April 22, 2024

Bracing for this year’s floods

Flooding season safety 10 wYs

In February this year, heads of relevant federal agencies such as the Ministry of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Nigerian Meteorological Agency, NIMET, and the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, gathered in Abuja and issued the Season Climate Prediction, SCP, or weather outlook for the year and their possible implications for agriculture, flooding, aviation and disaster management.

Just last week, the Minister of Water Resources and Sanitation, Professor Terlumun Utsev, specified the Annual Flood Outlook, AFO, for this year, with a graphic prognosis of flooding which is likely to hit 31 states. The only five states excluded are Abia, Enugu, Ekiti, Gombe and Zamfara, with the Federal Capital, Abuja also not listed, though nowhere is totally immune from flooding.

According to Utsev, a total of 249 local government areas, LGAs, will be affected, with 148 of them designated as High Risk Areas, HRAs. The flooding of all states through which our major rivers such as the Niger and Benue traverse to the Atlantic Ocean, the creek states, the Lake Chad Basin as well as Lagos and environs, has become an annual event.

In spite of the timely warnings by government agencies at state and federal levels, millions of Nigerians are still caught off-guard, with attendant losses of lives and property. For instance, the 2022 flood disasters in Nigeria claimed over 600 lives, displaced 1.3 million people, with billions of naira worth of farmlands and crops washed off. Many towns in Kogi, Anambra, Delta and Bayelsa states were submerged for weeks. Apart from the harsh government economic policies and banditry/terrorism, the flooding of 2022 and 2023 are also contributory to the current food inflation and hunger ravaging the country.

The Muhammadu Buhari government claimed it was taking steps to ensure the dredging of the major rivers to mitigate future disasters, but unfortunately, the Minister of Water Resources, Utsev, failed to disclose how far this effort has gone, if at all. The regular dredging of our major rivers will provide provide solutions to the annual displacements of people from their natural homes and destruction of their means of livelihood.

We call on the Federal and state governments to join forces and create a national action plan against perennial flooding along the major waterways. We believe that government and the citizens have their respective roles to play. While efforts to sensitise the people to regularly clear their drains and desist from dumping refuse into them should continue, governments must provide the leadership and governance frameworks to transform our waterways from disaster zones into economic assets.

Also, it is not enough to tell helpless citizens to “relocate” to higher grounds. Government must provide shelter facilities where people in flood-prone areas can temporarily move to, as well as food and medicine support.

This is why government exists.