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Preparing for floods in Lagos

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(FILES) In this file photo taken on October 20, 2019 a public transport bus drives in a flooded Agege Motor Road, in the local Government Area of Mushin town, Lagos. – Severe climate impacts will unavoidably ravage nature and humankind by mid-century or sooner, according to the draft of a landmark report from the UN’s climate science advisory body obtained by AFP.<br />Species extinction, ecosystem collapse, crippling health impacts from disease and heat, water shortages, migration from cities devastated by rising seas — all will accelerate in the coming decades no matter how rapidly the carbon emissions that drive global warming are cut, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) finds. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

The massive floods that brought movement and commercial activities to a standstill in Lagos over the previous weekend did not come as a surprise given that efforts to stem the recurrent annual flooding in the teeming mega-city have been less than adequate.

The failure of both the Federal and Lagos State governments to protect Lagos, the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria and the former federal capital, from flooding, having presided over the city as their capital is overwhelming. It amounts to official negligence and abdication of duty.

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No major remarkable flood control structure has been put in place to protect a low-lying coastal city that experts say is sinking and may actually disappear in 50 years. The frightening scenario appears not to bother the authorities, which explains the lackadaisical attitude. Against this background, the flood warning released the other day by the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA), is timely if only to sensitise residents to, once again, prepare for another round of seasonal floods.

According to NIHSA, residents of Lagos should brace for severe floods by taking all necessary measures to mitigate the devastating impacts. The Director-General, NIHSA, Clement Nze, who made the disclosure, noted that the peak of the rainy season in Lagos often occurred in September. He said Lagos is one of the 10 megacities globally and there are six cities that are sinking and might sink or disappear in 50 years based on meteorology. Lagos is one of them.

He stated that no new holding dam had been constructed across the River Niger in Nigeria and the course of the Ladgo Dam in Cameroon to mitigate the impact of flood arising from the possible opening of the dam. Besides, he noted that once the Oyan Dam in Abeokuta is opened to release water, the floods in the South-West states may be worse. Furthermore, he disclosed that a dam was being designed by experts for that purpose ahead of the actual budget preparation for the facility.

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The floods the other day, following over four hours of torrential downpour, caused grief and anguish to many residents whose homes were submerged. Many commuters were stuck in gridlock for hours in different parts of Lagos as several highways were flooded. As it were, the stage is set for another round of yearly flood hazard. Both the government and the people should heed the warning, as ignoring it could be a death warrant.

Nigeria experiences yearly flooding. There are double rainfall maxima occurring in June and September. The 2012 and 2013 flood disasters were landmark experiences. It is for this reason that flood warnings are issued to sensitise people and the authorities on the need to prepare. Flooding occurs in Nigeria from a combination of heavy torrential downpour, ocean surges, or the release of water from dams. Each year, coastal communities and those on flood plains, especially, on the Niger/Benue trough bear the pains.

Regrettably, despite the recurrent yearly flood events, few states have taken any serious measures to checkmate flood disasters. And not even the Federal Government has done much in that regard. For instance, whereas Lagos is low-lying and has always been flood-prone, it is pertinent to ask what the state government has done to mitigate the yearly flood risk. Every year, people suffer the same fate.

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Apart from the ad-hoc crude manual de-silting of drainage channels usually belatedly at the peak of the rainy season, which has not proved effective, what major flood control infrastructure has been put in place to mitigate disaster? Recent downpours, which submerged Lekki Phases One and Two in Lagos, point to a bleak future, except appropriate protective dykes and embankments are erected to shield the areas from the ravages of the Atlantic Ocean.

Since 2017, the Lagos State Government had been reported to have earmarked some N36 billion to tackle the menace of ocean surge by building 18 groynes (sea breakers), at intervals of 40 meters between Goshen Estate and Alpha Beach. What is the state of the projects? Has this very important project been completed or abandoned? Little is heard about it anymore.

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As it were, other state authorities along the Atlantic coastline should take proactive measures to protect lives and properties. The same measures should be extended inland by states bordering the Rivers Niger/Benue system. The Federal Government should collaborate with the states to execute flood control projects.

There should be public enlightenment, at the community level, to sensitise the public. Traditional rulers, council chairmen, community and youth leaders should rally to educate the people in their domain. They should ensure that blocked drainage channels are cleared. The flood warning should not be ignored to avoid unpleasant consequences.

There is a need to designate camps for those that might be displaced by floods. Few states had taken proactive measures in this regard. That is unacceptable. More action is needed. It is not enough for government to raise alarm on an impending environmental disaster; it must put in place pragmatic measures that people can cue into to avert the disaster or minimize its impact.

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