Nigeria state governor surveys flood damage: ‘The situation is pathetic’ – Sexual assaults in refugee camps ‘a daily occurrence’Posted by Jim at Sunday, October 21, 2012
By Emma Amaize
21 October 2012
Managing the ravaging flood in Delta State has been a complicated affair for both the victims and the state government. In some camps established for the Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, in the state, 18 at the time of this report, facilities have been over-stretched.
Besides, in one or two communities, flood has not only swamped relief materials sent to the displaced persons by government, but sacked victims from their makeshift camps. Indeed, the impact on the state is shattering and, at the time of this report, the surge has not abated.
The governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, who cut short his trip to the United States of America for the General Assembly of the United Nations, late last month, when the news of his state going under water got to him, spoke to reporters in Asaba, the state capital, Monday, on how he has handled the catastrophe so far and the challenges.
Governor Uduaghan, looking visibly perturbed by the devastating toll of flood on the state, stated that when he left Nigeria, last month, with President Goodluck Jonathan to attend the General Assembly of the United Nations in the United States, the ravaging flood had only reared its dreadful head in Lokoja, Kogi State.
He said the Federal Government was busy then trying to create alternative routes to the portion of the Lokoja-Abuja Road that was cut-off by flood, but, about 24 hours later, he got a report from his deputy, Prof Amos Utuama, SAN, that the flood had to his state.
"I can tell you that I was not myself when I heard that flood had spread to my state. I was worried about what my people, especially the victims, would be passing through and, while the summit was underway, with the host President Barack Obama delivering his welcome address, I had to take permission from my own President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, to return to Nigeria with the next available flight", Uduaghan said.
"In fact, we had just finished seeing the President of France when I took off and, the next day, I started the initial assessment of impacted areas in a helicopter. This was to enable me get an overview of the disaster".
He continued: "After the aerial overview, I started the ground assessment by vehicle and boat. The situation is pathetic. My first encounter with the victims was at Oko communities in Oshimili South Local Government Area of the state. The three communities of Oko Amakom, Oko Ogbele and Oko Anala were flooded and the villagers gathered as refugees by the roadside.
"I had to talk to them that we will open camps to offer them temporary accommodation from the rage of nature, but some of them were reluctant to come to the camp, one of which was already opened at Saint Patrick's College, Asaba.
"The displaced persons occupied half of the Benin-Asaba-Onitsha expressway and it was obvious that there would not be movement from either Asaba to Onitsha or vice versa if the situation was not taken care of".
Uduaghan said that later, Utuama and his team briefed him on the situation on ground, and it was palpable that the rampaging flood had taken its toll on the state.
The governor said from Oshimili North to Oshimili South, Ndokwa East, Ndokwa West, Isoko North, Isoko South, Ughelli North, Ughelli South, Patani, Bomadi and Burutu local government areas, the people were affected in various degrees..
He explained that a lot of houses and estates in Asaba, bordering the River Niger were devastated by flood.
From the first camp that was set up Saint Patrick's College, Asaba, the governor said people have moved into 14 different camps across the state, adding, "We create new camps when we see that the existing ones are becoming congested".
Some of the camps are located at ICE, Asaba, Illah, Osisa, Utagbe- Ogbe, AGGS, Ozoro, Saint Michael's College, Oleh, Ogbe-Ijoh, Oharisi College, Ughelli, Swamp Road, Warri, Ewu Grammar School, Ewu, Okwagbe, Otu-Jeremei, Community Hall, Bomadi and the 19th camp being proposed at a Niger-Delta Development Commission, NDDC, facility.
"We used schools mostly as our camps; nobody expected the flood in the magnitude it occurred even though the National Environmental Management Agency, NEMA, sent out warning. At this time, teachers were on strike in the state and the strike became a blessing in disguise, as we had to use the classrooms", Uduaghan stated.
"Our aim is to provide the necessities of life, including blankets, mattresses, food, water, medics and security in these camps".
According to him, it was little items that were stored by the State Emergency Management Agency that the government had to distribute to victims, but it was not enough and between then and now, there has been mobilization from people to meet the needs of the displaced persons.
"Onitsha is virtually empty of mattresses. There is need for mattresses and other things, but we are providing as much as we can", he added.
Uduaghan admitted that there have been challenges in the camps, pointing out, "In the camp, we have challenges of shelter; the schools we renovated came in handy. Initially, I heard the victims were fed twice day, but it is now thrice daily".
"We also have health challenges. It is the major challenge. First, you want to prevent communicable diseases, especially diarrhea and vomiting and that means you have to plan very well to provide water to take care of general sanitation and waste pollution. In fact, it is critical that sanitation is taken care of in such an environment, otherwise, it will lead to other things", he said.
As a medical, Uduaghan said he was aware that diseases such as tuberculosis, which, somebody, perhaps, came with from his community could be transferred to somebody else in the camp if proper sanitation is not in place, saying that emergency clinics were opened in the various camps with doctors and nurses on duty.
The governor disclosed that personnel from the clinics were mobilized from government hospitals within and around the submerged areas, while the Nigeria Medical Association, NMA, offered to send doctors. Some doctors, pharmacists and nurses were also learnt to have offered their services voluntarily.
According to him, the government was hurriedly building a temporary structure in the Kwale Stadium to accommodate flood victims, as the earlier camp was not adequate.
Uduaghan was also mindful that the government could not continue to use the schools as camps for the displaced persons for a very long time, as the students have to use their classrooms. Meantime, students in the affected schools were moved to nearby schools , while the Ministry of Education, Asaba, has been directed to come up with a holistic plan to tackle the situation for them not to lose in their academics.
For the youths and women not be idle in the camps, he said skill acquisition schemes have been put in place at the ICE center to engage them, while the youths have formed six football camps, ranging from Chelsea, Arsenal, etc to keep their minds off wanton activities.
The governor was happy that the mobile hospital, which the state government applied for before the disaster, but had not been put to use, became very useful during this period, saying, "It has facility for 20 beds and it has been set up in the Institute of Continuing Education, ICE, camp, which we are using as a pilot camp. We also provided an ambulance service for the displaced persons in case the need arises".
To ensure orderliness in the camps, where allegations were rife that some persons were diverting food items, Uduaghan said government would appoint camp commandants to ensure that there was order and equitable distribution of relief materials to flood victims.
He said he got a report that some persons were even sneaking into the camps to eat food provided for the displaced persons. He promised to as much as possible provide three square meals a day for the victims, but frowned at the attitude of some Deltans, who infiltrated the camps to feed whenever food was served and appealed to them to desist.
The governor gave assurance that he would not do anything to stop the unwholesome attitude of those infiltrators who were not affected by the flood, but were cutting short the ration of flood victims.
Uduaghan stated that lawlessness would be checked with a regulated system of operation in the camps and activities streamlined to ensure that when it was time for breakfast, everybody would come out for breakfast and when it was time for lunch, everybody would come out for lunch.
The governor promised that he would continue to improve facilities in the camps to ensure that the IDP's enjoyed the necessities of life.
Uduaghan, who harped on the need for the medical units in the various camps to do their job diligently especially with professional expertise, enjoined them not to allow patients to buy drugs from outside the premises.
His words: "The medical team knows what to do if there is shortage of drugs. They should use their professional intelligence to move to the next level because they know how to get drugs. They should not at any time allow patients to go outside the camps to buy drug with their own money".
Uduaghan said the mental state of the displaced persons was very important, as anything could happen, if because of the distress, they resort to untoward and irrational actions.
His words, "I think it was by the roadside when I went to Oko, I just saw a woman with a hunchback, and she was standing, looking hopeless and lost. She was looking very dejected and had no inkling that I was standing beside her when I came very close to her. From what I found out, she had lost her husband, had no children and the flood had just washed away all her property.
"She refused to go to the camp probably because of her hunchback and what people could tell her in the camp. She just did not want to stay in the camp and told me that all I could do to help her was to give her money to rent a house".
Uduaghan, who had a lot of stories to tell about the plight of the victims, said, "I saw a baby, just delivered few days to the flood disaster, there was no pant or shirt on the child because the mother could not save her household property from flood.
"I have seen terrible things in life, but what I saw in the flooding and displacement is very disheartening. I had to stand on top of a pick-up van to address people in one of the camps, I was moved to tears as I saw the body language of Deltans, whose only hope of survival is on what I will do for them as governor of their state.
"They were looking at me as I spoke to them as if their entire life was gone. "What we have been doing since the tragedy occurred is to give them hope, I and top officials of the government have been in the field to ensure that we give them basic help".
The governor pointed out that quite a number of victims refused to leave their villages, saying they were used to flood. Uduaghan narrated the story of a man, who refused to leave when flood hit his community and started to put up a new structure.
He said the flood increased the next day and swamped the blocks he laid newly and he added more, but when the flood swallowed fresh layers of blocks he stubbornly added in the next three days, it was the man that was pleading that he should be evacuated.
"There were people hanging on trees and on top of their houses", Uduaghan said, adding, "Some Deltans have also been donating space to government to use as camps. One of them is a leader of the South-South, Chief Edwin Clark, who donated his property at Swamp Road, Warri and somewhere on Warri-Sapele Road, Warri".
As at Monday, he said Patani community was totally under water, while a 15-room hotel, which a concerned citizen gave to government to accommodate flood victims, was submerged by flood a day after the owner made the offer.
Also, between Asaba and Ughelli Road, flood had cut off a section and, if not for the on-going construction work on Sector B of the road by the state government, the road would have become impassable.
The governor said, "We have made appeals to the Federal Government, philanthropists and public spirited organizations to come to our aid by bringing relief materials, but I don't want to collect money from anybody. They should buy things with their money and bring. We still need things".
He said the Federal Government intervened through a presidential committee, headed by the Minister of Environment, which came to assess the situation in the state, as well as NEMA. The Federal Government had also announced cash grants to affected states and Delta, being in category A, was allocated N500 million, which is yet to be disbursed.
Uduaghan said he was mobilizing to meet National Assembly members from the state in Abuja, some of whom lost their houses to the rampaging flood. He disclosed that he already met some of them and they were already coming with relief materials.
The governor hinted that he would set up a committee, headed by a retired Supreme Court Judge, to advise it on how to expend the N500 million and measures to take to avert danger in future and other post-camp plans. According to him, the money was not enough, but the Federal Government was clear that it was just a start off, as a committee had been set up to raise more funds for the affected states.
Nevertheless, he was quick to add that even when the money has not been released, rumour peddlers were at work that he (Uduaghan) would eat the money.
Uduaghan also disclosed that when the president overflew the state during his tour of flood-ravaged states, last weekend, he saw the many farms, particularly plantain and rice farms, that were submerged. "There was a place, which from the helicopter, we saw that the entire plantation was submerged, we were seeing the leaves of the plantain all turned yellow and the roof of the two houses that were under water".
The governor was unequivocal that hunger was looming in Delta and other flood ravaged states with the extensive damage to farms.
He also said bush meats like grass cutter, antelope, etc., would be scarce, as the flood also killed a lot of them, but Jonathan, who also saw things for himself, has directed the Minister of Agriculture to evolve a strategy on how to deal with the problem.
Uduaghan said he was aware that government was already looking into whether to discourage import duty on rice or reduce the payable duty, and, because such staple food as garri and yam could not be imported, but grown on our soil, experts were looking at the varieties of cassava, plantain and banana that would mature in six months. "We are going to have store reserves to save for the rainy day", the governor stated.
Officially, he said seven deaths were recorded. Among them was an eight-year-old girl, who died at Cable Point, Asaba; another unnamed child; a 73-year-old woman at Illah; a community head in Ndokwa and three others at a camp.
The governor put the total number of displaced persons as at Monday at 42, 271, but was quick to add that the number was that of those that officially registered in the IDPs' camps.
Uduaghan admitted that government was not yet perfect in the handling of the needs of the victims and could not have been perfect, but said it was doing its best to attend to their needs.
Asked when the flood would end, the governor said, "The water is still rising, we do not know when the water will stop increasing, and we are preparing for a very long haul the way things are going".
He, however, said he was ready to spend anything to provide comfort for the flood victims, adding that it had not crossed his mind since the disaster took place to compute the money the government had spent in managing the crisis for what was uppermost in his mind was the comfort of the victims and not the money spent.
Uduaghan also said there might be the need to present a supplementary budget to the House of Assembly in order to have legal imprimatur to source and expend money on the flood victims.
ABUJA, Nigeria, 16 October 2012 (UPI) – Some 19 women forced into refugee camps by flooding in Nigeria have been victims of rape, camp residents say.
The assaults have occurred in four camps in Benue state in the southern part of the country, This Day newspaper reported Tuesday.
Sexual assaults have become a "daily occurrence" at the camps set up by the state government, a source told the newspaper. This Day said a lack of security within the camps and a lack of privacy had created a climate for the assaults.
Many residents said the overcrowded conditions in some of the camps had made women vulnerable and could lead to other criminal acts.
One man hinted that adult men in the camps might have to organize vigilante groups.
A spokesman for the Benue state police said the sexual assaults had not been reported to the police, but that security around the camps would be strengthened.
Floods in this country of 130 million have pushed hundreds of thousands of people out of their homes and have not left the country's leaders unaffected.
The country home of President Goodluck Jonathan in Bayelsa state, on the Atlantic coast, was partially submerged Monday, the Leadership newspaper reported.
Bayelsa Gov. Seriake Dickson ordered the immediate evacuation of the community where the president's home is located.
Dickson said the governor's residence might soon be flooded as well.
"Very soon, I may become a refugee like many other displaced persons in the state," he told reporters.
About 85 percent of the state has been flooded.