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The projected heavy rains in Lagos

By Editorial Board
03 May 2022   |   2:18 am
The rainfall alert issued the other day by the Lagos State Government may be a routine exercise, but it is nevertheless timely if only to raise awareness among residents

Rainfall. Photo; SCIENCEMAG

The rainfall alert issued the other day by the Lagos State Government may be a routine exercise, but it is nevertheless timely if only to raise awareness among residents to prepare for the wet season and the envisaged impending heavy flooding.

There is a need for Lagosians to be conscious of the annual seasonal wet condition and its associated havoc that should be mitigated. However, the state government can do more than ask vulnerable Lagosians to vacate their abode or face the consequence of flooding, particularly as the government never approved their buildings in the vicinity.

The face of government should be more humane than that, given that the people involved have no alternative place; and the government has responsibility for their welfare, among other needs.

Nobody should be caught napping, and this is the essence of the early warning. People should be ready for the swing in weather the same way government should rise up to the occasion. Reports indicate that Lagos State is expected to have heavy rains amounting to 1,750mm in the rainy season that has already started, with attendant socio-economic implications for residents. Indeed, the outlook is the same across the southern states encompassing the rainforest belt.

According to the Lagos State Commissioner for Environment and Water Resources, Mr. Tunji Bello, who made the disclosure along with the Special Adviser to the Governor on Drainage and Water Resources, Joe Igbokwe: “The predicted onset, cessation and rainfall amount of 2022 are similar to the prediction for 2021, and the implication is that we are anticipating experiencing a rain pattern of high intensity and frequency similar to that of 2021. Lagos Island is expected to have a rainfall onset date of April 6, a cessation date of November 30 and a total rainfall amount of 1,627mm.

“However, the Seasonal Climate Prediction for Lagos State generally signifies that the onset dates range between March 17 at the earliest and April 6, 2022, at the latest, while the cessation dates range between November 30 and December 5, 2022; while the Maximum Annual Rainfall amount is predicted to be 1,750mm,” Bello said it was expected that the recent increased frequency of extreme weather events would continue in 2022 with days of extremely high rainfall amounts, which might result in flooding.

“We call for caution as strong winds are expected during the onset and cessation of every rainfall just as envisaged harmattan is predicted which may cause a reduction in visibility and bring about flight disruption and loss of revenue due to delays and cancellations in the aviation sector, ” Bello said.

The scenario being painted by the commissioner is already playing out in most parts of Lagos, as the rains are falling albeit irregularly. Flooding in the state is virtually unavoidable for a topography that is largely below sea level.

Normally, Nigeria experiences annual flooding. There are double rainfall maxima occurring in June and September. The 2012 and 2013 flood disasters were landmark events. 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 downpours, 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, the state government needs to do more to mitigate the yearly flood risk. Every year, people suffer the same fate. Since the ad-hoc crude manual de-silting of drainage channels has not proved effective, some other major flood control infrastructure needs to be put in place to mitigate disaster.

Experience shows that heavy downpours often submerge many low-lying areas of Lagos. Lekki Phases One and Two, Agiliti, Agboyi, Itowolo and Ajegunle communities are prone to flood hazards except appropriate measures are taken, including the erection of protective dykes and embankments to shield the areas from the ravages of the Atlantic Ocean.

Since 2017, the Lagos State Government had reportedly 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 these projects? Have they been completed or abandoned? Government needs to regularly disseminate updated information on them as an assurance to the people.

Similarly, 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, and community and youth leaders should rally to educate the people in their domain. The media should champion sensitisation. They should ensure that blocked drainage channels and discharge points are not blocked. The heavy rainfall warning should not be ignored as such can provoke unpleasant consequences.

There is a need to designate camps for those that might be displaced by floods. Only a few states had taken proactive measures in this regard. Certainly, more action is needed. In particular, Lagos State Government should not be content to raise alarm on an impending rainfall disaster, it should put in place pragmatic measures that people can cue into to avert the disaster or minimise its impacts.