Flood and famine now: The “fire” next – 1

By Dele Sobowale

“Thou (meaning Nigerians) are wedded to calamity”. Shakespeare, 1564-1616.

“Flooding is yet to be over. A type of flood, called black flood, which is caused by the arrival of flood waters from upstream of the River Niger is likely to hit communities close to the river banks between October and early November.” Minister of Water Resources, Sarah Ochekpe.

Last week, the point was made that this series will combine two human interest matters, bed and bread, or their synonyms, shelter and food, which have suddenly become national disasters in Nigeria. Floods are washing away farms and food nationwide; they are also rendering people homeless. All the governments of Nigeria must attend to these emergencies.

The Minister ended her address by pointing out that the victims should be blamed for the lives lost because they were warned to evacuate the area. This is a weak argument. Granted, governments called on people to evacuate flood-prone areas, but, most people don’t know what constitutes a “flood-prone” area. Until their homes are specifically marked, they hang on to the vain hope that the disaster will happen to others.

Secondly, the Minster failed to tell us if governments provided alternative accommodation for the millions under threat before asking them to leave. As Anatole France, 1844-1924, had reminded us, “The law in its majestic equality forbids the rich, as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg on the streets and to steal bread.” (VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS P 120).

Asking hundreds of thousands of people to leave their jobs and homes without provisions tantamount to asking them to go and live under bridges, beg in the streets and steal bread – all of them illegal in Lagos State. But, that was what Lagos State, the most advanced state in Nigeria, decreed for Makoko people. And Lagos is not alone. Virtually all the states involved and the Federal Government have consigned millions of Nigerians to sleeping under bridges, begging on streets and stealing, not only bread, but whatever is “stealable”.

Governor Peter Obi , with Anglican Bishop of Mbamili, Most Rev. Henry Okeke transversing what was once a sprawling community of Umueze Anam in a boat.

Just in case anybody has failed to grasp the full picture of the disaster confronting us, with respect to food production, the Minister added that the flooding “will have grave consequences for food production as many farms have been submerged.” Under water in those submerged farms is the food Nigerians expect to eat late this year and early next year – if not longer.

For a nation which has neglected its abundant supply of rich agricultural land and failed to mobilize its vast human resources in pursuit of food security and self-sufficiency, the days of reckoning are here. Anyone is illusioned who does not expect the worst and take precautions right from now on. We might literally have to start drinking the crude oil which had diverted our attention from our real and lasting interests.

All this is coming at a time when the global food exporters are also suffering from floods. Unfortunately, it would be foolish to hope for the dry season to arrive before time.  Some other nations, experiencing dry spells have already shown us what the dry season will bring in its wake – heat waves at temperatures never before seen for as long as we can remember.

So after the “gods” might have decreed “no more water”, it will be the fire next time. Parts of the United States and currently Spain, have been hit by forest fires consuming what floods did not carry away.  A massive national response is needed from the federal to the states and local governments – if calamity is to be reduced; there is no escaping it; because it is inevitable. However, governments can mitigate the impacts of flood and fire or exacerbate them depending on the measures they introduce or what they fail to do. The question now is: how?

Why your building may collapse – 2
There is currently a mad rush to build or own properties at the water- logged Lekki development axis of Lagos State. It is hoped that developers are adequately tackling the foundation problems that the soil conditions of the area may pose.” Ezenwa Chizea, Ph.D, in WHY BUILDINGS COLLAPSE, p60.

Dr. Ezenwa’s book reached me at the right time for this series because it deals with an aspect of life with which I am not familiar. That is being polite to myself, I am totally ignorant when it comes to matters affecting building construction; so are 99.99999% of my Fellow Nigerians.

If we were not, virtually all the buildings that had so far been washed away, with or without their inhabitants, should not have been there in the first instance. Or, if situated there, the foundations and other materials used should have been differently assorted.

The portion of the book dealing with foundations is most illustrative of the errors of judgment made by professionals as well as the quacks, who, Ezenwa politely called “Practical men.” As far as this column is concerned, a contractor is either a professional or he is not.

There are no such animals called professional men – only dupes. Unfortunately, too many of us call on them – because that is what we can afford. And governments allow buildings to go up, constructed by these people on sites which should have been avoided and wait to call on people to evacuate on account of flood.

Later, this series will touch upon every aspect of buildings as presented in the book – together with comments from me.

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