October 31, 2022

This year’s flooding, a national disaster


File: Flood in Lagos

THOUGH the flooding that has engulfed the country is a disaster foretold, even the National Meteorological Agency, NiMet, underestimated its scale in its in-season warning issued on August 17, 2022.

The Agency had warned of high-risk flooding in states like Borno, Kaduna, Delta and Bayelsa, but what hit the nation covered 33 of the 36 states and the FCT, Abuja. According to data from the Nigeria office of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, UN OCHA, Nigeria; World Food Programme and Telimer Research, this year’s flood affected over five million people in 19 African countries, out of which Nigeria accounts for 3.5 million.

Official estimates so far indicate that 600 Nigerians (the figure is likely to be much more) have lost their lives, with 1,546 injured. Thousands of houses have been submerged or swept away with water rising above roof levels. About two million people, both rich and poor, have been displaced and property worth billions of naira destroyed. This year’s flood could be the worst on record in terms of scope and severity.

It may take months before quantum of loss to individuals, communities and governments can be determined. Major highways such as the Lokoja-Abuja Express and the East-West Road, have been washed away, imposing untold hardship on motorists and occasioning fuel scarcity across the country. The flood also came close to the harvest season, and farmlands have gone under water. Most Nigerians affected will have to start life from sub-zero, as many of them have no homes to return to.

It is shocking that the Federal Government, particularly the Presidency, has so far not reacted with the expected level of compassion and empathy for those affected. It is at disaster times that government leaders proactively display their human sides, rushing to the sides of the victims and showing them they would not be abandoned to their fates. But unfortunately, President Muhammadu Buhari jetted off to South Korea on Monday, October 24 to attend the first Bio Summit.

He only asked the Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu, to come up with a masterplan to permanently deal with flooding in Nigeria in 90 days. By the time the plan is submitted to the president in late January 2023, we will already be in election mood. Yet, the Buhari administration had the last seven and half years to work on a disaster that has become an annual occurrence.

The Federal Government’s response to the floods is inadequate and unacceptable. Federal and State governments should pool resources to provide emergency food aid to the displaced persons, assist in their rehabilitation and resettlement and take measures to limit the looming food shortages. The Federal Government must commence a large scale dredging of the major rivers, especially the Niger and Benue. Enough of these annual sufferings.