How FG can stop incessant floods in Kebbi, nationwide
Let your humanity give hope to Kebbi victims ― Gov pleads with Nigerians
Kebbi State Governor, Senator Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, is a man of few words even though he is well-read, exposed and qualified to speak on virtually all issues of good governance, politics, management and leadership as a former lawmaker and currently a sitting governor. But, Bagudu is not one given to making speeches or boast about his accomplishments. He chooses to remain taciturn most often.
When the current wave of flood swept through his state about three weeks ago, Bagudu, though seriously devastated by the disaster, opted to sink and swim with the victims-mostly farmers, but without the usual fanfare and alarm often blown by Nigerian governors and other modern-day politicians, ostensibly to draw mileage, cash and sympathy.
But rather than lament over the unprecedented disaster that has revered the gains his state had made in rice and wheat production with the application of the Anchor Borrowers’ Scheme, Governor Bagudu, opted to wax with greater optimism in order to raise the morale of his people and help them to come out of the calamity.
In an interview with our correspondent, Governor Bagudu insisted that in times of crisis such as the flood, which has submerged over 600 kilometres of rice, wheat and millet and destroyed hundreds of communities, a leader must inspire hope and courage among his subjects rather than count losses and depress the victims in the process.
What the flood victims need most
The governor, who has visited many of the victims privately and in company with other government officials, such as the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mohammed Nanono, said there was an urgent need to take steps to bail the people out of the flood to prevent the outbreak of water-borne diseases among them.
“The immediate need is collective appreciation. I can as well sit here and just talk on behalf of Kebbi, but let our humanity come into play. There are people there whose communities have been shattered and their means of livelihood washed away by the flood and what they need most is just fresh drinking water and food in order to survive.
ALSO READ: Kebbi Flood: Malami sympathises with victims
This is because what happens always with a flood is that, there are dead bodies; carcasses of animals, toilets are all washed into the floodwater. So sometimes, heating the water does not work. So the first thing in flood support is that there has to be drinking water from day one; we have to be there within the minute, state emergency services, philanthropic organisations, all of us and individuals should be there as first responders.
Then secondly, when somebody loses his home to flood, you know that there is no cooking facility. So even if you give him dry food, there is no place to cook it. So again, I think we need to understand as a nation that food support particularly for nearby communities is essential and urgent. Let every organisation and individuals who can support the victims come with food, freshwater, toilet facilities and whatever they can to help in restoring hope and stability to the victims.
The next most urgent need is shelter. Luckily we shelters like in primary schools, secondary schools, churches and mosques, but the immediate issue in moving people there is to ensure that there are toilet facilities so as to enhance their hygiene and health It is not just enough to move people to public facilities without the basic facilities.
How to prevent incessant flooding in Kebbi, Nigeria with national drainage plan
The governor reasoned that flooding is an international problem, which should however be well handled so as not to create more disruptions for the state and Nigeria. For this reason, he called for a national drainage system to address the problem holistically and permanently. He conceded that though such a project would require a lot of money, the overall benefits would undoubtedly justify the expenditure. “
“Flooding is not a localised issue”, he said. “You can’t solve flooding in Kebbi alone. So as a nation, you have to think about National Drainage Architecture because we have the Lake Chad region, we have the Sokoto Basin; we have the Atlantic East and Atlantic West drainage routes.
So, these are all drainage systems that we need a national plan for and I know it will cost a lot of money but something has to be done about it because what is needed all the way for our lives. We are not very rich in terms of water resources.
“Looking at it systematically and comprehensively will enable us to put a national plan in place that would begin to get implemented. That might involve dredging, that might involve the creation of more artificial storage, and it might involve diverting the water to other places Lake Chad that is losing its water.
It’s going to cost billions of dollars, and we have to be patient, work together, and appreciate that water is one of the biggest human endowments and blessings, that management, organising it and taking advantage of it by reducing the consequence of its activity cost a lot of money, but that it is money well spent.
“Secondly, in Kebbi, we also have water coming from the North, Goroyu Dam in Sokoto, and a little bit further, Bakalori Dam in Zamfara, where it comes to Kebbi that has a flood plain of about 300 kilometres, which is the River Rima flood plain, which is the rice-producing plain. And we have River Zamfara also pumping water from other parts of the state.
So first is to establish that, flooding is not a state problem. It can affect the state, but all of us in Nigeria should realise that we are dealing with a national challenge affecting many states, and certainly affecting everyone”.
Flood effect on Kebbi’s food production
The flood effect on our agric policy is to appreciate that farming just like a company, can come under challenge. Animal husbandry or fishing can come under challenge temporarily and that there can be a temporary setback like drought and other natural challenges. So, for this reason, we need to work with our farmers and help them to recover from the shock losses.
We need to procure seedlings, fertilizers and other inputs for the farmers to go into the dry season farming with starts in October, next month. So, as devastating as it is, the resilience of our people must be appreciated. Despite the flooding and its effect, you can still see our people beaming with smiles out there and looking up with hope to restart farming again. That to me is very encouraging.
“Tragedies are parts of life, especially when nature is at work, which occasionally it does. But it’s more of how you respond to it that is important. No doubt about the devastating loss of crops, but the dry season starts in a month, so to mobilise, to work, and ensure that all those areas are planted again is what we are looking for support from everyone to ensure that we are able to do it.
“Today, it is in Kebi and it could be in another place tomorrow. And then, we have the River Benue; it could be Adamawa, Benue, Kogi, and others that are not along these major rivers. Jigawa is already on that water, parts of Borno, Osun, and Ondo. We need to mobilise a national effort to ensure that the farmers return to farming instead of sitting down to lament and mourn their losses in Kebbi flooding.
“We have some experience. It’s not novel to us. Even in 2018, there was flooding that affected 14 states, the Federal Government intervened with N23 billion, seedlings and fertilizers input. Certainly, this scale is going to be bigger, but I believe with the right sensitisation many of us can support each other to ensure that its effect is minimal,” the governor recalled.
Counting the cost of the flood disaster
In spite of the monumental loss suffered by the farmers and the state, the governor declined to place a monetary value the calamity, saying that it would only help to demoralise rather than encourage the victims.
He explained that counting the cost of the disaster could give the impression that the state was competing for attention and money whereas all they needed is to get the farmers back on their feet to restart dry season farming and boost the food stock in the agrarian state.
“If I am to put numbers, it is certainly going to be a huge number and it will be demoralizing. We are not exaggerating when we say we are dealing with at least 600kms of crop plains that have been washed away. There is no one stretch left. It’s not that there were stretches that were not planted. Along all those river banks, there are villages and communities that have all been washed away with the farms and their produce,” Bagudu said.