THOUGH the Federal Government’s early warning and disaster intervention authorities were prepared for the floods, the sheer scale of the destruction of lives and property it left in its wake still took everyone by surprise.
The National Meteorological Agency, NiMET, and the National Hydrological Service Agency, NHSA, had predicted unusual flood volumes this year. A Seasonal Climate Prediction, SCP, was produced in April, and letters written to the various State Governors warning them, while the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, conducted its preparedness and response activities in August.
This year’s flooding was unprecedented. In states like Kogi, Benue, Anambra, Delta, Rivers and Bayelsa, floods were at rooftop levels. According to official figures released by the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, FMHADMSD, 3,219,780 persons were affected, 1,427,370 were displaced, 612 lives were lost, 2,776 persons injured, 181,600 houses partially damaged, 123,807 houses collapsed while 392,399 farmlands were washed away.
The statement by the Humanitarian Affairs Minister, Sadiya Umar Farouq, that Jigawa State (not Bayelsa) was hardest-hit, courted controversy which distracted public attention from the real issues involved.
That statement was unsustainable given that Bayelsa is the final gateway of the flooding of the Niger and Benue Rivers.
A flooding that dug out dead bodies from cemeteries in Bayelsa which is mostly below sea level, evoked raw emotions.
It should have been handled with the appropriate delicacy it deserved.
Unfortunately, the President, Muhammadu Buhari, did not show enough empathy for a disaster that touched 33 of 36 states of the Federation. Instead, he took off to attend a conference in Korea where he called for help for Pakistani flood victims.
He then retired to London for medical tourism. As usual, he abandoned our own flood disaster to the Minister and the agencies under her ministry to tackle.
Despite controversies, however, the newly-created FMHADMSD with Sadiya Farouq as the pioneer Minister, has developed programmes and policies that have reinforced the war against human trafficking.
It has helped bring back illegal Nigerian migrants from many foreign countries and activated action to rush food and other aids to displaced flood victims and other displaced persons, especially in the North East.
Established in August 2019 with six Agencies (including the popular NEMA and National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic Persons, NAPTIP), the FMHADMSD also implements the regime’s social welfare programmes such as school feeding, the Conditional Cash Transfers, CCT, to the most vulnerable Nigerians and others.
A peculiar problem with our federal system is that there is little synergy between the Federal and State levels in terms of preparations for, and response to disasters.
Everyone: the public, corporate citizenship and international donors, has a role to play to prevent/limit and manage disasters. Politics should never be mixed up with disaster management.