July 21, 2014
It started mildly, before one could realize, it had gone beyond proportions. The waters of River Benue had over flown it’s banks into homes of residents living nearby like Chief Sese of Bridgehead, Wurukum, a riverside neighbourhood of Makurdi, the capital city of Benue State, one of the States affected by the 2012 floods that claimed lives and properties in its wake.
Within days, the entire Wurukum and indeed a quarter of the City was submerged in water.
The 2012 flooding of the Benue and other States in Nigeria was caused the opening of Lagdo Dam in Cameroun. The waters of the opened dam flowed into Nigerian waters causing them to overflow. In the wake of the foods, over 200 lives and property worth over a hundred billion were destroyed alongside other damages that cannot be valued in economic terms including trauma, distress, health, psychological and other social issues.
In its response, the federal government donated the sum of N500 Million Naira for immediate release to the victims of the floods to ameliorate their hardships and distress.
The Benue state government, the recipient of the said funds for on ward distribution to the victims refused to release same to the victims as supposed in spite of their untold hardships and distresses.
Moved by the helplessness of the victims, Lawyers Alert as a Civil Rights Organization invoked the Freedom of Information Act by filling a suit in a State High Court. The suit was asking the court to compel the state government to disclose how much it had received from the Federal Government other donor agencies and philanthropists as donations owing to the floods, how much it has dispensed out, who have been the beneficiaries and how much is the balance if any.
The goal of the suit was to ascertain the appropriation, transparency, accountability and effective allocation of the victim’s funds or otherwise.
The presiding Judge however ruled against the expectation of Lawyers Alert and all the hopes and aspirations of the victims, whose hopes of relief and aid due to the suit were dashed.
Charged by the failure of the court to rule in favour of their hopes and expectations, the flood victims quickly formed an association and approached Lawyers Alert for legal assistance and consultation. In line with our pro-bono programs and commitment to social justice, Lawyers Alert agreed to work in concert with the flood victims association.
Other concerned Civil Society Organizations who feel and share in the pains of the flood victims also formed an alliance with Lawyers Alert to join to get justice for the victims of the flood victim.
As it is now, the flood victims have filed a suit at the state high court asking the courts to compel the state govt. to release to its members the five hundred million naira (N500, 000,000) given to her by the federal government for onward release to them to ameliorate the pains and hardships they have endured as a result of the 2012 flooding in the state.
The Civil Society Organizations have also filed another suit on behalf of the flood victims. They are also asking the courts to compel the state to release the money held by her to its rightful owners
As it stands now, the fate and hope of Chief Sese and thousands of his fellow flood victims are hinged on the outcome of the matters before the honorable courts which is the last hope of flood victims.