Red alert on massive flooding

Red alert on massive flooding

Red alert on massive flooding

CONSCIOUS of the imminent dangers ahead later this year, a government agency has warned of the likelihood of torrential rains and the consequent floods across the country soon. In fulfilment of its mandate, the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency predicts that another round of seasonal floods will sweep through the country in September and October. The massive floods will affect many states, particularly those in the coastal belt and along River Benue and River Niger courses. Government, especially at the state level, had not appropriately addressed their minds to these annual alerts, leading to avoidable disasters. They should treat the latest warning with all the gravity it deserves.

Flood frequency in West African countries has increased in the past five decades and experts warn that the trend is expected to continue with accelerated speed and intensity. Of Nigeria’s 36 states, the NIHSA projects that 27 of them will experience flooding due to the rains. About 275 local government areas will be affected, while 102 of them will be hard hit. In Lagos, the NIHSA says only Epe LGA will be spared in 2020. The NIHSA says, “According to the 2020 Seasonal Rainfall Prediction released earlier in the year by the Nigerian Meteorological Agency, the earliest cessation date for rainfall in the southern part of the country is December 28th, while September 26th is the earliest cessation date for rainfall in the northern part of the country.” This serves as enough warning.

Lagos and Ogun states are expected to have 255 days and 232 days of rainfall respectively this year. Heavy rainfall wreaked havoc in some parts of the Federal Capital Territory with loss of lives and destruction to property late last month. In June, parts of Lagos, Ibadan (Oyo State) and Abeokuta (Ogun State) were submerged in floodwaters with fatalities. Other states projected to suffer floods include Rivers, Delta, Adamawa, Anambra, Niger, Taraba and Kogi.

Unsurprisingly, the underlying causes of flooding are still entrenched across a majority of Nigerian communities. They include the notorious disregard for town planning, blocked drainage, erecting buildings on water plains and haphazard dumping of refuse. In many urban centres, waste disposal is disorganised. Despite a growing population, many local authorities and states do not implement any tangible waste disposal measures. In essence, flooding is sometimes self-afflicted.

Consequently, the country has been terrorised by annual flood disasters. In the course of the last decade, there have been over 1,000 fatalities. The notable ones include the September 2011 occurrence in Ibadan. After six hours of torrential rainfall, the Eleyele Dam that provides potable water for Oyo State capital residents, collapsed. Between 100 and 120 people, including a man who lost his wife and six children, perished in that rage of nature, said the National Emergency Management Agency.

With governments prevaricating, the following year was worse. Across Nigeria, NEMA said 437 people perished, and two million were displaced. On a particular weekend that year, all the coastal states from Lagos to Rivers suffered massive flooding. Parts of the North and the Middle-Belt witnessed severe disasters after neighbouring Cameroon threw open its Lagdo Dam, its waters overflowing into Adamawa, Taraba, Benue, Kogi and Delta states. All the government did was to make promises, which have yet to materialise.

The devastating trend continued in 2017, 2018 and 2019. For three months in 2017, 16 states including Delta, Rivers, Kogi, Kwara, Edo and Benue, witnessed floods. Two weeks of flooding in 2018 left 100 persons dead. Niger State, where the rivers Benue and Niger overflowed their banks, recorded 40 mortalities. There, a 37-year-old man lost his two wives and six of his children. A civil society organisation, the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding, said 95 people died and 722,741 were displaced between April and September in 2019 by floods across Nigeria.

With global warming intensifying, the blunt reality is that flooding will not recede anytime soon. A 2019 United Nations report said, “Floods strike in Asia and Africa more than other continents, but pose an increasing danger elsewhere.” Flooding has accounted for nearly half of all weather-related disasters worldwide since 1995, killed an estimated 157,000 people and affected some 2.3 billion others, the report added. Therefore, governments in Nigeria – local, state and federal – ought to wake up to this pressing reality. In the short term, all houses and other structures built on water drains have to be demolished. There is no sentiment about this if the society must mitigate the impact of the envisaged floods.

Currently, channel drains are blocked with silt and refuse. Every LGA and state government should prepare adequately for floods by prioritising drainage clearing solutions. They must be cleared ahead of September to prevent flash floods.

State governments should invest in equipment, tools and install early warning systems to save lives and protect communities from floods.

Much has to do with people taking responsibility for their safety. People who live near flash flood-prone areas such as canals, streams and drainage channels should be ready to evacuate their homes at a short notice. It is important that if you must leave your home, do not walk through moving water. Experts say six inches of moving water can knock people off their feet. Use a stick to test depth. It is therefore dangerous to walk through moving water. Driving over a flooded road is equally dangerous. And in times of danger, the most important thing is to keep the family safe.

A long-term measure is needed to tackle plastic waste, especially from bottled drinks, sachet water and nylon bags. Other long-term solutions by governments include adherence to and strengthening of town planning laws and implementation of integrated and modern waste clearing policies in our communities. This is lacking now as many communities as central waste collection is absent, leading to indiscriminate dumping of refuse.

Naturally, water finds its level. States like Lagos have to review their land reclamation projects. These projects obstruct the natural flow of water and block inlets and outlets into the wider body of waters. In Nigeria, dams constitute part of the flooding menace. States and the Federal Government should interact with the authorities in charge of dams in and outside Nigeria on how to control the waters from the opening of dams at the peak of rainfall. Governments should utilise the Ecological Fund appropriately, preparing to evacuate vulnerable people from flood prone areas to safe locations and camps well ahead of the September date.

Around the country, people patronise cart pushers. These unorganised refuse collectors dump the waste anywhere and end up causing more problems for the environment. Citizens should depart from this habit and stop throwing waste into drainage during rainfall.

Osho Oluwatosin

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