ENVIRONMENT Nasarawa flood-hit communities expect new facilities
Respite is on the way for victims of the four-month old flood which ravaged some communities across Nasarawa State in 2012, as the state government is set to commence providing basic facilities to ease hardship in the communities.
The communities will get model schools, Primary Health Centres (PHCs), and solar powered street lights to go with the basic facilities, according to Dr. Abdullahi Idris, Executive Secretary of Nasarawa State Emergency Management Agency (NASEMA), which has been coordinating effort to provide relief to the displaced victims of the disaster.
Recently, the state government came under widespread condemnation over its handling of the relief package of N400 million given to the state by the Federal Government in October of 2012. How this grant is being managed has raised questions since last October when the sum hit the accounts of the state government. Victims and various concerned persons and groups, as well as communities, have been seeking explanations from government on what has happened to the fund.
The state House of Assembly (NSHA) raised questions over the application of the relief funds, insisting that only about N50 million was expended with the remaining amount not traceable to the accounts of NASEMA.
This is just as Centre for Citizens Rights (CCR), based in the state, recently asked Governor Umaru Tanko Al-Makura to return the money to the coffers of the Federal Government since the state has failed to utilise it for thousands displaced by last year’s floods.
The NGO threatened to file a suit against the state government if its concerns were not addressed.
The Mallam Abdullazeez Bako-led group, however, said it was pleased to hear the government claiming that the funds are still intact.
Speaking to Daily Trust, Bako said: “So the funds are lying there unspent. But the state received this money to utilise it to provide relief to the displaced persons, most of whom lost farmlands, homes, relatives and everything. Something must be wrong that a government put by the people, will receive money on their behalf in their time of need, and prefer to seal up the money in a certain bank account, instead of utilising on the people who voted it into power.”
He said after one full year and two months after the state government accounts were credited with the relief funds, excuses are still being advanced by the government.
The group had earlier written the Executive Secretary of Nasarawa State Emergency Management Agency (NASEMA) on May 15, 2013, seeking information on the management of the funds. The group used the Freedom of Information Act to apply for such information.
The group is demanding five things: a list of all the flood victims, and their locations; the breakdown of the N400 million, if expended, in whole or part; details on how the state utilised the funds; how much was allocated to each victim; and detailed information about any relief, including building materials supplied to the victims.
Tanimu Lemu, head of a family of three wives and 13 children as well as other dependants had returned to Guto around the second week of December, 2012 after the floods that sacked his family and thousands of other persons in Guto, Nasarawa Local Government Area of Nasarawa State.
Like many others, Lemu had to herd his family back to Guto just as the storm waters began to recede, as there was nothing coming from government as relief him.
Like Lemu, Hadiza Adamu, a mother of five is leaving Umaisha where she returned to after the floods that devastated the area, in 2012. Her story is like thousands of others in the state, whose areas sit on the banks of Benue River, which was overrun with storm waters from the neighbouring Cameroon.
But the government said, last year, that it spent about N100 million to provide relief to the victims, with state providing 50% of the money while the other half came from the Federal Government. Recently, the state Commissioner of Information, Hamza Elayo, said of the N400 received from the Federal Government, about N50 million was spent. The commissioner disclosed that the remaining N350 was still intact in government accounts, and will only be utilised after the government received report from the committee it set up to manage the grant.
The displaced persons were, earlier in 2013, handed between N2,000 and N3,000 per family in few communities, sparking wide spread protests from the victims who insisted that the committee should tell them how it arrived at the decision that families needed such paltry sums.
A total of 95,538 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), about 8,000 from Guto alone, were recorded to have been displaced in about 200 communities of nine local government areas across the state. Over 2,000 hectares of cultivated farmland were also washed in the floods which swamped thousands of houses.
The governor had said over N20 billion was lost to the disaster.
This data is the outcome of NASEMA’s work in the affected areas. NASEMA’s data was collected by a team of over a hundred persons from across several sectors and agencies working in the state, after they received training by World Bank.
The officers came from health, education, housing, works, infrastructure and private sectors.
The state government had said it camped the displaced persons in four camps of Guto in Nasarawa LGA, Tunga in Awe LGA, Umaisha in Toto LGA, and Rukubi in Doma LGA, after about four months of devastating floods ravaged the state in 2012.
Much of the communities hit were located about 15 kilometres of the Benue River bank, which swelled and overflowed the banks because of excess water released from the neighbouring Cameroons.
But the displaced persons returned to their flooded areas, just as the storm waters began to recede that year.
Elayo, four months ago, said their period of hardship was over because the state government will soon begin utilising the ‘saved funds’.
This is just as the NASEMA boss told Daily Trust that the relief facilities will benefit Tunga, Umaisha, Ekye and Guto.
He said: “Sad days are over for these communities. No more hardship. The governor has approved the construction of model schools in these areas, as they will get primary health care centres. There will be the provision of street lights to go with the facilities planned for them.
“They will get these facilities soon enough.”