28 July 2012

Nigeria: Jos - One Tragedy Too Many

Photo: Aliyu Adekunle
Flooding in Lagos.


Even nature has not spared Jos, the Plateau State capital, and its environs. Early this week, a heavy downpour that lasted hours led to River Dilimi overflowing its banks and a flood ravaging homes during its southward journey.

More than 50 people lost their lives; some others are still missing while many have been rendered homeless. A family was wiped out! Another lost seven of its members to the flood that caught everyone unawares. To make matters worse, there was an outbreak of cholera at the site of the disaster due to poor sanitary conditions.

This time round, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and other relief agencies have been working round the clock to bring succour to the victims. The state government has also stepped in. That is how it should be. The people of Plateau State have been assailed by many tragedies in recent times.

But we must not fail to remind the authorities concerned of the need to take proactive measures against avert major disasters. In today's world, it is easy to track rainstorm via satellite; the meteorological departments could give an estimate of the intensity and duration of storms.

However, most floods that occur in Nigeria are as a result of poor management of dams and river basins: the water levels of dams and rivers could be regulated based on weather conditions. There is also the lack of adherence to town planning regulations.

That's why homes are sited along river banks or drainage channels. Poor environmental management - the dumping of refuse along streams, gullies, and drainage paths - has also contributed to flood disasters.

The flood tragedies that have happened this year in Lagos, Ibadan, Jos and other parts of the country are enough to make NEMA and other agencies respond timely to emergencies. Corruption in all facets of the nation's life should be eradicated before it destroys everyone.

Why, for instance, should huge amounts of money be spent on the funding of dams, river basins and relief agencies, yet there is nothing to show for it? Most flood disasters that have occurred in the country would have been averted or the level of destruction would have been minimised.

In western nations, such disasters occur but their impact is minimal. We are lucky that, of all the continents of the world, Africa has the lowest propensity to natural disasters such as floods, tsunami, landslides, hurricanes and earthquakes.

In view of the constant inter-ethnic and political violence that has decimated parts of Plateau State, the Jos flood disaster should be considered a special case. This is the time Governor Jonah Jang, the Gwongwong Jos, and leaders of the major religions in the state should speak with one voice and seek refuge for their people.

When disasters like flooding strike, they do not discriminate against victims on the basis of tribe, religion or political party. The search for reconciliation and peace in Jos should now be everybody's business.

We commiserate with the people of Jos who lost their loved ones. May this be a wake-up call to all agencies working directly or indirectly toward disaster management in the country.

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