Muhammad Bello and Shola Oyeyipo
The presidential fund raising committee for flood victims and states, jointly chaired by President, Dangote Industries Limited, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, and former President, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Olisa Agbakoba, is targeting to attract N100 billion for palliatives.
The committee, tagged Presidential Committee on Flood Relief and Rehabilitation, was set up by President Goodluck Jonathan after his nationwide broadcast on Tuesday in which he announced the immediate release of N17.6 billion to flood-ravaged states and some federal agencies to tackle flooding in many parts of the country.
Jonathan Thursday inaugurated the 34-member committee, saying that their selection was based on merit and their track record of humanitarian assistance to the government and Nigerians.
The president also visited Kogi State, one of the areas affected by the flood, where he said the Federal Government would build more dams along Rivers Niger and Benue to check flooding.
In his remarks at the event, Dangote said many of the committee members would also donate to the cause since they were used to making such huge contributions to similar victims of natural disasters in other countries around the globe.
He said with top businessmen like him and others in the committee, the task of raising N100 billion for the victims would not be too difficult to achieve.
“We are targeting N100 billion minimum. We do not want to look at it as a government issue. For some of us when there were disasters in other countries we helped and so we expect people to help us.
“Government is doing its own; but we as a private sector, we are very serious because we are donating our money out of our own goodwill and I believe Nigerians know that with the calibre of people that we have in the committee, these are people that have actually benefited from Nigeria; without Nigeria we wouldn't have been where we are today,” Dangote added.
He assured donors that funds channelled through the committee would reach the target beneficiaries, saying: “We are ready to come out and assist and so if anybody donates his money, he wants to be reassured that his money will be judiciously spent.”
Jonathan had told the committee members that they were put together because government knew that they would not wait for it to get duty tour allowances before they discharge their responsibilities as they were all selected “based on your credentials” and “what you have been doing before”.
Irked that a large part of the country is currently submerged in flood, including his home state of Bayelsa, the president said the issue was no longer a domestic one but an international matter, considering the fact that about 25 per cent of the nation’s population is affected.
“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 have been blocked by water.
“What we are expecting next is to begin to see the goodies coming and we will try as much as possible to raise funds both locally and internationally to complement government's efforts in terms of making sure that our fellow Nigerians do not really suffer from devastating calamity. We will go round and see what needs to be done to ensure this does not reoccur again,” Jonathan said.
The president said he was optimistic that the committee would conclude its assignment within 12 months so that government could face resettling the flood victims to enable them go back to living a normal life.
“So you have enormous responsibility, but we believe you are equal to the task. Let me especially thank our development partners for accepting to serve on this special committee. Nigeria will continue to be grateful to you, especially to the organisations you represent.
“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. We will do everything to cushion their pains,” he added.
Also, the president, during a visit to Kogi State, one of states ravaged by flood, reassured victims of his administration’s readiness to help them get over their losses.
Jonathan, during the visit, toured Ibaji, the worst hit local government in the state, and Lokoja, the state capital, and addressed victims at St. Luke’s Primary Schools, Adankolo relief camp.
He told the people that he was in the state to commiserate with them and the state government over the flood that had destroyed property and farmlands in nine local government areas urging them "not to worry or commit suicide over the loss of property”, as government would do all it could to ease their pains.
According to him, the recent flooding is a natural disaster, whose magnitude was last witnessed in 1969.
As a long-term measure to prevent future occurrence, he assured the people that the Federal Government would build more dams along Rivers Niger and Benue.
Earlier, the state Governor, Alhaji Idris Wada, had commended the president for his quick intervention and for the immediate release of N500 million to mitigate the effect of the flood in the state.
He told the president that he had approached the Ministries of Works as well as Mines and Power to release some of the abandoned housing units in Ajaokuta to relocate the victims.
Meanwhile, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has said that about 623,690 persons were displaced by the flooding in the state.
Those displaced are from 344 villages and nine local government areas.
Head, Public Relations of NEMA, Yushau Shuaib, in a statement yesterday, said out of the 623,690 persons affected by the flooding, 50,493 had been accommodated in camps created for Internally Displaced Persons.