by crossriverwatch admin
Crossriverwatch investigation has unveiled how government officials have been distributing relief materials meant for victims of disasters that swept through the state last year amongst themselves.
Over 79,000 persons have been displaced by persistent battering of Cross River State by climate change disasters for most parts of 2012.
This figure was given by Mr. Vincent Aqua, the Director General of the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) in September 2012 in Calabar, at a workshop organized by the Cross River State Ministry of Information and the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) on Flooding and Climate Change Adaptation in Cross River State.
On the occasion, Mr. Aqua said disasters such as windstorm, flooding, mudslide, hailstones and ice flakes displaced people in the state with the bulk of those affected most being children.
He said, “It is on record that most of those known to have drowned in flood water or killed by wind storm are children. In one of the communities recently flooded, when we got there some three days after, one of the bodies of a young girl that drowned was still not buried because there was no dry land for a grave to be dug to lower her remains. The havoc climate change is causing in the state is alarming.”
Those words truly captured the situation of the 79,000 refugees most of whom the DG confirmed were children. But with all the emotions laden in that statement, when our citizen reporters were dispatched round the state, it was discovered that in most of the local governments, the disaster relief materials are being distributed amongst political office holders and senior civil servants while the victims have abandoned the camps and returned home to pick the pieces of their lives.
Our findings in some of the local governments like Boki, Obanlikwu, Obudu, Calabar South, revealed that the Executive Chairmen who are also chairmen of the disaster relief committees at the local government level, have turned the relief materials like mattresses, bed sheets, food stuffs, mosquito nets and other house hold items to goodies for party faithfuls, councilors and senior civil servants.
A councilor in one of the local governments in the northern senatorial district where councilors openly quarreled over the sharing formula told crossriverwatch that: “our chairman is also chairing the relief committee. He said the people said all the disaster victims have left the camps back to their normal lives and there is no body to give the things again and that is why they are distributing them for us and it is not only us, even some senior civil servants too are getting some mattress and bed sheets. It is not a secret now! Everyone in the council is aware.”
Our reporter spotted some of the materials in a councilor’s home in Obudu LGA where the councilor innocently confirmed that they were his own share from the relief materials.
Checks in other LGAs also reveal that this is the trend in the state and the SEMA office in Calabar is also said to be involved.
One of crossriverwatch under cover reporter was also offered a white 20 liter gallon of palm oil from the relief materials when he visited an acquaintance in SEMA office in Calabar, and the acquaintance hinted of how that has been going on.
Crossriverwatch also gathered that the state government has taken delivery of twenty nine out of the fifty truck loads of the Federal Government’s Emergency Grain which were distributed from the Grain Stylos to states affected by flood disasters across the country.
The grains which comprised of millet and sorghum were sent to the State’s Flood Disaster Committee headed by the Acting Governor of the state Mr. Efiok Cobham in November 2012.
Checks at the Federal Grain Reserve Stylos located at Okuku in Yala Local Government Area of the state shows that Cross River has taken delivery of twenty nine truck loads, Akwa-Ibom State twenty four truck loads, Bayelsa fifty, Ebonyi State thirty five whereas Delta is yet to take delivery of any of the fifty truck loads allocated to it and Edo State has also not taken any of its six trucks.
A competent source at the Okuku Stylos who spoke to our reporter as the Stylos Manager was said not to be available for comments said, though the Minister of Agriculture, Mr Akin Adesina had on the 18th of November while flagging off the distribution of the emergency grains to flood disaster states for onward distribution to flood victims in their respective states said each state in the South South was allotted fifty truck loads each, the real stock handed to each state from the reserve at the Okuku Grain Stylos falls far short of the fifty trucks.
“Actually the Minister said each state is to take delivery of fifty truck loads but what we have given them is far less than that apart from Delta State which is allocated the actual figure”. He said.
Our checks with the Flood Disaster Committee in Calabar show that none of the grains so far received from the Federal Government have been distributed to the victims as a source close to the Committee said: “the grains were converted from millet and sorghum which is not our staple in this part of the country to rice and I can also say that the rice has not also been distributed you would have had yours in your local government area”.
There were also no clear indications of where the State is keeping the twenty nine truck loads of rice which has been delivered to the committee.
All efforts to get information about which storage facility in the state is housing the consignment were futile as none of the committee members contacted was willing to comment on the matter.
Mr. Vincent Aqua the Director General of the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) who is the secretary of the State Disaster Committee refused to answer calls on his GSM phone and several visits to his office along Barracks Road failed to produce any result as he was said to be “out on official engagement”.
But Mr. Dave Akate, the SEMA spokesperson in the State denied any allegations of diversion of relief materials and insisted that crossriverwatch must produce evidence before making such allegations.
When he was informed that we have evidence of our allegations, he simply admonished that we should be careful about what we publish.
He explained that: “The last consignment we took to Obudu and Obanlikwu was in respect of wind storm. We went with mattresses and food stuff and other things. In Calabar South, that was early last year. And if you are talking about Calabar South relief distribution, we were part of the distribution in Calabar South. And it was done right there in the council, we wrote letters to every individual that was affected by the mishap. They came with their letters. That was the modality and there was a sharing formula done in the office before we went to the field. We called everybody’s name and one by one every beneficiary came out to collect their materials.
“In Obanlikwu, we may not have monitored it to the end because we have the chairman of council there and the council chairmen are chairmen of the local disaster relief committee. So we collaborate with them in terms of disaster management. Most times they help us in collating. Sometimes they help us to do disaster assessment. So when we are doing the distribution, we collaborate with them. We choose the victims at random right there at the venue and right there a committee is formed to assess who to benefit. At the end of the day, you may not have a perfect situation”.
Mr. Akate also denied that his the state has taken delivery of twenty nine truck loads of rice for the disaster victims.
Meanwhile, disaster victims across the state continued to live in squalor and deprivation waiting for relief that is not forthcoming.
Most of them have left the camps and returned to their washed homes to lick their wounds and pick the pieces of lives again.
While the victims continue to starve, the public is kept in the dark about the true position of twenty nine truck loads of rice which the state has taken delivery of from the federal government intervention program and why most of the relief materials that have been donated are still lying in Calabar.
Follow us on Twitter @crossriverwatch
Since You Are Here, Support Good Journalism
CrossRiverWatch was founded on the ideals of deploying tech tools to report in an ethical manner, news, views and analysis with a narrative that ensures transparency in governance, a good society and an accountable democracy.
Everyone appreciates good journalism but it costs a lot of money. Nonetheless, it cannot be sacrificed on the altar of news commercialisation.
Consider making a modest contribution to support CrossRiverWatch's journalism of credibility and integrity in order to ensure that all have continuous free access to our noble endeavor.