By Jude Njoku

…Trail of tragedies, hardships across Nigeria
WHEN environmentalists started talking about climate change, its adverse impacts and the need to mitigate its effects, many skeptics saw the phenomenon as one of those scientific jargons that would soon fizzle out; the same way the unwary described HIV/AIDS as an American invention to discourage sex. But the reality of climate change is here with us that even the blind can see and feel it and the deaf hear about its damaging impacts. From the North to the South, East to the West, the adverse effects are very glaring.

Before now, the common stories were those of desertification and desert encroachment in the North, gully erosion in the South- East and ocean surge and coastal erosion in parts of the South-South and coastal towns like Lagos. While these natural disasters are still living with us and increasing on daily basis, another natural disaster -flood- has taken the centre stage and now the dominant feature or subject matter. From Adamawa to Niger, Kogi to Bayelsa, Edo and Delta and indeed all parts of the country, flood has brought untold hardships on millions of Nigerians.

NIMET’s’ warning: The Nigerian Meteorological Agency, NIMET, had in March this year warned about imminent heavy rainfall and the attendant flooding in most parts of the country, but as usual, this warning was either ignored or  not taken seriously. Dr Anthony Anuforo, the Director-General of NIMET had predicted  irregular flooding and erosion in some parts of the country, especially the coastal zone and river catchment areas.

The Agency had  urged the relevant emergency agencies, state governments and the Federal Government to create awareness in order to reduce damages and loss of lives and property.  According to NIMET, Warri will have the highest length of rainfall season with 247 days and 2,649mm of rainfall, which would start from March 7 to November 8, 2012, followed by Ibadan with 246 days and 1,275mm.

The rains in Ibadan are expected to start from March 26 stretching to November 27, 2012, while Nguru has the shortest length of rainfall season of 93 days of 1,675mm. This will run from June 30 to October 3, 2012, followed by Potiskum with 113 days of 494mm of rainfall. The rains were expected to start from June 23 and last till October 2012.

Anuforom stated that “for the hydrological and water resources sector, this implies adequate water and stream-flows which may affect the dam storage for municipal water supply, hydro-power generation and irrigation. Hence, development and regular maintenance of dams for dry season irrigation and water supply should be accorded high priority.”

He stated that episodic flooding and erosion in the coastal zone and river catchment areas may be inevitable and as such adequate publicity would be required to reduce damages and risk of losses of life and property, especially in areas prone to river bank overflows. Furthermore, he stated that the predicted normal rainfall may result in flash flooding, particularly in the Northern states.

Areal view of Lokoja, Kogi State…under the siege of flood

Such flash floods may lead to physical damage to crops in the field, agricultural equipment and structures (such as dams), as well as physical damage to infrastructure – roads, railway lines, telecommunication networks, loss of lives and displacement of large population due to disruption of agricultural activities as a result of extreme weather is very likely.

“As expected during the onset and cessation period of the rainy season, rainstorms accompanied by strong winds are expected over the country. The likely increase in the frequency and intensity of these extreme weather event in the coastal areas will cause flooding and erosion which may result in landslide and loss of lives and property,” the Agency’s boss predicted.

Fresh NIMET warning: Early in August, NIMET again warned Nigerians to clear their drains because of imminent heavy rainstorms that may lead to serious flooding between August and October. A release  signed by Mr Eleazar Obende of the Agency’s Public Relations Unit stated thus: “In keeping with the mandate to monitor the 2012 Seasonal Rainfall Prediction, SRP, and give updates as and when necessary, NIMET has observed wetter-than-normal soil surface moisture and groundwater conditions in some parts of the country over the past 12 months.

The Northern sector of the country will experience peak rainfall during August to October season, the effect of the wetter-than-normal conditions observed is the prospects of the occurrence of above-normal rainfall, which may lead to surface run-off.

“The flooding incidents that may accompany further one-day high rainfall events in and around Lagos, Ogun, Delta, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Gombe, Kano, Katsina and Jigawa states will leave in its trail devastation and destruction.” The Agency noted that similar incidents were recorded in some parts of the country some months ago.

Vanguard  recalls that NIMET in its SRP, released in February, said there would be normal rainfall season across the country. But it was quick to state that  “although there will be normal rainfall season in many parts of the country for 2012, that normal rainfall trend in any area can cause flooding and associated consequences. Such consequences are mainly because of the people’s attitude of dumping refuse in water channels and the drains.” The Federal Ministry of Environment also predicted that about 23 states would be affected.

Devastating floods
Almost all the states speculated have already been hit by devastating floods and causing grievous losses and dislocation to the ecosystem.

Impending floods in Lagos
NIMET also warned that the high level of flooding currently experienced across most parts of the central region of Nigeria, may soon find its way to the southern part of the country. The Chief Meteorologist at NIMET’s Central Forecast office in Lagos, Abayomi Oyegoke, told a local television station the flooding in the central states is as a result of the delay in the movement of the Inter-Tropical Discontinuity, ITD also known inter-tropical convergence zone which is responsible for the prolonged rainfalls.

As the ITD gradually finds its way down south, the weatherman has warned residents and government of southern states especially the coastal region to gear up for the disaster. The agency has again warned that residents of flood planes to temporarily relocate to avoid the effect of the prolonged rainfall taking its toll on lives and property.

Lagos State Governor,  Mr. Babatunde Fashola had recently warned Lagosians, particularly those living along the coastal areas to be prepared for more ocean surge in what he described as the typhoon season which is raging across cities bordering the Atlantic Ocean.

Fears over imminent collapse of Lake Nyos Dam:  Fears have been rife that the imminent collapse of Lake Nyos Dam would lead to terrible flooding in most parts of Northern Nigeria. Reacting to the fears, the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, said it has produced a disaster response manual to “pro-actively prepare for the disaster that may arise from the possible collapse” of Lake Nyos Dam in western Cameroun.

The manual, which was endorsed last month by stakeholders in Abuja, is meant to enable people to put necessary measures in place to mitigate flood waters from the lake that is affecting the people of Benue State.

The Director-General of  NEMA, Alhaji Muhammed Sani-Sidi, said Lake Nyos is adjacent to Nigeria and that a 2005 UNDP report had predicted that the continuing erosion of the wall in Lake Nyos would put the dam at a point of potential collapse.

Sani-Sidi, who was represented by NEMA’s Director of Administration and Supply, Dr. Zanna Muhammed, said the report predicted that the walls of the dam might fall as a result of gradual erosion from rain, wind and lake water, or as a result of violent volcanic eruption, earthquake or tremor.

The DG explained that there is a possibility that the dam will break down within 10 years, adding that the eventual failure of the dam would result in the discharge of about 55 million cubic metres of water that would result in flooding downstream.

He estimated that, between Cameroun border and River Benue, 50 settlements, including Katsina-Ala, Kashimbilla, Waya, Manga, Gamovo, Andie, Terwegh, and over 15,000 hectares of land will be flooded and that over one million people and 20,000 heads of cattle and other livestock will be affected and could perish.

The floods keep coming:
Despite these and numerous other warnings from NIMET, NEMA, Federal Ministry of Environment, FME and the States’ Environmental and Emergency Management Agencies, no fewer than 20 states already hit by floods, had little or no resistance to offer.

Adamawa floods: The flood that ravaged many parts of Adamawa State was occasioned by the release of excess water from the Lagdo Dam in Cameroun. Although the authorities were adequately warned, they failed to take proactive measures to contain its adverse effects and so paid dearly for it. No fewer than 89 schools in the state were severely flooded, prompting the Adamawa State Government to indefinitely postpone the resumption of schools in the state for the new academic year.

Bayelsa: The country home of the Governor of Bayelsa State, Seriake Dickson in Sagbama Local Government Area was among many other houses taken over by the flood that hit Bayelsa State. No fewer than 700 indigenes of the communities including farmlands were also over-run by the flood. Among those whose homes were sacked by the flood were two prominent traditional rulers in Sagbama, His Highness, Ekadi Aziza and the Ebidaowei of Kabowei Kingdom, HRH Engr Hope Torruo.

Anambra State: In Anambra State, the raging flood which rendered thousands of people homeless in five local government areas  and sacked members of the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, posted to Ogbaru Local Government Area of the state. The corps members, whose lodge in the area was submerged, said they woke up only to find their residence under water, with most of their properties destroyed.

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