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Editorial: Benue Floods and IDPs

Like in 2012, Benue state recently experienced heavy floods which wreaked havoc in 20 out of the 23 Local Government Areas of the state. The worst hit was Makurdi, the state capital. where devastating floods which arose from excessive rains and overflow of water from River Benue combined to submerge 1,689 houses and rendered 82,136 people homeless. Luckily however, there was no loss of life in the environmental disaster except for a few people who sustained injuries while trying to flee from the surging waters or retrieve property being carted away by the rampaging floods.

We sympathize with all those whose homesteads and other valuable property were destroyed by the floods which also ravaged the office complex and equipment of the state-owned Radio Benue Makurdi, which has been off air because of damage to the equipment. 

It is sad that flooding around Makurdi metropolis has become an annual environmental disaster associated with the rainy season. It is equally disheartening that no concrete measures have been taken by both the Federal and Benue state governments to address this environmental challenge which the frequent floods pose to economic development of the state and well being of the people. 

This year’s flood disaster as unfortunate as it is should be seen as another wake up call for the Benue state government to adopt concrete measures to mitigate similar disasters in future.

We hereby call upon the state government to begin the construction of water channels and especially the completion of the Idye Flood Control Project which contract was awarded several years  ago but yet to be fully executed. 

The state government must stop at nothing to remove all structures blocking water ways and channels. This should however, be done with the benefit of expert or technical advice to avoid victimization of people on political and other considerations. 

We welcome the decision of the Federal Government to dredge River Benue as a long term solution to the overflow of large volumes of water which has been identified as major source of the floods.  This long-term solution should however, go on simultaneously with the mitigating measures to be taken by the state government. 

We make haste to condemn in its entirety the embarrassing and inhuman reports of alleged diversion of relief materials for the internally displaced persons government officials with responsibility to manage the IDPs in the various camps. 

This unwholesome conduct even led to protests by the IDPs forcing government to order closure of the IDPs camps. 

In our view, the closure of the camps was hasty and appears a face – saving measure to shield the corrupt government officials from being identified and punished as pledged by the Benue state Deputy Governor, Benson Abounu who is Chairman of the State Emergency Relief Committee charged with the responsibility to manage all issues pertaining to the flood disaster and displaced persons.

Since the state government has just commenced integrity check of the house affected by the floods, it would have better sense to close the camps at the end of the exercise so that only houses certified fit for habitation will be re- occupied by the IDPs.

Besides, some philanthropic- minded individuals and organizations are just on the verge of a response with humanitarian support and assistance. Such donations might as well end up as largess to the corrupt officials being fingered in diversion or outright theft of relief materials. 

Since the flood prone areas have been identified, government owes it a responsibility to the people to relocate those living along the water ways. If the floods are controlled in the future, then the issue of IDPs from flood disaster would no longer arise. 

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