9 October 2009

Nigeria: Lake Nyos - Taraba, Adamawa, Benue, Others in Danger

Abuja — The Senate has raised an alarm over the imminent collapse of the Lake Nyos natural dam, saying that it could have devastating consequences on Taraba, Adamawa, Kogi, Benue, Cross River, Nasarawa, Plateau and Enugu states.

As a result, the Senate, in a resolution yesterday, has summoned the ministers of health, environment and agriculture for an emergency meeting to brief it on this impending natural calamity, including the sensitisation exercises and arrangements being made to arrest the situation.

The resolution was sequel to a motion sponsored by Senator Joseph Akaagerger (PDP, Benue), Senator Bassey Ewa Henshaw (PDP, Cross River) and 18 others, including the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu.

The Senate also urged the government to hasten the timely release of the budgeted amount meant for the Kashimbilla buffer dam project which will contain the flood waters from the toxic lake which wreaked havoc in some communities in the neighbouring Cameroun in the past.

However, it urged the government to initiate other immediate steps such as installation of early warning devices, commencement of drills and sensitisation exercises to respond to the impending natural disaster, since "a stitch in time saves nine".

Moving his motion, Senator Akaagerger said it was worrisome that despite the consistent casualty reports by the Federal Government, the Benue State government, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and United Nations agencies that millions of people would die and over a period of six months, millions of human lives would be lost, NEMA claims of sensitisation exercises were yet to reach Benue North and East Senatorial districts in the face of the danger.

He warned that the vulnerable states were sitting on "gun powder, of an impending disaster, in particular Benue State, whose government in 2006 reinforced the alarm by disclosing that at least 12 out of its 23 local government areas would be affected.

He recommended to the Federal Government the construction of some buffer dams at the foot of the hills on the Nigerian side to reduce the impact of any eruption, but nothing tangible was yet to be done.

The lawmaker told his colleagues that the lake was located 50 kilometres on a higher gradient from the Nigerian north-east border and was drained by streams running into river Katsina-Ala which, in turn, drained into River Benue and posed grave health and ecological dangers.

It could be recalled that Lake Nyos on August 21, 1986 experienced a volcanic eruption, resulting in over 1,700 deaths and several injuries from asphyxiation, consequent upon the massive release of carbon dioxide.

The motion was unanimously supported by the senators without dissension.

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