Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN has lashed out at the federal government over the manner it is treating victims of flood in the country.
According to Falana, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government refused to ask the citizens to hold the state governments to account for funds meant for building and equipping hospitals.
Falana stated this on Monday in a Convocation Lecture titled “Remaking Nigeria: The Youth as Change-Agents”, and delivered at the Augustine University, Ilara, (AUI) Epe, Lagos State.
In the last few days, flooding has wreaked havoc on communities across Nigeria, leading to killings and displacement of many people.
“Instead of inciting citizens to demand explanation which will be ignored by state governments, the Federal Government should submit a petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for the investigation of the mismanagement of the ecological fund which is a crime against humanity.
“The mismanagement of ecological fund is a crime against humanity because it is responsible for the loss of many lives, displacement of millions of people and destruction of properties worth trillions of Naira.
“Before the proposed probe by the EFCC the Federal Government should come to the aid of the affected state governments. However, the EFCC should probe the involvement of officials of the Federal Government and state governments.
“A few years ago, a former governor was convicted for the criminal diversion of ecological fund of N1 billion collected from the Federal Government. In his defence, the convict had said that he gave N100 million out of the stolen fund to a former President of the Republic.
“According to the figures released by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), more than two million people have been affected by the flood, with over 600 deaths. Properties worth trillions of Naira have been destroyed while several people have been cut off from trade and food supply due to a lack of access to their communities.
“Some states and local governments in the country have been completely submerged. The natural disaster has attracted the attention of world leaders like King Charles and Pope Francis who have sent condolences to the Government and people of Nigeria. The Biden administration has announced a donation of $1 million to the victims of the disaster.
“Notwithstanding that the flood has plunged several communities in Nigeria into unprecedented devastation the Federal Government has not deemed it fit to address the crisis.
“In particular, the Federal Government has failed to release money from the Ecological Fund to the affected states. On their own part, the various State Governments have equally failed to provide relief materials for the victims.
“In fact, political parties and majority of candidates are busy campaigning for votes without expressing solidarity with the victims of the natural disaster. While dismissing the deleterious effect of climate change the Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu, has said that God is responsible for floods that have submerged various parts of the country.”
“It is embarrassing that the Federal Government has not called the Minister to order. The lackadaisical attitude of the Federal Government as well as State and Local Governments is due to the undeniable fact that majority of the victims are from the flotsam and jetsam of the society.
“It would be recalled that the Federal Government, State Governments and the private sector had mobilised fund and other resources in 2020 to combat the Covid 19 pandemic as it did not spare the rich and powerful people in the society. It was not said that God was responsible for the deadly disease at the material time! I am aware that Caritas Nigeria, a Non-Governmental Organisation in the Catholic Church has launched an appeal fund for the victims of the flood. As we commend Caritas Nigeria for rising to the occasion we must join SERAP in asking the Government to account for the huge ecological fund collected by state governments to arrest the menace of flooding.
“Since the State is legally obligated to protect the life and property of every citizen we are compelled to call on the Governments of the affected states to provide fund to relevant agencies to attend to the needs of the victims. The Federal Government should release fund to the affected states to provide relief materials and compensation to the victims. In order to protect the environmental, the Federal Government should ban further flaring of gas in the Niger Delta region as soon as possible.”
The senior lawyer asked the Nigerian government to address the crisis of perennial flooding in the river Niger and Benue basins as well as the Lagdo dam in Cameroon.
In view of the reality of climate change, governments at all levels should prioritise safety measures of people living in low lands in the implementation of environment policies. Since more floods have been predicted for the remaining part of the year, urgent steps should be taken by governments at all levels to prevent more disasters,” he said.
“The Presidency has challenged state governments to give an account of how they spent amounts in excess of one trillion naira, allocated to them from the Ecological Fund to tackle floods and other ecological problems. According to a presidential spokesman, Mr. Garba Shehu, ‘Each of the three tiers, the local government, the state government and the federal government has a sizeable budget at its disposal, allocated monthly precisely for dealing with these state-level natural emergencies, as well as federal agencies dedicated to doing the same.’
“The Socio Economic and Accountability Project (SERAP) has requested the Federal Government to publish the details of ecological fund remitted to the accounts of state and local governments in the country. Also, permit me to call on the Nigerian people including the youths to join the struggle to recover the country from the tiny grip of imperialism and its local lackeys. The battle will not be won unless a crop of dedicated youths will mobilise the Nigerian people to take their political destiny in their own hands.
“The ongoing struggle to recover Nigeria will continue after the 2023 general elections. Youths move mountains, so we under rate them at our peril. Edson Arantes do Nascimento, famously known as Pele was a 17-year-old teenager when he hit international limelight helping Brazil to win the World Cup in 1958. He was 21 when he repeated the feat in 1962, and was 30 when Brazil again won the cup. So as a youth, Pele projected Brazil more than many past and serving Brazilian presidents put together. In their 30s, Bob Manley and Fela Anikulapo-Kuti used music to mobilise oppressed black people to fight the forces of colonialism, neocolonialism and apartheid.
“Also, the Federal Government has announced plans to sell the remaining assets of the Nigerian people to fund the 2022 budget. The people of Nigeria must reject the proposal as it is another excuse for transferring public assets to the comparador bourgeoisie. Just last week, the Central Bank and Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria claimed to have sold Polaris Bank of Nigeria for the sum of N50 billion to a company whose share capital is not more than N10 million.
“The buyer who sells motor cycles will refund the N1.3 trillion spent on the revitalisation of Polaris Bank by the CBN in 25 years. The implication is that the payment will be made from the expected profits of the bank. Meanwhile, the assets of Polaris Bank worth several billions of Naira have been gifted to the buyer. We call on the CBN and AMCON to terminate the sale as it is a package of fraud. As the Central Bank is busy sabotaging the national economy through dollarization and sale of banks the nation’s oil revenue is being stolen by highly connected oil thieves.
“Convinced that top officials of the military task forces and oil regulatory agencies in collusion with multinational oil companies are involved in oil theft the Federal Government has hired a non-state actor to stop the stop the criminal enterprise. In view of the ongoing discovery of the pipelines hidden by oil thieves for several years it is expected that the nation will export more crude oil and earn more revenue. Before the discovery of the hidden pipelines two groups had traced stolen crude oil worth $30 billion to the United States of America. It is hoped that the Government will pluck up the courage to recover the huge revenue.”