Nigeria: Red Alert About Floods

14 August 2019

The Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) issued an advisory last week on the imminent floods which havethe potential of causing another catastrophe.Among the parts of the country susceptible to massive and devastating flooding this year are the Federal Capital Territory (FCT),Niger, Lagos, Edo, Imo, Abia, Jigawa, Adamawa, Delta, Rivers, Cross Rivers, Oyo, Enugu, Kebbi, Nasarawa, and Bauchi states.

Speaking at a press briefing in Abuja, the Director- General of the agency, Engr. Clement Nze, revealed that there was evena high probability that all the 36 states would witness different levels of river and coastal flooding.

He said the agency had sustained the Annual Flood Outlook (AFO) to avoid the catastrophe experienced in the past.Buttressing the prediction, he said flood from the upper reaches of the Niger Basin, comprising Guinea, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivorie, Benin, Chad and Cameroon would be arriving Nigeria in a month's time.

Engineer Nze lamented that his organization had made similar predictions over the years. However, relevant stakeholders, individuals and state governments had failed to heed the agency's warnings.

Nze said stakeholders'complacency had resulted "in avoidable flooding incidents, leading to loss of lives and property, disruption of economic activities and loss of several hectares of agricultural lands.Therefore, states and local governments should endeavour to remove structures built within the floodplains, clear blocked drainage, culverts and other waterways," he said.

Nigerians hardly take precautionary measures. This is evident in the way people build houses along water channels. Even officials who should maintain standards and checkmate excesses of property owners simply look the other way because they may have been compromised.When predicted floods pour avoidable destructions would take place.

We call on government to ensure that this year's experience becomes different. In other climes, when such predictions are issued, relevant government agencies practically evacuate potential victims from flood-prone areas to safe locations. In Nigeria, the opposite has always been the case. Potential victims are left to themselves. Their farmlands, properties are devastated. Many of them are killed before the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) is mobilized to cushion the effects of such disaster. Government should ensure a better approach this year.

In 2012, for instance, the floods which began in early July, killed 363 people and displaced over 2.1 million people. According to NEMA, 30 of Nigeria's 36 states were affected by the floods. That year's flood was termed as the worst in 40 years, as it affected an estimated total of seven million people and caused damages and losses amounting to N2.6 trillion.Seven years after, many families are yet to recover from their losses despite interventions from many quarters.

It appears the authorities, especially in the FCT, are still not getting it right.Only recently, houses in four estates in Lokogoma District were submerged after several hours of downpour.It would not be the first time that deaths and destruction have been recorded in that part of Abuja. But the authorities go to sleep after each year's flood. They would wake up when another destructive flooding occurs. Already, this year's flood around Lokogoma area has led to the death of a director with the FCT High Court, Mr Tony Okecheme. The area where the director died has been identified as a threat to drivers and residents since the construction of the bridge at Galadimawa Roundabout. But there are no warning signs there, so anyone could just drive into the pool of water and be harmed.

The situation is the same in many states where residents live in fear of the unknown.In 2018, no fewer than 100 people were killed in 10 states. In Niger state alone over 10,000 were displaced by flood across 23 of 25 LGs of the state.

Relevant authorities should act very fast to save lives. A stitch in time saves nine.

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