By DEBORAH COKER
ABUJA- The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, has said that his government would retool Nigeria’s disaster awareness apparatus if given the opportunity.
Atiku, according to his verified social media account (Twitter), said this when he visited Yenagoa, the Bayelsa Capital, to have a personal experience of the devastation that victims of flooding across the country have been thrown into.
According to him, “my government, if given the opportunity, will retool our disaster awareness apparatus, such as the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) and the Nigerian Hydrological Services Agency (NHSA), to better forecast disasters and give the warning signals required to activate our national emergency response protocols.
“Retooling will also include the reform of the Nigerian Emergency Management Authority (NEMA) to ensure that it anticipates and responds to disasters such as this, more efficiently than it did, in the current situation.
“My government will ensure that we are never again be this badly prepared or lacking in the infrastructure and response protocols to forestall devastation of this nature from natural disasters such as this.”
He also said that if elected as president in the presidential elections next year, he would commit to completing the Dasin-Hausa Dam in Adamawa State to manage the release of excess water from the Lagdo Dam in Cameroon.
“I shall also commit to working with state governments like Bayelsa to build the required flood management infrastructure such as levees and dykes in key locations in Rivers Niger and Benue Basins.
“The dredging of the rivers and estuaries through which inland waters empty into the sea will help in stemming flooding in the Niger Delta areas.
“If we get our politics wrong by electing leaders who choose to play politics with climate change, and refuse to make necessary investments in smart solutions, we will be living in the relics of times past, unmindful of our attendant vulnerabilities,” he also said.
The PDP presidential candidate further said that it is worrisome that the current administration in the country had failed to show leadership and empathy in the management of the disaster.
He noted that climate change is real and its effects are both local and global, and therefore called on governments at all levels to immediately activate measures to forestall the food shortages and further increment in the already high cost of food that is bound to arise from the loss of hundreds of thousands of hectares of farmlands.
“There is no doubt that a large number of the victims are farmers. I also wish to make a plea for the establishment of a temporary fund for farmers to ameliorate their losses and give them capital for next year’s planting season.
“Part of the plans to lessen the burden on Nigerians is for the federal government to consider increased releases of grains from our Strategic Food Reserves and review our import policies to allow for the interim importation of food to make up for shortfalls in food production.
“And to forestall the recurrences of such devastating levels of flooding, the government must build the critical infrastructure required to contain excess water along the banks of the Rivers Niger and Benue.
“The change in climate is a pointer to every human community to be circumspect in leadership recruitment, as Climate change is a convergence between politics and nature.
“Leadership and policies must also change to deal with the dramatic changes we are witnessing around us,” he said.
He further said that what he witnessed in Bayelsa was as disheartening as reports from other places.
“The scenes are horrendous, and it speaks to the seriousness that we must accord to climate change.
“What I witnessed in Bayelsa is as disheartening as reports from other places, it is a story of human trauma under the spell of nature’s fury. Public infrastructure like roads and power lines have been swept away in a flash, and facilities like hospitals and schools are destroyed and remain unavailable.
“Altogether across the country, it is reported that more than 600 lives have been lost, with more than two million people displaced.
“The people who are lucky to survive these floods have lost their belongings and need every ounce of help that they can get from the government, non-governmental and charity institutions and private donors.
“I commiserate with the families of victims who have lost their lives and pray that the Almighty gives them the strength to overcome.
“These incidents are unfortunate. Those who happen to become victims of it did not envisage such a destruction. Nothing is too big or too small to give in showing empathy with them.
“On behalf of my delegation, I wish to make a donation of N50 million to the victims in Bayelsa State”, Atiku further said. (NAN)