by Stanley Azuakola
Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan released some startling data on Thursday in Abuja, when he said that 50 to 70 per cent of many states in the country had been submerged by floods. The flooding situation in the country, which has affected all the geo-political zones, is one of the worst the nation has ever witnessed.
The president further said that his estimates were conservative, and there was a strong possibility that the figure might go higher by the time compilation of data on the victims were concluded.
He spoke at the Presidential Villa, Abuja while inaugurating the National Committee on Flood Relief and Rehabilitation, which he set up to raise fund to augment government’s efforts at mitigating the pains of the floods.
He said, “Let me again express my sympathy with victims of floods across our country.
“We as a government feel terribly worried, we feel sad that this ravaging flood is really affecting so many of our people.
“There are so many states that 50 to 70 per cent, including my state (Bayelsa), are under water.
“This is why in addition to measures we have taken in terms of releasing funds to government agencies and directly to state governments to assist in helping to manage this disaster, we feel compelled to set up this committee to generate funds to assist government in managing these people.”
On Monday, in a nationwide broadcast, the president had announced the composition of the committee, which has businessman, Alhaji Aliko Dangote; and a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, as its co-chairmen. Both of them were present at the inauguration. However, the Chairman of Globacom, Dr. Mike Adenuga Jnr., who was announced as the Chief Fund Mobiliser, was absent at the inauguration.
The committee was given 12 months to complete the job, and the president charged them among other things to do the following: ascertain the impact of the floods on the people, raise fund to complement or augment government’s efforts at mitigating the pains and advise government on incidental things.
He said, “When people face this kind of flood devastation, it is no longer a national issue, it is an international issue because of the magnitude of refugees.
“This is a country of 167 million as of November last year’s projection. It’s almost a year since that figure was released. Though the Commission was yet to release fresh figures, we are definitely more than that now.
“And when you consider the fact that about 25 per cent or so of these communities are impacted by that, though the actual figure of the land and area affected is yet to get to us, have been affected by the flood.
“I spoke to my governor yesterday, he was so desperate because he said people do not even have food because all the channels of communications to Bayelsa State had been blocked by water.
“So you have enormous responsibility but we believe you are equal to the task.”
Speaking further, the president said: “Let me also use this opportunity to assure Nigerians again that the present administration will do everything possible to ameliorate the impact of this devastating flood on our people.”
In his own remarks, Africa’s richest man, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, said that the appointment was a call to service for he and other members of the committee. “Rest assured that we will not only rise to your expectations, but indeed, we will exceed them,” he said.
According to a report , Dangote later told State House correspondents that there was no limit to how much the committee would raise to complement government’s efforts at mitigating the effects of the disaster.
He said, “Our target is as much as we can think of and I am sure a lot of Nigerians will donate something.
“We are targeting N100bn minimum, we do not want to look at it as a government issue.”
“What we are expecting next is for goodies to come. We are actually going to meet and we will try as much as possible to raise funds both locally and internationally to complement government’s effort in terms of making sure that our fellow Nigerians do not really suffer from this devastating calamity of flood.
“We will go round and (we will) see what needs to be done and also what government should do so that this thing does not reoccur,” he added.
“For some of us, when there were disasters in other countries, we helped and so we expect people to help us.”
Other members of the committee inaugurated by the President include Alhaji Karami Isiaku Rabiu, Alhaji Mohammed Indimi, Ngo Hannatu Cholum, Mrs. Folorunsho Alakija, Prof. Dora Akunyili, and Mr. Tony Elumelu.
Also, the Secretary-General, Nigerian Red Cross, representatives of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, UNDP, European Union, DFID and USAID and many others were members of the committee.