By Sola Ogundipe
Recently, the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) and the Nigeria Metrological Agency, NIMet, issued warnings that a number of states are likely to experience high flood this year. Weather forecast through the Seasonal Rainfall Predictions indicates that Lagos could be one of the areas prone to the looming floods. Following this prediction, Lagos and seven other states in the South West zone of the country got together to take proactive emergency preparedness response measures. In this interview, Head of Operations and Logistics, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, LASEMA, Mr. Femi Giwa, warns that up to 5,000 residents of the state may become homeless this year from floods. He opens up on strategies to be employed to tackle the looming disaster. Excerpts:
Tackling the impending flood disaster
Right from the onset, we had always stepped up our emergency preparedness and response, and, in view of the advice from the Office of the Security Adviser to the president concerning the high level of flood that will occur in some states which include Lagos, we have stepped up high level of preparedness at our two relief camps; the relief and emergency camp at Agbowa in Lagos East and the one at Igando, Lagos West.
Our relief camps at Igando are capable of taking about 1,500 internally displaced persons. We have stepped up preparedness in terms of the beddings, supplies and other necessities at the two camps. Also, we have begun preparation for the construction of the third relief camp at Lekki. Aside from these, sometimes around January, we kicked off our sensitization campaign; we had a meeting with our stakeholders who include our local emergency management committees from 7 LCDAs.
We had over 100 stakeholders who came together at Alausa, Ikeja to brainstorm. Also during the celebration of the governor’s one year in office, we had several visitations of our stakeholders, sensitizing them on the need for proper coordination especially in the event of emergency and disasters. Governor Akinwunmi Ambode has procured equipment for us. If you remember, the Vice President visited Lagos and commissioned our state-of- the- art equipment at our intervention unit in Cappa, Oshodi.
Most of these equipment and vehicles are meant for intervention. Although we have had several interventions in the past, this time around, we have increased our capacity; most vehicles are able to ply difficult routes. We have also fortified our command and control units because communication is very critical in emergency response. Aside from the normal 767 response, we have CCTV units, which will help us monitor what is happening at disaster sites.
That is where coordination and collaboration come in. We have our primary stakeholders which are the rapid response squads. Within the purview, we have three helicopters. After the Bristow plane crash, we had to deploy these helicopters to the site. We did this in conjunction with Bristow and the Nigeria Police. You will also observe that one or two months after the crash, we had a stimulation exercise in order to improve our response, because we saw gaps in terms of communication and coordination in the Oworonsoki incident. About three weeks after this exercise, we had another scenario where another Bristow helicopter crashed into the ocean about 17 nautical miles off the Lagos International Airport and it was these same helicopters that were deployed and we were able to save those on board.
Role of the public
Be that as it may, we also believe that the public has a great role to play in emergency response, which is why we have jingles, from time to time, the ministry of information collaborates with other media partners like LTV, TVC and the social media, in disseminating information on what should be done so as to build the capacity and resilience of people at the local level. Our preparedness plans are focused on four major areas, from mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery.
In terms of mitigation, we work hand-in-hand with Lagos State Building Control Agency, the Ministry of Physical Planning, Ministry of Environment and others, to ensure that we enforce the building codes, and all those within the buffer zones especially around areas where we know that when there is flood will be affected.
For example, if you look at the Ogun River, once the dam is released, people within that area such as Isheri North, Ajegunle, Ikorodu, are often affected. Based on this, we talk to people around the critical zones, those who are building on drainages, those vulnerable, we enforce the building codes, we have intensified efforts through the Ministry of environment, clearing of drainages at major canals (which are the major recipients of this flood), and we have enhanced capacity of our stakeholders.
Level of losses actually varies. Sometime in October 2010, when we had flood in Ikorodu, we had about 1,750 internally displaced persons. In 2012 when we had torrential rainfall and flood in various local governments in the state, we had about 2,500 internally displaced persons. In a worst case scenario, our projection is 10,000 internally displaced persons in terms of our contingency plans, in most likely scenario, we are not expecting a displacement that will exceed 5,000 people, and if you look at our camps, they have the capacity of taking close to 3,000 people.
Our preparedness plan is such that we have been able to factor our most likely scenario, our best and worst case scenario. Now, we found out that poor infrastructures such as bad roads, poor drainages, also resulted in high level of impact in those risky areas. Most recently the Lagos State government stepped up in ensuring that our infrastructure works. If you look at Ikorodu Road, the road construction is such that the road has been elevated.
It’s almost difficult to see people around this area and that is why the issue of monitoring, surveillance, enforcement of building code, sensitization, all comes to play. We have been able to invest in our infrastructure, ensuring that our drainages are open, that people are sensitised, we have also ensured that there are medical supplies that will take care of hygiene, water, and other likely ailments. And I can assure you that we are the only state that has camps that are fitted with state of the art facilities, these are not transit camps. Agbowa Camp has been there for about six years, it has in the past accommodated foreign immigrants who came to seek asylum.
Protection of women and children
In the first 72 hours after the camp has been activated, we will start our rapid assessment. This includes finding out the number of internally displaced persons, the number of children, women, and adults. By the time we have these statistics it will help us our planning. From day one, once they come into the camp, we provide food, water, Medicare, etc., that is why we work in collaboration with the Ministries of Health, Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation. Because the needs of children aged 1 to 5 years is quite different from the needs of those above five years, we have put these into consideration in our recovery plans, we also do HIV tests, provide all medical assistance.
Toll-free emergency Line
Government has made available an emergency toll free line- 767-112, people should endeavour to call that line in event of any emergency and when you see anything that may exacerbate flood, we can mitigate against it by calling this line, so that emergency officials can be able to get to the scene and fix things up. For those who live around the coastal areas, they should contribute their own quota by clearing their drains, we should be sensitive enough to look at early warning signs. When we are having coastal tidal changes, epileptic surges, these are signs that we should move upland.