Flooding: Why Some Victims Are Shunning IDP Camps
• Our Provisions Okay, Says Govt
SOME victims of flood-ravaged communities in Rivers State are refusing to move into camps set up by the state government for the displaced. The decision not to leave their ancestral homes, which have become uninhabitable, follows complaints over conditions at the camps.
More than 3,000 people have been displaced by flood in the state.
Speaking with The Guardian, Thomson Eche, a victim in Akinima, Ahoada West Local Government Area, said the camps were put up to accommodate the displaced without their properties. He said it is unfair that people are expected to go to the camps and sleep peacefully without access to properties they laboured to acquire over many years.
The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has equally noted that the camps established by the state government were unsatisfactory. The South South Coordinator of NEMA, Benjamin Oghene, said his agency has specifics on what a camp for displaced persons should look like. According to him, such should be in a neutral place and on a high ground, having toilets, electricity, water and security.
Findings by The Guardian in some of the camps revealed that government has designated schools and local government council halls as camps without the provision of basic facilities. In some schools, toilets have been locked up by the management, leaving the displaced with unsanitary options.
Reacting to the development, environmentalist and Executive Director of Journalist Against Disaster and Accidents International, Ruskin Amadi, said it shows that the state and federal government did not prepare for the disaster, despite predictions by the Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NIMET) of impending flood.
Amadi said had government prepared, it would have built a decent Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp capable of accommodating the victims and their properties.
Michael Amachree, another victim in Ahoada, said the displaced villagers value their possessions and are not ready to leave them behind for any reason whatsoever. He said although the government offered to deploy soldiers to protect the properties, the people refused, preferring to stay by their properties in submerged buildings than live elsewhere without them.
He disclosed that the people are in desperate need of government’s assistance in the areas of finance and relief materials. “In some places, the children no longer go to school. The fishponds have been destroyed. Farmlands have been submerged. Lives are endangered as crocodiles and other dangerous animals displaced by the flood roam,” Michael said.
Narrating the plight of the victims, the Community Development Chairman of Akinima in Ahoada West, Chief Amachree Onisojikume Jonathan, attributed the ugly development to the failure of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and government to construct a shore protection project. He explained that the initiative could have prevented floodwater from overtaking the communities, even as he expressed disappointment with the NDDC management.
“You can see how devastated we are. We are living on top of the flood. Our farms, fish ponds, livestock and everything have been submerged,” Chief Jonathan said, appealing to government to fulfill its promises to the people by releasing relief materials and cash, and building good camps.
“The representatives of Rivers State government were here. They promised to come to our aid by sending us relief materials and drugs; but up till now, we have not seen anything,” he said. Amachree lamented that the community plays host to Shell, saying he was sad the company failed to assist the victims.
The state government has, however, expressed satisfaction with the state of the camps in Ahoada-West.
Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Special Duties, Mrs. Briggs Itih, has visited affected communities in Ahoada, saying the state has already activated the IDP camps to accommodate victims of the flood.
She said: “This visit is just to ascertain the suitability of the camps and ensure that materials are moved into the camps, as well as persuade displaced persons to come to the camps. It is Ahoada-West that is worst hit now. Five communities are affected and we have prepared camps for them. We have gone round about four of the facilities. The facilities required are already there. We have started bringing in materials, and in a short period, we will be able to get all that is required to accommodate them here.”
President of Abua/Odual Youths, Itode Godspower Eze, said urgent government attention, rather than talks on paper, is required in the area, adding that over 12 communities in Abua/Odual have been displaced by flood.