Editorial: Why government needs to stop playing politics with the lives of Orashi flood victims

The issue with the recent flooding which has ravaged the Orashi region since September is perhaps the inability of government at all levels to rise to the emergency needs of these flood victims. It has also shown that governments at all levels in Nigeria prepare very little for the handling of emergency situations.

The victims, having been abandoned by their government, relied and have continued to rely on supports from good Samaritans, NGOs and oil companies for survival. The government which is supposed to protect them from further crises is not there.

Within minutes that the Vice-President, Professor Yemi Osibanjo left after paying the victims in Rivers and Bayelsa siren visits, Simeon Nwakudu, the special assistant to the Rivers State Governor on media issued a statement where the Vice-president thanked the Rivers State Government, the Rivers State emergency management agency and the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, for rising to the occasion and seeing to the needs of the victims.

But the statement as issued by Nwakudu was laced with lies and half-truths about the true situation in Orashi region as it gave credits to those who are undeserving of such while denying the public the true knowledge of the state of things in the region.

The truth is that government at the state and federal levels are playing deadly politics with the lives of the flood victims in Orashi. Some of these victims are yet to recover from the 2012 flood that massively affected the region.

First, the visit by the vice president signified nothing. Not only did the belligerent factions of the Rivers State chapter of the All Progressive Congress use the opportunity to legitimize their struggles for the party’s candidacy in the forthcoming 2019 general elections by posing for photo ops with the Vice-President, they also used the opportunity to cast aspersions on the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, for not being at the airport to receive the Vice president as protocols demanded.

The Rivers State House of Assembly, at one of its sitting, had demanded that the speaker write President Muhammadu Buhari for not including the state in the list of states to receive flood support funds from the federal government. No one gave reasons why the state was not included in the list. The visit by the vice president did not also necessitate the inclusion of the state among those to receive such funds.

Even the House itself did not set up a committee made of members to visit the areas affected by flood in a bid to access the level of damage done to communities by the ravaging flood. They simply sat back in Port Harcourt and expected the president to take care of issues happening at their backyard.

NEMA, on its part, did not only abandon the flood victims. It is on record that since the flooding which affected half of the region began in September, NEMA has only donated four canopies as documented by our correspondents who visited Akinima IDP camp and other areas.

Even when a bus full of travellers plunged into the River at Okogbe bridge, this paper called the NEMA director for Rivers and Bayelsa but he told us that he was in Bayelsa and does not know anything happening in Rivers. The rescue effort to save those victims was left in the hands of local divers.

It is either the Vice-President was lied to that NEMA has been proactive in providing relief materials for the victims or Simeon Nwakudu was relaying the lies that he was told.

The victims of the flood in Orashi have become susceptible to diseases due to the lack of potable drinking water. The requests for the Rivers State government to send medical teams to the shelters in the region have been largely ignored. Of truth, the Chairman of Ahoada Local Area, Hope Ikiriko, has done his bits in providing relief materials and shelters for the victims but they are grossly inadequate.

The duties of government have been left and abandoned for NGOs and other bodies who naturally should come in when the government must have made the victims feel wanted.

This paper believes that the attempt by governments at the state and federal levels to play politics with the lives of these flood victims is uncalled for and utterly unnecessary. The main purpose of government is for situations like these where the government takes the responsibility of ensuring that the people are given a sense of belonging.

This paper also calls on the Rivers State government to set up a commission of enquiry to ascertain the level of damage and urgently send medical teams and the needed relief materials to the affected areas.

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