It is important that proactive measures must taken by the concerned ministries, agencies and others to avoid another disaster
By Valentine Amanze
At the beginning of 2022, Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) alerted the nation that flood would cause havoc in many states of the federation as a result of climatic change, advising the states and federal government to get ready for the natural disaster, and avoid farming and building in flood-prone areas.
Less than four months after the warning, Benue and Kogi in the North-Central; Taraba and Adamawa in the North East; Bayelsa, Rivers and Delta in the South-South; Anambra, Imo and Abia in South-East have all cried out for help from the Federal Government as they battle to provide succour to the citizens, who were forced out of out of their homes and left without shelter, food and potable water by the flood.
Before the destructive effects of the flood, the states, local governments and the federal government had disbursed not less than N1 trillion ecological fund among themselves – signifying that there was enough money to prevent the flood.
The amount representated 2.2 per cent of the total budget for 2018, 2019 and 2023 for ecological and disaster management.
In 2018, 2.2 per cent of the estimated N9.120 trillion budget, amounting to N198 billion, was set aside for the Ecological Fund. In 2019, the 2.2 per cent of the budget of N132 billion was allocated for the fund, while in 2023, 2.2 per cent of the N21 trillion budget indicated N462 billion allocation for the Ecological Fund.
Presidential spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu, confirmed the release of the fund to the three tiers of government.
In a statement in August, the Presidency had enjoined state governors to rise to the responsibilities of their office by responding to the needs of their citizens in the face of growing floods and other ecologically-related disasters.
The revelation came handy with the growing number of appeals from groups and individuals, including some of the affected state governments, for material and financial help.
Statutorily, the revenue allocation formula provides that 2.32 per cent of derivation funds was set aside for ecology and disaster management and the amount is shared across the three tiers of government.
Again, all the states of the federation have budget for their ministries of environment, which were meant to tackle environmental challenges; yet the monies are not accounted for at the end of every year.
This is the situation Nigeria has found itself today.
Though the House of Representatives had tried in June to probe into the utilization of the ecological funds for the past 10 years, the result, as usual, will not see the light of the day.
How come the NiMet’s early warning on the impending danger was not adhered to by the federal, states and the local government areas if not corruption? Why were the waterways not clreared and residents asked to relocate before the disaster?
Non-dredging of the River Niger and other waterways is another contributing factor to the flood. The federal government has refused to dredge the river for no reason and thereby exposiing the riverine residents to flood and its effects.
As a result, some parts of the river have narrowed down to the extent that people now trek pass it especially in the Niger Delta area.
As the victims of the flood await relief materials and shelter, the federal government through the EFCC must ensure that the states accounted for the ecological funds.
It is unfortunate that President Muhammadu Buhari does not show concern on the welfare of the citizens otherwise he would have visited them to get first-hand information on their plight.
It is appauling that the president is yet to visit the flood-hit areas, which lost about 600 lives and properties worth billions of naira.
While more than 1.5 million Nigerians had been displaced, the effects of the natural disaster on the nation’s comatose economy will linger for a long time as farmers did not harvest their crops before the flood carried them away, coupled with non-resumption of duties by the fishermen.
It is important that proactive measures must taken by the concerned ministries, agencies and others to avoid another disaster.