TEARFUND, SERAP say floods relief fund, materials not reaching victims

Nov. 4 (PREMIUM TIMES) — Two civil society groups, UK-based Tearfund and Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) have expressed “concerns that relief funds and materials allocated to cater for the needs of the displaced persons and victims of floods in several parts of the country are not reaching those who need them most due primarily to bureaucratic bottlenecks and corruption.”

The groups in a joint statement Sunday by Tearfund Country Representative, Danladi Musa and SERAP Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, stated that, “Lack of transparency and accountability in the use of floods relief fund and materials have continued to exacerbate the suffering and misery of people and communities who have been let down by their own government. This is double jeopardy for the victims who have lost everything.”

“We urge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to work together to ensure that critical resources and funds to cater for the needs of the flood victims are not diverted, and also investigate and prosecute any allegations of corruption in the disbursement of relief funds and materials. Both agencies should establish a Complaint Hotline where complaints can be reported on a toll-free telephone number,” the groups further stated.

According to the groups, “the government of President Goodluck Jonathan now needs to provide the leadership to ensure that the needs of the victims are swiftly met. Both the federal government and the states affected will have to demonstrate they can spend relief funds transparently and well if they want to really provide the much needed assistance to victims of the massive floods, and help in rebuilding the suffering communities.”

The groups further said that, “both the federal government and the affected states must ensure full transparency in aid flows, allocation, procurement and distribution process, and put in place a tracking system accessible to everyone.  But the actual outputs of funds used must also be monitored. Donors and government institutions and other implementing agencies should strive to be accountable to the intended beneficiaries of reconstruction assistance.”

“The federal and state authorities must involve affected communities, including women and vulnerable and marginalized social groups, in decisions relating to relief and reconstruction at all stages of the process. Both authorities should swiftly establish and fully fund community support programmes to assist in the rebuilding of community infrastructure and the restoration of livelihoods and human rights,” the groups also stated.

The groups also said that, “Donors and government and other implementing agencies should ensure that affected communities are provided with accessible and understandable information about relief and reconstruction efforts as well as about the relief and compensation benefits they are entitled to.”

“Apart from transparency issues, the reported government relief funds of around N300 million that have been allocated so far are ridiculously small given the number of people and communities that have been so far affected,” the groups also stated.

In the past four months, Nigeria has experienced severe flooding which has ravaged many parts of the country leading to loss of lives, farm lands, houses and other properties, and displacement of people.

The floods have been considered to be one of the worst in the history of Nigeria. Early warning messages from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) indicate that flooding would continue till November 2012.

Records from NEMA show that at least 431 people have been killed, hundreds of thousands uprooted and tens of thousands of hectares of farmland have been submerged since the start of July, raising concerns about food security.

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