EN­VI­RON­MENT Nasarawa flood-hit com­mu­ni­ties ex­pect new fa­cil­i­ties

Daily Trust - - ENVIRONMENT - Re­lief ma­te­ri­als to be shared to flood vic­tims. From Hir Joseph, Lafia

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.”

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