Plateau victims yet to get relief materials, seven months after flood

Flooded Sagbama community in Bayelsa state. Photo: NAN

The state government is yet to distribute flood materials and money to victims.

About seven months after floods rendered thousands of Plateau residents homeless, the victims are yet to get any assistance from the state as they continue to mourn their loss.

At least 35 people were killed in the state and over 10,000 rendered homeless during the floods that affected many local governments, particularly Plateau South, officials said.

Houses and property were destroyed while residents were relocated to relief camps set up by the state government and the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA.

Since the victims left the camps, they have gotten no support from the state government.

Victim narrates ordeal

One of the victims of the flood is Kabiru Osama who said he lost his wife and 6 children at Riskkos in Jos North Local Government Area to the flood. His house was also destroyed in the flood.

Mr. Osama now lives in a rented apartment. He said he paid for one year rent through financial assistance from kind individuals, friends and other relations. He lamented that the current rent would soon expire while he has no money to pay for the next one.

The flood victim said some members of a government committee visited him about five months ago to take inventory of what he lost to the flood.

“A group of people came and took inventory of our losses about 5 months ago but till this moment that I speak with you, nothing has been given to me. I’m sure it’s not only me; if others had gotten any relief, I should have been told,” he said.

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Mr. Kabiru said the effect of the flood was harsh on him because he also lost his life savings as a farmer. He told PREMIUM TIMES that he had attempted erecting a new home but was short of funds and therefore stopped at foundation level.

The N500mn donation

In other to cushion the effects of the flood on victims, President Goodluck Jonathan on behalf of the federal government made financial donations to affected states.

Plateau State, one of the most affected got N500 million from the federal government.

The State Governor, Jonah Jang, confirmed the receipt of the funds in November last year during a visit by Vice President Namadi Sambo to the state.

“This visit is even beside the N500 million already sent to the Plateau Government to cater for the victims,” Mr. Jang said. “I wish to assure you today that the money shall be judiciously expended to meet the purpose for which it was intended.”

Five months after the Plateau Governor made the statement, none of the victims has gotten any financial assistance as the funds are yet to be utilised or shared by the state government.

Grains too

Also in November last year, the Federal Government donated hundreds of thousands of bags of grains to flood victims nationwide. Plateau State got about 30,000 bags of different grains from the government.

In February, the state government said it had commenced the distribution of the grains.

“Already, the state has been divided into three zones for the sake of the exercise and each of the zones has received its share of the consignment for onward distribution to the local government areas,” the Executive Secretary of the Plateau State Emergency Management Agency, Alhassan Barde, told the News Agency of Nigeria.

“We have conveyed the items to the zones to ease the distribution process,’’ he added.

Almost two months after Mr. Barde’s statement, the victims say they are yet to get any grains. PREMIUM TIMES learnt that the grains are still in the various storage depot of the state government.

Victims like Mr. Osama say they would fare better if the state could distribute the grains and also assist them financially.

Officials decline comment

Officials of the state government would not comment on the failure of the state to distribute the funds and the grains.

The Plateau State Information Commissioner, Yiljap Abraham, did not pick or return several calls made to his phone.

The Plateau State House of Assembly, however, came to the defence of the state government over its seeming inaction.

A member of the Plateau State House of Assembly representing Jos North West, Yakubu Choji, said the state government cannot distribute the funds without appropriation from lawmakers.

Mr. Choji, Chairman of Appropriation Committee at the Assembly, said this while speaking exclusively with PREMIUM TIMES over the delay in the distribution of relief material to flood victims in the state.

“We, as legislature, want things done right as it should be. The amount approved for Plateau flood victims by the Federal government must be appropriated by the State Assembly before disbursement. It is not as if government is holding tight to it, denying affected people of their entitlements,” he said.

The lawmaker insisted that the money accrued to the flood victims must be appropriated in the 2013 budget, before it is distributed to beneficiaries.

The Plateau State House of Assembly had on Tuesday passed the 2013 Appropriation bill of N136 billion.

Mr. Choji said the government must be transparent in its dealing with the public to avoid suspicion, urging the affected persons to exercise more patience, pending when the 2013 budget will be signed into law by the executive before the disbursement commences.

While commenting on the refusal of some residents to relocate to the hinterland as directed by government, Mr. Choji appealed to citizens not to ignore government warnings over any issue.

“They should adhere to instructions by experts to avoid a repeat of last year’s flood incident,” he said. “The instructions by government for victims to vacate the flood prone areas should be considered as a welcome idea and move before another round of rain sets in.”

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