by crossriverwatch admin
Mr. Vincent Aqua, Director General Cross River State Emergency Management Agency, SEMA has disclosed in an exclusive interview with CrossRiverWatch that SEMA could do better if properly equipped with the relevant facilities.
CrossRiverWatch: Can you brief us on the recent flood event that occurred within Atimbo/Edim-Otop?
Aqua: Yes flood have been occurring there like other parts and the recent one did occur that claimed lives, it was a pathetic case where 6 lives were lost, we were there with our stakeholders; Navy, Civil Defense, Red Cross etc and we rendered some support to remove the victims’ bodies, we arranged for medical attention for the rescued and did our humanitarian best. They lost their properties because the house that was lost was buried, yes it is a pathetic thing but it is a reoccurring decimal year in year out, government had earlier thought of relocating those under threat but didn’t because of ongoing projects at the flood areas which will reduce the dangers.
CrossRiverWatch: As part of the state government intervention project, NEWMAP has been working assiduously to curb flooding at several locations, the big gully by Atimbo road that some time ago claimed lives and properties is been rehabilitated, what is your thought on how effective it can be in aiding to curb future reoccurrence of flood in that area?
Aqua: Yes the NEWMAP project is meant to address the erosion project in the state not just Atimbo but others are there, a lot of people are usually affected in that area and considering the high cost of resettling these people under threat as initially planned, so the project has come to give new hope to the people, the threat will no longer be there and the question most people were asking is that if they are relocated what happens to their land ownership and thank God that has been answered by the ongoing project.
CrossRiverWatch: What are some administrative challenges of SEMA?
Aqua: We could work better if we have good facilities which already government is addressing, when completed we will see SEMA as effective as it should be; our edict/law is about to be put in place we have done the draft and believe by next week it will be presented to the executive council, we also have drafted a policy for disaster management of the state. For funding there is no amount of funding that will be enough for disaster management because it is unpredictable but the government is trying for funding of SEMA, we hope for an improvement.
CrossRiverWatch: Regarding SEMA not having any legal framework of establishment, has that in any way been affecting your performance?
Aqua: Well there is little hindrance to our operations but it is proper to have legal facilities in place, certainly there are some places we can’t delve in unless we have that backing.
CrossRiverWatch: From your interaction with the people how would you rate their acceptance of SEMA’s activities on a percentage scale?
Aqua: Very high, call it 98% modestly, 98% because of the response we have been receiving.
CrossRiverWatch: What is the feedback channel of SEMA from the public?
Aqua: A lot of the time they call our individual lines/phones and at times they call Emergency Response Center, ERC since we work in a cluster of network with others like Navy, Police, Fire service, NGO’s etc anyone on first call tries to mobilize for quick support while a call also will be put across to parties involve.
CrossRiverWatch: Where do you see SEMA in the next five years?
Aqua: Well, given the responsiveness of the present administration if the next government continues with same, the impact of SEMA will be felt more than it is today because there is high level of awareness of our existence already.
CrossRiverWatch: Apart from Civil Defense, Navy, Fire Service etc what NGO is in collaborating with SEMA excluding Red Cross?
Aqua: We have NGO’s like UNICEF, UNDP, Teachers Without Borders, Salvation Army just a few to mention, it is by having our edict that other stake holding bodies will be incorporated then go into training, we can reconstitute our local emergency committees, reconstitute our grassroots volunteer corps. Imoke’s government is working on a stronger disaster management team that he will leave behind not just SEMA. Within the next five years at the national level we will be better rated than what it is today.
CrossRiverWatch: Please throw more light on the activities of teachers without boarders in the state?
Aqua: Teachers Without Boarder, TWB is an NGO that takes care/promote teaching and learning, it came in contact with us in 2000 when we had the major displacement of people in the state talking about the Ikot Offiong people, they came based on our request and supervised our camp, supported us to establish a primary school then secondary school but they were disbanded because they were temporary/situational schools. Because we are working in line with united nation’s guiding principles on displacement which doesn’t allow displaced children miss education”.
CrossRiverWatch: What is your final word to Cross Riverians?
Aqua: As much as possible they should carry out environmental services that will curb disasters.
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