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UPDATE: Despite promises, flood victims yet to receive rehabilitative support from NEMA after three months

FLOOD victims in Kogi and Niger States, whose houses and farmlands were devastated in the disaster which occurred in September, have said they are still waiting on the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to keep its promises to assist with both relief materials and rehabilitation.

Adams Alli, a middle-aged resident of Adabode, a community in Kogi Local Government, revealed to The ICIR that since the flooding took place, no help at all from government has reached them, adding that he noticed SEMA officials recently visited Edegaki, a neighbouring community, to distribute cash.

“Two weeks ago, they brought a few people out and they gave them N10,000 each. At least 30 people from their community, but it did not get to us,” he said.

“We’ve not received any relief materials, but we have been hearing all sorts of information that so and so trailer of loads is coming to our side. We have been to their office in Lokoja, but they said it is not true, that it will be available the following week… but up till now, nothing.”

Sources in Niger State explained that, though food items were distributed to the affected villages, they are still hoping for construction materials with which to rebuild their damaged and wrecked homes. Bags of rice, beans, maize, as well as groundnut oil and beverages were distributed to the victims two weeks ago by officials of NEMA, who told them to expect more, they said. The materials were taken to the Local Government Secretariat in Lapai, and then to the riverine communities.

“I don’t know what they want us to be expecting, whether it will be zinc, cement and other building materials,” Yinusa Abdullahi, a resident of Muye, said.

Abdullahi added that, though the food is not so much compared to the large population of the communities, some of the supplies were taken by at the outset by the traditional rulers and members of the local government. “That is their own share; they have to take their own share,” he said in justification seconds later.

“But what we are requesting now is the building materials. We need more assistance. Those that their buildings were condemned, they should come and see them to give them their properties… That should be better.”

He recommended that officials of the emergency management agency visit each community to ensure that they rehabilitative assistance based on their needs, as while some villages were not affected at all, the level of destruction varies in others. He also said though he heard cash was shared to some victims in the local government, it did not get to his own community.

Haliru Doba, who lives in the neighbouring community of Doba, however, confirmed that residents were beneficiaries of the cash distribution. Though he did not personally get after putting down his details, most of those who wrote their phone numbers were eventually credited N10,000 each between October and November.

The organisation that supervised the distribution, he said, was Eyowo Payment, a mobile solution that allows users to send, receive money and pay bills using only their phone numbers. The platform partners with the Federal Government’s Trader Moni scheme to get money to the beneficiaries. However, calls placed to their helpline for enquiries about the relief efforts were not answered.

Haliru also said, two weeks earlier, various food items were shared including rice, beans, maize, and groundnut oil. “What remains is just building materials,” he added.

The promises

In September, while paying visits to flooded communities in various states, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was at Koton-Karfe, Kogi State, and he assured those displaced of the government’s concern and assistance.

“I am here to look at what has gone wrong and what has happened,” he said. “Land and properties are underwater and after this period when the water recedes, that is really when the hard work begins because those who have lost farmlands need to be restored somehow and need to be compensated including those who have lost houses and property.”

He also said in the following weeks, the government should have been able to assist the victims in returning to their homes and farmlands.

The Director-General of NEMA, Mustapha Maihaja, in November, while supervising the distribution of food items in Niger State, also assured flood victims of not only relief materials but also aid regarding reconstruction and recovery of properties.

“We assure you that after the water has finally receded, the federal government will respond with damaged needs assessment, whereby we will come up with details of the destruction and plan for reconstruction and recovery of all lost property,” he said, as he addressed the Internally Displaced Persons.

Likewise in December, President Muhammadu Buhari, at a farmers’ day event in Bayelsa State, had promised flood victims, particularly farmers, of succour from the government.

“Two weeks ago, the National Food Security Council met and we approved a compensation package for all flood impacted farmers and fishermen,” he disclosed.

“I want to assure all flood-affected farmers and fishermen that you will be helped. This government is with you in your time of need. As I speak to you now, the modalities for this compensation programme are being finalized and very soon, we shall start implementation.”

NEMA could not be reached for comments

Relevant officials of the National Emergency Management Agency could not be reached for comments by The ICIR. Calls placed to the Public Relations Officer were not answered and text messages sent to his phone number have not been replied.

Tope Ajayi, the newly appointed NEMA team lead in Kogi State, similarly did not pick calls from the centre and has not responded to text messages asking for updates on relief efforts. When Aliyu Shehu Kafindagi, the head of NEMA operations in Minna, Niger State, was contacted, he said he was busy and promised to send a text. He has, however, not done so.

In November, The ICIR published a two-part report exposing how flood victims in remote parts of Niger, Kogi States, and the Federal Capital Territory, were abandoned by the government following the disaster and weeks after the water had receded.

Communities in Lapai Local Government, Niger State, said some of them only received food which lasted not more than two days and had since then not heard from the government. Residents of Ebagi, in the FCT, were merely visited by officials of the local government who came to assess the damage. And displaced persons in Kogi Local Government revealed that they were forsaken, even in the camps provided for flood victims.

Hajiya Fatima Kasim, then coordinator of NEMA’s Emergency Operation Centre for Kogi and Edo states, had told The ICIR the agency could not profile the communities on time due to difficulties encountered with the state government and said relief items would soon get to victims in Koton-Karfe. She also complained about officials of the State Emergency Management Agencies not having their lives insured, in case of misadventures during trips to remote villages.

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