Stories 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.
Rather, Jonathan went to the Samson Siasia Stadium, Yenagoa, 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 Area 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 governments.
They accused their representatives, namely local government chairmen, commissioners, lawmakers both at state and federal level, 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.
One of the victims said: “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.”
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.
Umesi 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, Umesi 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.
…As victims turn road-side beggars
It was a pathetic sight as victims fleeing flood-ravaged Bayelsa State waded through several kilometres of flooded roads from Yenagoa to Ahoada in Rivers State at the weekend.
The sight of hungry and angry victims escaping from the flood-ravaged communities begging for bread and satchet water, confronts you as you navigate the flood.
This was in addition to the presence of victims angry at the sight of still and television cameras and overloaded tipper trucks, which had become the preferred and most convenient means of transport, as well as the defiant keke NAPEP surprisingly navigating through the flood and sinking houses, Rivers and Bayelsa reminds you of such disasters in United States of America and Asian countries.
The stench from the water was unbearable. Notwithstanding, however, hundreds of Bayelsa youths were on hand to render assistance to people whose vehicles broke down on the road for fees.
You could see families fleeing in droves aboard chartered open trucks that charged N1, 000 per head. The roads were filled with broke-down trucks and cars, thereby further compounding traffic woes.
For some, especially young men and women, it was fun as they used their camera phones to either take pictures or video, yet for others, it was a sign of hopelessness
Some were seen hunting for trapped grasscutters and other animals, which perhaps must have died from suffocation, while others were busy catching fish washed ashore.
One of the passengers who was amazed that people were still travelling to Bayelsa was heard wondering aloud: “So you people are coming in when people are running out. There is no hope here oh!”
The movement, which was at snail-speed, increased the journey of two hours from Port Harcourt to Yenagoa to six hours. This resulted in the media in the advance team of President Goodluck Jonathan missing his first assignment in Mbiama camp on Saturday morning.
The vehicle conveying the president’s advance team to Yenagoa was mistaken for National Assembly members and when the vehicle got stuck the natives were heard saying: “Let them remain here. Next time they will not be eating our money.”
It was in this state of uncertainty that the team arrived at the Igbogene Camp Nine, one of such camps located along Yenagoa/Port Harcourt Road, where angry displaced persons were shouting on top of their voices over what they called ‘abandonment.’