The year 2012 can best be described as one that came with worst flooding in the history of the country causing untold suffering, loses and starvation to the affected communities and by implication the entire country. The government is putting several measures in place to remedy the situation, GRACE AZUBUIKE writes on the efforts of the government in this direction.
Earlier in the year, the Nigeria Meteorological Agency, NIMET, and the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, predicted that there would be heavy downpour and massive flooding in states like Adamawa, Niger, Kaduna, Taraba, Kano, Jigawa, Kogi, Benue, Cross Rivers, Delta and Bayelsa.
NIMET also stated that River Niger would overflow its bank, noting that this would pose a serious threat to those living close to the river's plain. The agency warned of the risk of unprecedented flooding of the River Niger plains due to water from the Kainji and Jebba hydro dams. As a follow-up on NIMET's prediction, NEMA issued an immediate evacuation order to residents around the river and also impressed it on state governments to move communities along the riverbanks to higher grounds.
The Head, Public Relations, National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, Mallam Yushau Shuaib, said after the prediction, NEMA intimated state governments about the forecast and its implications to the people. However, he said, despite being forewarned of the looming danger, many state governments were either too confused to act immediately on the matter or choosed to look away from the impending problem until they were confronted with it.
Many of them, he said, even failed to sensitize their citizens about the imminent danger so, they failed to take preventive steps and were forced to embark on emergency measures when the disaster occurred.
According to NEMA, 2.1 million people had been officially registered as internally displaced persons (IDPs), while 363 people were said to have been killed since July when the flood started building up. Already, indications of looming mass hunger started emerging as the prices of foodstuffs steadily shot up to a record high in the market.
The combined effects of this is that, many of them will not be able to earn any decent income as they are mainly camped in facilities provided by the government far away from their places of abode. It means the displacement precipitated by the flooding will worsen the already palpable poverty level in the country, with over 90 per cent of the nation's population said to be currently living on less than $2 a day.
A detailed breakdown of the 12 worst affected states by the flood shows that the worst affected state in terms of flooded area is Kogi, with inundation on 341,900 ha and crop loss on 72,200 ha. This is followed by Taraba State, with a total of 256,800 ha flooded. The third worst is Niger State with 187,500 ha under flood and the fourth affected state is Anambra State with a total inundate area of 118,300 ha.
When LEADERSHIP visited the camp of some of the affected flooded areas, it was gathered that a majority of those displaced are living with host communities; some are in camp-like settlements and others in public buildings such as schools.
Our correspondent observed that schools, farmlands, markets, banks, fish ponds, and roads under construction worth billions of naira have all been washed away by flood water. The massive flooding which submerged the Ahonda-East and West road as a result of the overflow of the Orashi and Sombreiro rivers in River state has ravaged, at least, over 80 per cent of the state.
A visit to some of the relief camps revealed mixed conditions for the displaced persons. The condition at the Dimeri Grammar School (BDGS) camp is deplorable as mattresses are insufficient for the displaced persons, among other challenges.
Goodluck Baperewei, a plumber who spoke with LEADERSHIP SUNDAY, said, "I am here with 15 members of my family. The flood has taken over my property and I don't have other places to go. I call on the Federal Government to assist us. Mattresses are insufficient in this camp (Sagbama Camp) and we lack health facilities. As I speak with you right now, I feel pains in one of my arms."
When LEADERSHIP SUNDAY visited the Siasia Camp, also known as the Stadium Camp, in Bayelsa state, a mother, Grace John, who was forced into labour and was delivered of a baby as a result of shock narrated her ordeal: "We just moved here from Delta State because my husband was transferred to Yenegoa. We have barely stayed a month before the flood came to wash away all that we have worked for."
At the Igbogene camp, the displaced persons decried the poor condition of the camp. Evangelist Vincent Ajiewoh of the God's Grace Ministry, Igbogene branch, told LEADERSHIP, "If you see my house, it's just like the lagoon. I stay in Ibogene; we don't have any place to hold fellowship now, but nothing can stop the work of God. Three of my family and church members are here.
The camp condition is poor. In the morning we eat late. We have more than 100 people staying here from different places."
Also at the Ibogene camp, there were allegations by the displaced persons that some of the relief materials were being diverted by some people. A man who gave his name as Paul said he was an eyewitness to the diversion.
According to him, "I was present when everything happened. One of the security personnel approached the zonal coordinator in charge of the Internally Displaced Persons, telling him that they didn't have fuel. The coordinator suggested that they go to the store and take two bags of rice and sell to raise money for the fuel, but the IDPs protested. After the argument, the man was prevented from taking the rice because they were suspicious that he might divert the money to his pocket."
However, the Federal Government assured Nigerians that it had already put in place a Flood Recovery Food Production plan to support farmers in the flood affected areas, stating that the country would not have a food crisis or famine.
A breakdown of foods allocated to the States indicate that Benue, Plateau, Adamawa, Oyo, Kogi, Bayelsa, Delta and Anambra states in category "A", will each receive 50 trailer-loads, followed by category "B"States of Lagos, Imo, Bauchi, Kano, Jigawa, Nasarawa, Kaduna, Taraba, Niger, Cross River and Edo States with 40 trailer-loads. Category "C" states of Ebonyi, Rivers, Kwara, Abia, Ogun, Ondo, Gombe and Katsina will be allocated 30 trailer-loads each. States in category "D" are to receive 25 trailer-loads each. They are Borno, Yobe, Enugu, Ekiti, Osun, Zamfara, Kebbi, Sokoto, Akwa Ibom and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Although the floodings across the nation which has destroyed numerous farmlands pose many challenges, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, has, however, assured that the government was up to the task.
According to him, the President has shown remarkable leadership and put in place a robust system to address the challenges arising from the floods, especially for emergency relief, food and shelter for displaced populations. Commenting further, the minister said that flood is a wake-up call, and that with the changing weather patterns, Nigerians must now develop policies for protecting farmers from the impacts of climate change, especially droughts and floods.
"We must move towards small-scale water management systems that are cost effective and which empowers farmers to harness underground rain water for food production. The ministry would distribute 5,000 pumps to use for flood recession and food production in the dry season," the minister said.
Highlighting the initiatives made by the government to revive the flood affected areas, Adesina revealed that Mr. President had approved N9.7 billion for the implementation plan.
"The plan has four components," he said. "The first will be the release of 40,000 metric tonnes of food from strategic grain reserves to the families affected directly by the floods. Secondly, improved seeds and fertilizers will be distributed to farmers that are directly affected to allow them to quickly return to their farms as soon as the flood water recedes.
Thirdly, in states affected by floods but with vast areas that are unaffected, they will be provided with improved seeds and fertilizers to produce food for their states. Finally, other parts of the country that are not affected by the floods will also be provided with improved seeds and fertilizers to help them double up production."
The minister maintained that special flood recovery food production plan would grow more food through irrigation in the forthcoming dry season to minimise the effect of crop losses caused by the recent flooding that destroyed farms in parts of the country.
He disclosed that the ministry had already secured 100 metric tonnes of seed of extra-early maturing maize, which matures in 60 days, to plant 5,500 ha of farmlands in affected areas, and that an additional 500,000 tonnes are to be produced under irrigation farming in the dry season.
Meanwhile, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has requested for $38 million to respond to the crisis of widespread flood in some parts of the country. According to a report prepared by OCHA at the UN Headquarters in New York recently, the disaster has raised the risk of disease outbreak and food shortage among the affected people.
The UN Office said that more than two million people have been driven from their homes by rising waters of the River Niger.
The spokesperson for OCHA, Jens Laerke, noted that the response plan targets 2.1 million people who are in need of assistance in a number of humanitarian sectors, such as water and sanitation, food, shelter materials, and non-food items such as mosquito nets and kitchen sets. He remarked that many of the people affected by flood had been robbed of their livelihood.
He also warned that the destruction of farmlands and fishing areas could provoke food shortages, stressing that there was high risk of an outbreak of a flood-related epidemic, as most of the affected people had limited access to clean water and sanitation.