Understanding imminent flood warning
As the September annual rainfall season peaks and generates seasonal flooding in parts of the country, it is imperative that both the government and the people should take steps to prevent loss of lives and property, damage to crucial infrastructure, disruption of socio-economic activities and even displacement of people in flooded areas. Past experiences and regular weatherman’s reports should be enough guides to mitigate disaster.
Both the government and the people should heed the warning, as ignoring it could be a death warrant. The destructions in the Bahamas and East Coast of the United States by hurricane Dorian show the extent to which blind forces of nature could go to wreak havoc. Nigeria experiences flooding annually. The 2012 and 2013 flood disaster experience should still be fresh in our memories.
It is against this background that the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA), the other day, issued a flood warning to sensitise people and the authorities to the need to prepare for imminent floods. The NIHSA raised the alarm following the release of its 2019 Annual Flood Outlook (AFO) on August 7 in Abuja. It warned of imminent flooding in 15 states of the federation. This is frightening.
Specifically, there should be no papering over this critical crack. What is needed now is action, not lamentation. The state governments should spearhead whatever action is to be taken including sensitising the people living in flood-prone areas to evacuate.
According to NIHSA’s Director-General, Mr. Clement Eze, the states on red alert are Cross River, Oyo, Enugu, Kebbi, Nasarawa, and Niger. The others are Lagos, Edo, Imo, Abia, Jigawa, Delta, Rivers, Bauchi as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT Abuja).
“River flooding, as well as coastal flooding, is expected to come into place as the nation approaches the peak of the rainy season,” he said.
He said the agency has been sustaining the AFO in order to prevent a recurrence of the 2012 flood disaster in which scores of people were killed and millions of naira worth of property were destroyed.
There are indications already that this year’s flood could be catastrophic because flood from the upper reaches of the Niger-Benue basin comprising Guinea, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Benin, and Cameroon will be coming to Nigeria.
It is pertinent to ask what the state government authorities and their people have put in place to avert the impending danger. There should be no papering over this critical crack. What is needed is action, not lamentation. The state governments should spearhead whatever action needs to be taken including sensitising the people living in flood-prone areas to evacuate.
Unfortunately, reports from some states indicate that little or nothing is being done to prepare against the impending flood apart from asking the people living in flood-prone areas to evacuate. People should be assisted in such an emergency.
What is clear is that while some residents are heeding the warning, others are not, citing their inability to rent new apartments. These people are expressing fear that they could lose all their property if the state governments fail to intervene and mitigate the effects of the impending floods.
In Kaduna, for instance, the state Commissioner for Environment, Ibrahim Husseini, had alerted residents close to the Kaduna River to an imminent flood and directed them to vacate the areas.
But the residents of Kigo Road New Extension, Kontangora Estate, parts of Ungwan-Rimi in Kaduna North and South Local Government Areas reportedly shunned the relocation insisting that Governor El-Rufai should dredge the river.
“The major problem of this area is not the flooding but the inability of the government to dredge the river. If the government had dredged the river, the problem would have long become a thing of the past,” lamented a resident.
The Chairman of the Kotangora Estate Residents Association, Victor Olushola, lamented how floods had ravaged the area in the past. He said the government has not done enough to sensitise the people. An official of the Kaduna State Environmental Protection Agency said there is no way the government could dredge the river before September. But this is defeatist as the flooding did not start today.
In Cross River State, there is already flooding and the residents are suffering even when the anticipated September flooding is yet to come. Residents have been narrating their harrowing experiences after a recent downpour. Despite the warning, some residents said they had resigned themselves to fate since they lacked the fund to rent new apartments. The same is the position of residents living in flood-prone areas in Makurdi, Benue State.
The Acting Director-General of the State’s Environmental Management Agency (SEMA), Princewill Anyim, said “structural and non-structural steps” were being taken to prevent flooding in the wake of the warning by NIHSA.
Residents of Nkpolu community in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State, on the other hand, have reportedly fled to safer areas over fears of being caught up in the predicted floods. Thousands of the residents were said to have been sacked by floods in 2018.
In the same vein, reports indicated that some residents of Aninri Local Government Area of Enugu State have started relocating after the flood warning. The residents lamented the pain flooding had caused the community in the past, regretting that two people got drowned during the 2017 and 2018 flood disasters at Attah River.
The situation in Lagos appears confusing, as residents complain that there is no sign that Lagos is prepared for the looming flood. But the government has debunked the allegation and said it is prepared. If tomorrow comes flooding, the level of preparedness of Lagos, Nigeria’s economic capital, will be known.
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.
The Lagos State Government had 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. State authorities along the Atlantic coastline should take a cue from Lagos State. It is not clear what is the state of those physical intervention structures are. Lagos should take the issue of flooding and ocean surge seriously as the state generally lies below the sea level.
Meanwhile, there should be public enlightenment, at the community level to sensitise the public to the dangers ahead. Traditional rulers, council chairmen, community and youth leaders should rally round to educate the people in their domain. They should also ensure that blocked drainage channels are cleared.
The various state government authorities should not relent in sensitising the people to the need to move out of the danger zones. Adequate and decent provisions should be made to accommodate and feed residents who are ready to abandon their homes to escape danger at this critical time. We need to understand and prepare for this time and season without delay.