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Abuja’s perennial flooding in search of strategic solution

By Anthony Otaru, Abuja
06 December 2020   |   3:40 am
In the last five years, parts of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, have been severely battered by the scourge of flood, even as the experience will continue to remain a nightmare in the memories of affected residents for a long time.

In the last five years, parts of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, have been severely battered by the scourge of flood, even as the experience will continue to remain a nightmare in the memories of affected residents for a long time.

Indeed, as this year’s rainy season ebbs away, some families in Karu, Lokogoma, Galadimawa, Giri, Gwagwalada, Trade More Estate, and other parts of the capital city that were worst hit by flooding are still counting their losses.

What some residents find very difficult to comprehend is why Galadimawa, which is a 15-minute drive away from the city centre still floods anytime that there is slightly heavy rainfall.

Interestingly, despite the blame game that always ensues between the FCT authorities, developers, residents, and tenants in the wake of each round of flooding, not much has been done to stem the incessant loss of lives and property that have so far been recorded.

Indeed, many stakeholders are depositing the blame on the doorstep of the Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria (REDAN), for their role in the sprouting up of illegal structures that obstruct waterways and impact negatively on the city’s drainage system.

But the REDAN is quick to absolve itself of such blame, even as it is seeking an act to deal with quacks that have infiltrated the practice, as well as calling for the sanction of corrupt FCTA officials, who are living large from illegal land allocation.

The Chairman of REDAN, Abuja, Andy Elerewe, told The Guardian that several factors were responsible for the widespread flooding witnessed in Abuja.
“Of course, if you have an area that is not properly surveyed by the government, and there is no proper infrastructure in place, there is bound to be flooding, and such an area will eventually cave in because of the serious erosion that will ravage it. So, I do not agree that developers are the direct cause of flooding in the FCT,” Elerewe said.

He listed causes of flooding as building on green areas, building on flood-prone areas, on waterways and drainage. The others are dumping of refuse into the drainage, on waterways, poor adherence to environmental laws, failure to obey government orders in line with the Abuja Masterplan among others.

He explained that the consequences of non-adherence to early warnings from the government has continued to impact seriously on the people stressing that, “we have severally witnessed massive flooding that cuts short lives and destroys property here and there; huge sums of invested funds disappearing, while affected families find it difficult to cope with attendant consequences, including untold hardship.”

The chairman, who pointed out that developers have contributed their quota to society’s development by extending development frontiers to areas where governments do not have the resources to develop ab-initio, regretted that there may still exist some quacks in the development chain, who have continued to parade themselves as developers without recourse to laid down rules of engagement.

“For me, it does not make sense; it is not acceptable, and of course, there are lots of implications tied to this. The quacks have their share of blame with regards to flooding because they often flout laid down regulations in the building sector.”

Elerewe who is also the Vice-Chairman of REDAN, North Central, and Chairman, AIBEN Group, appealed to the government to enact REDAN Act, which will help the association discipline erring members and bring sanity to the estate development sector.

Said he: “Basically, like I used to tell people, real estate is a free market, we are yet to get to that level of strong discipline among our members. Presently, the association’s regulations are not strong enough, and what we have for our people is the liberty for all to come into the sector. However, the government does not consider REDAN before giving out plots of land to whomever, and no one can stop this because the beneficiaries also have their rights as citizens. The best the association can do is to continue to sensitise them. But for sure, we need an enabling law to be able to sanitise this sector. This is so important to all, so that is why we are calling on the government to make appropriate laws for us to reduce most of the infractions.”

The REDAN chief, who appealed to the government to speed up the rate of approvals for land titles, equally called on prospective homeowners to do proper checks before embarking on land and building businesses.

He urged the FCT administration to further empower the Development Control Department to effectively monitor and supervise buildings at construction sites before embarking on the demolition of the so-called illegal structures erected on flood plains.

Elerewe said: “The FCT administration needs to empower regulators, especially the Development Control Department. You can imagine a situation where the department is short of monitoring equipment; has insufficient utility vehicles to go round (as it is today). Most often, the department uses just one vehicle to go round more than one district. This does not help because of the fast speed of development of structures. More so, stop work notices are discountenanced as a result of untimely and inadequate monitoring and follow-ups by the authority.

He cautioned his members against yielding to the temptation of cutting corners stressing that “there are longtime effects if we build on illegal lands, obviously building on flood plains will deteriorate the surrounding infrastructure and lead results to mass flooding, loss of funds, lives, and property.”

However, the FCT Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on September 19, 2020, issued a high alert on the prospect of severe flooding within the territory, especially the riverine parts of the city.

The Director-General of FEMA, Alhaji Abbas Idriss, who issued the alert in a statement said the alert became necessary following rainfall and repeated floods being witnessed in different parts of the country, and around the FCT.

He pointed out that, “even though the territory was not on the red alert, it could be at the risk of heavier flooding because of its closeness to neighbouring red line states.”

Idriss, who assured that the agency was prepared to handle any eventuality that may arise, stressed: “As we speak, about nine rivers in nine countries are discharging their contents from rivers that eventually flow into river Niger and settle at Lokoja, Kogi State.”

The FEMA DG, who described the flooding in FCT as human-induced, appealed to residents to desist from activities that could lead to flooding stressing that the FCT administration cannot afford to lose more lives because of the reckless behavior of those who have refused to adhere to early warnings from relevant authorities.

While calling on residents of flood-prone areas in the FCT to move to higher grounds and leave the water channels and drainage clear, he enjoined them to avoid dumping refuse on waterways and walking or driving through flooded areas.

“What we are about to witness from now on is river flooding and this is going to be heavier and more forceful than the flash floods that we experienced earlier. And that is why the FCT administration has been on its toes doing the needful to ensure safety around the city,” he stated.

He also tasked residents to take personal responsibility for the safety of their environments, as disaster management requires the attention of all concerned, “including the government and the governed. I assure that everyone that the agency will continue to work with other stakeholders to mitigate any possible effects of flooding in the FCT.”

Idriss revealed that when people failed to adhere to building codes in the FCT, FEMA resorted to the use of town criers in sensitising residents on the implications of doing so, as well as on seasonal rainfall and its attendant consequences.

On his part, the Director, Department of Development Control, FCT, Muktar Galadima, sought government’s support for additional vehicles and equipment to enhance the department’s performance.

Galadima stressed that the department has “never demolished structures duly approved by our department, but continues to demolish those found along flood plains,” stressed that, “it’s our right to do so. However, we make adequate compensation any time we discover that the fault is traced to the FCT administration.”

Galadima listed additional causes of flooding in the FCT to include, climate change, dumping of household refuse on natural drainage, as well as erection of structures by the river banks among others.