6 November 2012

Nigeria: Floods Claim 363 Lives, Displace 2.1 Million, Says NEMA

With the floods receding after months of ravaging many states of the federation, the grim picture of the havoc it had wreaked on the victims are gradually emerging. The floods had sacked many people from their communities, killed others as well as destroyed property and farmlands, whose values are yet to be estimated. Hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people are in camps, set up by various state governments, where they are adjusting to a new lifestyle foisted on them by inclement weather and manufactured disaster arising from overflowing dams.

In a country where record keeping is abysmally poor, the widely held belief is that people may never know what the floods had cost the nation. Attempts in the last few weeks to give the figure of what the floods had cost the nation in terms of deaths and those displaced have been enmeshed in a controversy as states hotly disputed the figures churned out by various agencies and groups.

The controversy had accentuated the nagging questions of how many people lost their lives to the floods that ravaged about seven states of the federation and how many were displaced.

All the while, the figures have been coming in bits and pieces. However, yesterday the full figures emerged from the nation's disaster coordinator, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).

NEMA, after collating figures from rescue workers and others involved in disaster management, said the incident claimed 363 lives and displaced 2,157,419 people.

According to a report from the agency's Emergency Situation Room released in Abuja, the floods affected 7,705, 398 people between July 1 and October 31, while 18, 282 people were treated for injuries sustained during the incident.

It also said 256 local government councils out of the nation's 774 councils were adversely affected by the flood.

The report, which is the latest provisional casualty figure by NEMA, also identified Adamawa and Kogi as the two states with the highest casualty figures.

NEMA's Head, Public Relations, Yushau Shuaib, said the latest figures were based on regular updates and data obtained from field rescue officers, response agencies and active volunteers in emergency management.

He said to arrive at the figures, the data were further subjected to verification and authentication processes in a joint exercise involving other stakeholders.

Nigeria's rainy season is usually characterised by flash floods, which are sometimes devastating because of the poor drainage systems in most parts of the country.

This year's flooding was however massive because some coastal areas of the country experienced higher rainfall while the release of water from the Lagdo Dam in Cameroun and the overflow of some dams and river banks in Nigeria aggravated the situations in some other states.

The massive flooding submerged hundreds of communities and washed off thousands of hectares of farmlands in states bordering Cameroun and along Rivers Niger and Benue, and the estuaries in the Niger Delta.

The Director General of Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET), Dr. Anthony Anufurom, had blamed the massive flooding on the neglect of early warning issued by the agency.

Speaking with THISDAY recently, Anufurom had stated that his agency regularly reviews weather and climate conditions in all parts of the country and the reports are published in its quarterly and annual weather review bulletins and distributed to various stakeholders.

He said the agency published the rainfall prediction for 2012 season in February and presented it to the public in Abuja on March 1.

"On the 3rd of August 2012, the agency wrote to the governors of some states informing them that based on our observations and predictions, their areas were most vulnerable to flooding. They turned deaf ears to this warning and the result is what we are currently witnessing in the country," Anuforum had said.

Statistics from NIMET had also warned of increased flooding in October, which would add additional 431 deaths to the casualty figure and lead to the displacement of 1,341,179 and injury to 29,689 persons, while 610,806 houses would be destroyed and thousands of farmlands affected in 2,389 communities in 231 local government areas in the country.

However, the unprecedented flooding had prompted President Goodluck Jonathan to declare during his visit last month to Anambra, one of the ravaged states, that the management of the situation and the rehabilitation of victims were beyond what the Federal Government and the affected states could handle.

He had also set up a fund raising committee for flood victims and states, jointly chaired by President, Dangote Industries Limited, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, and former President, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Olisa Agbakoba, to raise more money for providing palliatives for the flood victims and states. The committee, which is holding a fundraiser today, is targeting to attract N100 billion to the cause.

The committee, tagged Presidential Committee on Flood Relief and Rehabilitation, was set up by President Jonathan after his nationwide broadcast on October 9 in which he announced the immediate release of N17.6 billion to flood-ravaged states and some federal agencies to tackle flooding in many parts of the country.

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