Anambra State was recently ranked the highest among the states affected by the flooding disaster. Special Adviser to the President on Technical Matters, Mr. Akachukwu Nwankpo, visited the affected areas and unveiled the ‘Anambra Responds’ initiative, to bring succour to the victims. Onyebuchi Ezigbo was there
National development effort recently suffered a major setback with the devastating flood disaster that almost shook the foundation of the entire nation and the economies of affected states, including Anambra State.
Two-time Special Adviser to the President and Chairman of Dionysius Nwankpo Foundation, Mr. Akachukwu Nwankpo, who hails from Okija in Ihiala Local Government Area of Anambra state, inspected the flooded areas and spoke on his intervention initiative 'Anambra Responds' meant to mobilise indigenes of the state to assist in bringing succour to the victims. Excerpts:
Findings of the Federal Government team
The flood is a reality. You know, when you are going to Asaba by air and you look at this flood, you get the picture of the devastation on peoples’ lives. I know some communities that you can only see the leaves of the tallest trees and you are no longer seeing houses, everything is buried in the water. It is scary. In some communities nothing can be recovered again from the flood.
So, this is a real problem. People can just look at the flood and say the water is receding. So, I said to myself there must be a platform to make people to be aware that our brothers and sisters have serious problems.
Now, to do that I had to talk to one or two young people in Anambra State and this intervention is Anambra focused, because I am aware that Nigeria has so many prominent people who are working at the federal level and the president is putting shoulders to it and there are philanthropists who have formed committees and they assembling the corporate world to deal with this. At the state level, the governor too is doing a great job of mobilising state resources and bringing people to bear on it.
Anambra Responds Initiative
The people in Anambra State should consider themselves a little bit luckier, because the state has talents and human resources and wealth. We have a lot of wealthy people. But most of these people are also very active in their day-to-day life and they may not pay the required attention if you don’t bring it to them.
So, I felt that what we need to do is to create a process, to bring Anambra to respond to this flood and that’s why we got this initiative, Anambra Responds. So, it is Anambra people, being called to come and help their President and their governor to assist in dealing with this monster that has crept into the lives of the people.
That is what we are doing. The initiative is focused on information, organisation, logistic and accountability; information in the sense that we go in and we put people in to know exactly what has happened to these people. What is the magnitude of the impact of this flood on their lives? So, you need volunteers to go into the communities and identify, line by line what has happened to those communities and then who has lost his house; who has lost his belongings, but has a house; who has lost both house and income.
So, you are able to really get the data, the information required to get people to appreciate the extent of damage this thing has caused. Having possessed that information, then you need to get it across to people who are willing to help, so they know how to help, where to help and what is needed. So, once you do that, that information is distributed so we have a process of making sure that on Sundays, all the churches get the information, we put it on the websites, we put it on the news media, so that people can see and know.
We then developed collection centres, in major cities, like in Abuja, we have a collection centre, in Agura hotel; we have in Lagos, in a Chinese restaurant being run by an amiable Ibo man. We also have a place in Onitsha, somebody has given us a warehouse where we can source items as they come in. Right now we have got five Hilux trucks, which my friends in Port Harcourt decided to assist the project by hiring to us, at heavily discounted rate.
This strategy is that once you set up information, logistic, ability to collect, source and deliver, then we have saved a mechanism to make sure that the needs are known and people who are willing to help without stress. The main thing now is we need a partner. The partners are two types: The partner that can support our logistic. So, we chose Chisco Transport. They are saying we will not pay; that anywhere items are collected far away from where we are operating, Chisco will send a delivery truck down to come and pick those items and bring them. So, if you have a collection in Lagos, Chisco will go and lift it and then drop it for us and move on.
We are also talking to ABC Transport in that regard, to be sure that backup can come from both sides. The other set of partners are those who make sure that items are gotten at a discounted rate. We have talked talk to Mouka Foam and it has agreed to give mattresses to us at discounted rate. There is also a pharmacy company that has promised to give us drugs at distributor’s price; Emzor Pharmaceutical has also agreed to do that.
The donors are mostly those who have something of value to give and they make us pay at a discounted rate, those discounted are published and the donors pay direct to the companies. As a policy, we don’t want to deal with cash; we rather prefer you pay to a supplier and the supplier gives us the items. But if you insist that you cannot pay, you aren’t in a place where you can pay and you must get money, we have talked to such key organisations.
That’s the process and so far, we are getting good response; we are confident that as we move forward now, publish it, get people to know about it, drive it, push it consistently, it will pick up and we expect that we are going to do this for three months. After the first three months, we will do a review and if we need to continue, then we continue. If we think the people are a bit stable, then we pull back. It is just a call to service.
Rationale for the humanitarian gesture
Well, I am not sure that I have an exact answer to that. It is just that I looked at it and say, well… a lot of people were going, when this thing started and I said to myself, people were going there and I went with my own stuff. But when I got closer, I saw that this wasn’t going to solve it. So, initially I went with my beans and garri, because I learnt they got too much rice. I also went with cows. But when you go there, you will see that this thing is beyond throwing stuff at these people, so I said, let us help.
Issue of citizens’ resettlement
Well, Anambra Responds isn’t going into that. That’s the responsibility of government, they decide what to do. Resettlement means you relocate these people, but when they go back to their communities, they might find out that their houses are still standing, but the walls have been messed up and all you need to do is to repaint, you need to rewire the house, because water has messed up the electrical circuits.
That’s now the resettlement programme. So, if the person is now to get back into his house and lives a normal life, that’s a resettlement activity. We go in and see what he needs and then we would help. Our own message is to tell people that you cannot abandon this problem to government.
Duration and extension of the project
No, we don’t want to replace government.
Counting and replacing the losses
We aren’t yet in a position to set that kind of target, because we haven’t really gotten close. The communities, some of them started going back just last week. From the phone calls I got, the ground is still very marshy. Vehicles cannot enter, the grounds are very porous. People are just beginning to see the effect of what happened to them.
So, we aren’t in the position right now to make that kind of estimate. What we have done is to set the process on, the 120 volunteers are meeting with them, because we are projecting 60 communities and we are doing 2 volunteers per community: one person will look at medical issues and sanitation issue, and the other person will look at normal materials.
Those volunteers will work under two NGOs that have agreed to work with us. They will be moving through the 60 communities. Now, for those volunteers, we intend to pay them N10,000 a month, for each to help them with their basic logistics and to be able to transport themselves. We already have people who are said they are going to pay the volunteers. So, it isn’t really a tight budget thing.
But my conviction is that Anambra State is beyond this thing, the state is bigger than this flood. We have men, women, with resources, energy and capacity to help the affected people. With what government has done, if we are able to give confidence to the people of Anambra State, that this help will reach these their brothers, we will just surmount this challenge.
Anambra has the energy for it, but we need to mobilise the state to respond, we need to mobilise the people to come and support government. So, when they do that it will be a transforming experience for these people. That’s my belief and we aren’t putting a ceiling on it, but we know that on the logistic we require to stay there for the three months, we will deliver on that.