From JULIANA TAIWO-OBALONYE, Yenagoa
Persons displaced by flood from six communities in Bayelsa State, camped in Bishop Dimeri Grammar School (BDGS), Yenagoa went haywire yesterday, ready to attack visiting National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) officials and church leaders. Their action forced the presidential team to stop President Goodluck Jonathan from visiting the BDGS camp to address the victims. He went to the Samson Siasia Stadium, where the displaced persons were more organised.
The angry displaced persons attributed their action to lack of food, medication, mattresses and generally being left to their fate. Some of the victims, who were ready to burn the truck belonging to NEMA, complained that only the chairman from Sagbama Local Government gave them N300, 000 and other relief materials, while the rest turned their backs on them. Some of the victims, who spoke to Daily Sun, said they were divided into six communities with relief materials representing each of the local government.
They accused their representatives namely local government chairmen, commissioners, lawmakers both in state and federal government of not visiting the camp to have first hand information about happenings in the camp. They claimed that those who managed to come stopped at the gate of the camp and turned back. “Let them come together and help us.
At most, in two months this problem will be over. We have not seen any of our representatives, no local government chairman, no commissioner, no lawmaker both at federal and state level to come and see first hand, what we are suffering here. The condition here is not conducive for us,” one of the victims said.
The displaced persons turned violent at BDGS, apparently to prevent a church service that was to be conducted in the camp by some Christian leaders. They broke the glass doors of the venue of the service and chased away the church ministers.
They argued that they were not in the position to listen to the word of God with empty stomachs, as those who were supposed to alleviate their sufferings had done not much. Those who spoke also accused the church officials of being interested in the collections they would get from the worshippers rather than their comfort.
However, the Bayelsa State Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Most Rev. Israel Ege, blamed the problem on the demand by the displaced persons for cash in place of the food that they were being served.
The NEMA Zonal Coordinator South South zone, Port Harcourt, Emenike Umesi, blamed the agitation on the fact that they were displaced from their homes and not because they were not receiving relief materials as claimed. He said NEMA had divided the teams into groups with each handling one single commodity for distribution.
The items include garri, rice, beans, beverages, toiletries, medicines, mattresses, clothing, and groups specifically handling items for kids. While revealing that there were over 40,000 registered displaced persons in the various camps in Bayelsa State, he spoke of threats from militants who were calling to demand for accommodation and relief materials or would be forced to mobilise and attack the camps.
The NEMA Coordinator also revealed that those not displaced have been coming into the camps to make away with mattresses and food items to go and sell outside.
The camps were presently being attended to by volunteers from UNICEF, boys brigade, girls guide, Red Cross, Ministry of Health, military and some churches. Umesi also said the decision by the state government to divide the displaced victims into local government had brought about discrimination, with some claiming persons from a particular local government were getting more relief materials than others. He said NEMA was against segregation of victims, as even tents have been set up for non-natives, which was against the spirit of disaster management in the world.
At the Samson Siasia Stadium, where President Jonathan spoke to the victims, Bayelsa State Governor, Seirake Dickson, in his remarks commended the president and members of the National Assembly for coming to see things on ground and helping out.