By Jaye Gaskia
Against the backdrop of the recent forecast issued by the Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NIMET) with predictions and alert on potentially devastating floods in the 2013 raining season; a forecast that actually also identified states that will be most prone to such flooding; it is important, essential, pertinent, and even incumbent on us to ask fundamental questions not only with respect to the state of preparedness or lack of it of our governments prevent or mitigate the predicted disaster; but also to ask those fundamental questions about the management of the disaster last time (the 2012 floods).
It must be said from the outset, however, that the 2012 flood was also predicted, and the same government agency issued public alerts, and wrote individually to all the states and the FGN!
The disdainful manner, with which such relevant information from its own agency was treated, played a significant role in the magnitude of the impact and the scope of the devastation that occasioned the 2012 flood! Governments received the alerts and promptly archived the letters, with the forecasts and the early action/response advice contained there-in.
In the the wake of the gross failure of the governments at all levels to take preventive and mitigating actions, and in the midst of the devastation wrought by the disaster, the FGN and state governments began what must now be referred to in retrospect as the ‘naked dance of the mentally unstable in the market place’!
After pretending as if nothing calamitous was happening, and in the face of growing accounts in the media about the scale and scope of the flood disaster, governments at all levels, and senior government officials suddenly woke up from their lethargic sleep, and began to fall over one another in a public competitive display of pretentious concern, as governors began to compete in canoe paddling to the amazement of the world media and the amusement of affected citizens and communities, who know enough about their greedy rulers to be deceived by the charade of their inept public spectacle!
We have now been told by the National Emergencies Management Agency (NEMA) that 7.5 million Nigerians were severely impacted by the flood disaster; 2 million were internally displaced in makeshift camps under inhuman living conditions (this is not inclusive of those who in their displacement moved in with relations, kith and kin); while 364 persons, including women, children, persons living with disabilities, lost their lives.
At the height of that disaster, the FGN set up a Flood Disaster Relief and fund raising committee, with two business moguls on the Forbe’s richest list as its arrow-head. It also made available the sum of N17 billion Naira available for immediate relief efforts weeks into the disaster!
First, about this paltry and token ‘donation’ of the FGN! How can a responsible government be making ‘donations’ to its citizens in distress as if it was an act of charity that it was not obligated to undertake?
The first thing to insist on is that it is the responsibility of the state to cater for its citizens particularly in distress on a scale to qualify as a disaster. It is an obligation, not an act of charity! Non state actors, and development agencies can donate, and they may be engaged in charity exercise, a responsible state cannot.
Secondly, notice that this amount made available for 7.5 million affected citizens, who have lost properties and means of livelihoods, is just about the amount of money so far spent on the official residence of the Vice president at N16 billion Naira; and is just 17 times more than the annual feeding cost for the presidency alone at N1 Billion annually!
And it is certainly less than the money stolen by one single person in the pension fund scam at N27 billion Naira!
It is very important to make these comparisons in order to be able to definitively place our Treasury Looting Ruling Class and the worth and value that they place on our lives and living conditions compared with theirs!
Now let us ask the critical questions to which immediate responses are required if we must avoid the catastrophe next time.
What has happened to the N17 Billion? Was additional fund raised by the committee? How much was raised in addition and from where? What was the eventual total fund available and disbursed? How was the fund disbursed? On the basis of what criteria? Who were those (the companies & individuals) who got contracts to supply relief materials to displaced persons in camps? What was each commissioned to supply; in what quantities; and of what quality? Which affected/displaced persons actually got something or anything?
Is there a record and proof of allocation and collection of relief materials by affected persons? Where is the accountability framework for the exercise, as well as the accountability report of the exercise? Shouldn’t the exercise undergo a comprehensive audit of not only resources but also processes and procedures of the exercise?
What was the role of NEMA, which statutorily ought to be the coordinating agency for the relief exercise in the entire process? What lessons have been learnt? What needs to be done to establish where it does not exist, and strengthen where it does exist, preparedness, risk reduction, and response capacities of not only the emergencies agencies [at all levels], but of also all relevant agencies that of necessity would have to be involved in a coordinated response?
How many states have emergency agencies established by legislation, with clear cut structures, personnel, and funds allocated to them? In how many states is emergencies management office just a single desk, with two chairs and two personnel, tucked in an obscure corner of a dilapidated room, in a hidden part of a rickety building?
And this leads to even bigger questions. What has happened to/what happens to the various ecological and contingency funds? Does a national disaster response & management contingency plan with autonomous contingency fund exist at the national level? How many states are even aware that such a plan and fund is needed, or think it is a priority?
We know for instance from a Senate investigation in the course of 2012, at the peak of the flood disaster that more than N400 Billion in Ecological Funds over a ten year period (from 2000 to 2010) had been misappropriated, misused, and out rightly looted. According to the Senate investigation monies from the ecological fund were routinely appropriated to settle contractors, to supply furniture, to buy cars etc for highly placed officials of government!
Who should be held responsible for this gross dereliction of duty that has led to the occurrence of a disaster of such devastating impact? Who should account for and be held responsible for the abuse of the ecological fund? Who should be held accountable for the grievous lack of preparation after receiving the alerts on the 2012 flood?
Surely business cannot and should not continue as usual? Surely we must not allow business to continue as usual? How can we permit an over pampered top echelon of functionaries, 18,000 of whom this nation expends N1.3 rrillion annually to cater for their salaries and allowances; how can we permit them to get away with such gross ineptitude, dereliction of duty, incompetence, and irresponsibility; while even allowing them to profit from their callousness by manipulating the relief exercise (a consequence of their irresponsibility) to amass new fortunes and consolidate old fortunes?
How can we expect people who treat us with such disdain and callousness when we are distressed by a disaster of their own making, to have any regard for our wellbeing and welfare in periods of normalcy? Any wonder they continue to act with impunity with regards to management of our collective wealth and the provisioning of our basic social and infrastructural needs?
If anything, the 2012 flood and the response of the governments have only confirmed that as a ruling class, the current ruling political elites are incompetent in normal times, and grossly inept in periods of crisis; and that there driving force and motivation at all times, in times of need or in times of want, remains the congenital urge to pilfer the public teal, loot the collective treasury, and ravage the national psych.
This is treacherous and alienating ruling elite, parasiting on our national wealth, unconcerned by the public well being, uninterested in the comprehensive advancement of the nation and its people, blinded by its imperial ambitions, and totally immersed in its own selfishness; It does not deserve our affection, nor does it deserve our vote much less our mandate.
It is our historic duty to flush them out, before they lay our nation to complete waste and sacrifice us on the altar of the bandit egos!
As we agitate and demand for immediate answers to the issues raised here, we should equally prioritise the necessary and urgent task of organising and mobilising politically to retrieve our destiny from their vagabond hands! And in this task all activists and active citizens are needed.
Take Back Nigeria Now! #DPSR
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