Saturday, 2nd July 2022
<To guardian.ng
Search
Breaking News:

Towards ensuring accountability, transparency in relief funds management

By Joke Falaju, Abuja
04 February 2015   |   11:00 pm
THE 2012 flood may have come and gone, but affected victims who lost their houses and means of livelihood to the disaster, still live with the remain memories. Unfortunately the Flood Relief and Rehabilitation Funds provided by the Federal Government did little to ameliorate their sufferings. Despite numerous commitments by donor agencies as well as…

MATERIAL

THE 2012 flood may have come and gone, but affected victims who lost their houses and means of livelihood to the disaster, still live with the remain memories. Unfortunately the Flood Relief and Rehabilitation Funds provided by the Federal Government did little to ameliorate their sufferings. Despite numerous commitments by donor agencies as well as private and public institutions to support victims, lack of transparency and accountability, in the disbursement of funds have continued to mar the whole process.

A recent report on the Flood Intervention and Rehabilitation Funds submitted to the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation revealed a culture of impunity and poor accountability that usually characterize government intervention funds.

The report discovered that, additional funds provided by individuals to complement government’s efforts at reducing victims’ suffering and rehabilitate those displaced and traumatized by the flood disaster were poorly managed. Specifically, the Federal government provided about N17.6billion, Canadian government donated $50,000, European Commission gave $9.4million, private individuals provided $1.8million, Government of Japan donated $649,270, Government of Norway gave $30,000 while the Government of Sweden provided $490,000.

The report conducted by budgIT, a non-governmental organization, and the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) presented to the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation revealed that the recurring issue of concern in the 12 worst hit states that were surveyed is the lack of transparency and accountability that hallmarked the receipt and utilization of the Federal Government allocated flood relief funds, which were disbursed to the affected states in the aftermath of the flooding.

Also dire is the reality that some of the flood victims did not receive succour from the designated funds, either in cash or kind. One of the affected victim, Friday Audu Otuocha from Anambra East said he got nothing, but his mother got a pot and two sachets of salt, Dalto Shamaki from Nassarawa State said some flood victims in the state got guinea corn and N2,000. Another victim from Nassarawa state said his mother received only cooking pot. Awudu Friday from Uzamh in Anambra West Local government said he was given a pot and a sachet of salt as relief material, Friday from Idoma in Nassarawa state said he was compensated with N200 as a flood victim.

It would be recalled that the N17.6billion flood relief fund was shared to affected states according to the severity of the floods. All category A states were scheduled to receive N500million each, category B states N400million each, category C states N300million each and Category D states received N250million each to mitigate the effects of the disaster, unfortunately the report revealed that most of the victims did not benefit as there were leakages brought on by a motley of fund distribution methods.

Category A states included Oyo, Kogi, Benue, Plateau, Adamawa, Delta, Bayelsa and Anambra, while Category B states comprised of Jigawa, Kano, Bauchi, Kaduna, Niger, Nassarawa, Taraba, Cross River, Edo, Lagos and Imo, in Category C the states were Kwara, Katsina, Gombe, Ogun, Ondo, Ebonyi, Abia and Rivers, while Category D states included Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, Yobe, Enugu, Ekiti, Osun, Akwa Ibom, Borno, and the Federal Capital Territory. Also, some agencies were allocated funds. For instance, Ministry of Works was given N2.6billion, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) got N1.1billion, Ministry of Environment N350million, National Commission for Refugees N150million and the Technical Committee on Floods and Impact Assessment was given N100million.

The report expressed concern that despite state governors acknowledging the receipt of the monies and its disbursement to flood victims, the funds remained unaccounted for as most of the affected victims complained that no respite came. It maintained that across all the states visited by the team, respondents expressed disappointment and lack of trust in the government at state and federal levels. 

Also, there was generally a slow response to the plight of those affected. Where it occurred, response was late and uncoordinated, no rescue equipment and little or no medical supplies.

The report further discovered in all states visited that camps managed by private organisations were better run than those set up by government, while beddings were given to wards and communities loyal to government, or completely diverted. The majority of victims thereby resorted to self-help. 

It also noted that in distributing relief materials to victims, middlemen embezzled most of the material and financial assistance, leaving victims with nothing adding that where victims received assistance, it was barely enough to help them restart their lives. 

Indeed, in October 2014, the Auditor-General of the Federation, Mr. Samuel Ukura, said that “in most cases when there is disaster, we don’t wait for due process. Government allocates monies to curb the disaster. A case in point was the recent Ebola outbreak and the flood that nearly took over the cities. We cannot start to advertise and issue tender before things are done.” 

He added “when things happen, government released money for those things to be done, but some people may decide to spend the money on other purpose. The Disaster Management Audit would look into how disaster funds are managed. These are things we are introducing at the office of the Auditor General, to change how things are being done in Nigeria “.

The Auditor General had taken interest in probing the utilization of the 2012 flood Rehabilitation fund considering request of victims and pressure from civil society, and plans by the United Nation Development Programme (UNDP) to develop a digital flood model that would signal expected impact within vulnerable areas in the country. 

The model would also come with compensation and relocation mechanisms for all potential victims.

Moreso, there has been increased interest and demand for transparency on social media over the utilization of emergency funds in Nigeria, occasioned by the launch of the compensation initiatives, the Victims Support Fund for those affected by terror group, Boko Haram, and the Ebola Emergency Response fund.

A team from BudgIT who visited Ohanku road in Abia state sometime in January 2015 was met with tales of woes. Some even developed cold feet, as they refuse to grant interview, thinking it was government coming again to trick them into another set of promises. However, Chinoyerem, who later spoke to the team reported that she never received anything from the government during the flood season. 

Her major anger is the nonchalant attitude of the state government to their plight, which, despite their suffering, still set up taskforce that goes from house to house to collect N7000 for development levy.  She said anyone that refuses to pay is arrested and forced to pay between N10,000 and N20,0000.  

She maintained that there has been practically no positive government intervention in the affairs of flood victims adding that subsequent attempts by the government to construct drainage canals in 2013 to divert some of the floodwater to the riverside did not amount to much because it all became a political issue.

Emeka Kalu, a student of Abia State Polytechnic, who doubles as a trader, said he lost all his goods to the floods adding that the situation forced him to drop out of school as he could no longer pay his tuition and meet his other basic needs. 

He said he did not receive any money, despite writing to the government about his predicament. Emeka said his hopes of getting educated and securing his future were eroded by the floods.

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) may have been proactive enough during the flood, moving people from flood area to Internally Displaced Camps and providing relief items like rice, matresses, noodles, among others, most of the items were either inadequate or diverted by government officials.

However, compared to some other states and communities visited, government efforts in Agenebode area of Edo state was slightly better as some of the affected victim recounted that households with collapsed buildings were given between N20,000 and N70,000, while owners of business premises that were submerged under water received between N100,000 and N200,000. Raymond Dokpesi, Owner of African Independent Television (AIT) who also has business interest in Agenebode received the sum of N200,000 same as Joseph Ayemoh who owns Omoaze Tourist Center and a fish farm.

In Niger State, victims said the flood was the worst ever seen. They said the flood destroyed farmlands, houses and fish ponds. They recounted that three people died as a result of being unable to swim, when the boat taking them away capsized. Also, children of the community could not go to school for almost five months, diseases were increasing because the clinic was submerged under water. The people of Ketso had no access to relief camps despite the severity of the damage. Alhaji Abdullahi said he was particularly sad that government’s promise to relocate the victims to prevent recurrence has not been fulfilled till date. The only relief they got were 16 buckets of garri and rice.