family got N50, 000 and added that the amount was just a gesture and not an entitlement as they claimed.
He said those who did not find their names in the list were not resident in the camp and only rushed there because they heard he was to give out money. He however did not say what the donation from President Jonathan was used for.
But his explanation did not go down well with the victims who informed Huhuonline.com that even their Vice Chairman did not find his name on the list despite being in the camp right from the first day. He had to be given an envelope containing N25, 000 by Osanyitolu.
Those arrested have been charged to court while the fate of the other victims is hanging on the state lawmakers who have promised to investigate the allegations and reach them at the appropriate time.