Nigerian presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar calls for relief fund to aid flood-affected areas

Former Nigeria Vice President Atiku Abubakar adresses the People’s Democratic Party delegates during the Special convention in Abuja, Nigeria.

Nigeria’s main opposition presidential contender on Wednesday called on the government to immediately set up a flood disaster fund similar to one created to fight the coronavirus pandemic, to help victims hit by the worst floods in a decade.

The government has blamed the floods on heavy rain and water release from a dam in neighbouring Cameroon. More than 600 people have been killed, around 1.4 million displaced and 570,000 hectares of farmland damaged or destroyed.

Atiku Abubakar said after a trip to oil-producing Bayelsa state, one of the worst hit, that the floods were a reminder of the impact of climate change and urged the government to immediately launch a Flood Disaster Relief Fund.

“It is a national emergency relief fund, similar in scope to what was initiated during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Abubakar said, referring to a $1.4 billion fund that the government launched in 2020 at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

Critics have accused the federal government of being slow to help flood victims. President Muhammadu Buhari has given his cabinet 90 days to develop a plan to prevent flooding in future.

Floods are common in Nigeria, but authorities say they are the worst since 2012.

Experts say climate change is a factor, while defective infrastructure and poor planning, including a failure by Nigeria to complete a dam of its own that was supposed to backstop the Cameroonian one, had worsened the disaster.

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