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The recent directive by President Muhammadu Buhari to the Minister of Water Resources Alhaji Sulieman Hassan Adamu to lead a coordinated action alongside other relevant ministers to find solutions against the ravaging floods in different parts of the country did not come as a surprise to many Nigerians.
The presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, in a statement said President Buhari directed the Minister of Water Resources to work with the ministries of environment and transportation as well as state governments to develop a Comprehensive Plan of Action for preventing flood disaster in Nigeria.
The directive came as efforts by well-meaning Nigerians, including presidential candidates of the leading opposition political parties, such as the Labour Party (LP) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) took the lead in providing much-needed succour for the flood victims.
For example, the Labour Party Presidential Candidate, Peter Obi has toured almost all the states affected by the floods and providing relief materials. Similarly, the PDP candidate, Atiku Abubakar, has also toured of the flood-ravaged states.
The PDP presidential candidate and former vice president commenced a tour of states with high incidents of flooding across all geo-political zones in the country, according to Atiku’s media adviser, Paul Ibe.
According to Ibe, “the tour to the flood-ravaged states has become imperative in view of the trauma that the incidents have caused victims.”
The 2022 flooding which affected several Nigerian communities and threw thousands of people into hardship, submerged homes more than 34 states and destroyed properties estimated at billions of naira. Even Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory felt the effect or impact of the flooding through fuel scarcity and the attendant high cost of every conceivable commodity.
The presidency blamed several factors, including climate change, out of season droughts and wild weather patterns for the flooding but it did not include in the list the fact that even at 64, Nigeria does not have a viable water resources management policy or even an enforceable policy to control deforestation and man-made degradation ravaging the environment.
This year’s flooding disaster has been the most devastating in recent times as the flood disaster reports from across the nation broke the hearts of the every sympathetic citizen who heard about the preventable deaths and destructions.
From the east to the north and in all the six geo-political zones, reports of deaths, devastation and various forms of hardship caused by flooding filled the airwaves and print news platforms daily and became the second most prominent routine news item after deaths caused by violence and insecurity.
Many Nigerians have continued to wonder how long it will take for policy planners and those implementing the policies to develop better preventive measures that would properly insulate the nation from such predictable disasters. The question on the lips of many has been: for how long must we continue to suffer the effects of poor planning and the choice of reactive measures rather than a prevention package.
The nation has battled with flooding problems annually since the past twenty years without well-thought-out solutions to the recurring menace. An old maxim states that ‘prevention is better than cure’ but our leaders, their advisers and policy makers do not understand the wisdom in planning ahead of time to prevent loss or waste.
This non-challant attitude has caused the nation and its hapless population to suffer various forms of hardship, including deaths while the nation continues to lose revenue annually to the destructive effects of flooding in various parts of the country.
What can the ministers do in 90 days that has not been done before? The presidential ultimatum to the ministers may turn out to be an exercise in futility because the report, which will emanate from the ministers’ effort, will likely be dumped by the incoming administration just like previous reports on flooding were tucked away in archives in the past.
The nation was forced to endure the tortuous effects of this year’s flooding because previous warnings were taken for granted by those in authority who should have taken more concrete steps to prevent the disaster but did nothing.
The severity of the 2022 flooding incident in Nigeria can be seen from the figures recorded. In order to refresh our memory, it was stated that more than 500 people were confirmed dead, as the flood wreaked havoc in 31 states of the federation including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
At the last count, 44,099 homes were partially damaged; 45,249 houses were totally destroyed while 70,566 hectares of farmlands were submerged and crops damaged nationwide. The country’s National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) stated that between 790,254 and 1. 4million people were dislodged and are currently homeless and thereby increasing the already large population of Internally Displaced Persons [IDPs].
The 2022 flooding destruction was so bad that even the Federal Government confirmed that the magnitude of the disaster exceeded what was witnessed in 2012. There was a flooding problem in 2012 but as it happens in Nigeria, after the rainy season passed, everybody forgot the trauma of the flooding and all the plans to prevent future occurrence were put on hold.
Sensing the panic-within the population and to discourage panic buying of edibles by people who may wish to stock-pile food items over the likely shortage of commodities due to the destruction of more than 76,168 hectares of farmlands, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Mohammed Abubakar, reassured Nigerians, who started complaining over the devastating floods across the country, that there is no need to panic over threats to food security.
NEMA has stated that one of the causes of the 2022 flooding was the release of excess water from a dam in neighbouring Cameroon which complicates Nigeria’s already disastrous flood crisis.
“The Ladgo dam operators in the Republic of Cameroon commenced the release of excess water from the reservoir by 13th September, 2022. We are aware that the released water cascades down to Nigeria through River Benue and its tributaries thereby inundating communities that have already been impacted by heavy precipitation,” NEMA said in a statement.
Cameroon usually notifies Nigeria whenever it wants to release water back in the late eighties, after it completed construction of the Ladgo dam. Nigeria should have taken concrete measures to equally construct dams downstream to collect the excess water that flows downward and heavily submerges communities along the River Benue and River Niger but it was not done and governments in states like Kogi, Niger, Nasarawa, Adamawa, Taraba, Benue and Anambra do not take annual flood warnings serious.
The National Emergency Management Agency confirmed that as at October 9, 2022, water levels at Lokoja and Makurdi along Rivers Niger and Benue measured 15 per cent above the level recorded in 2012 and this was blamed on free flow of excess water downstream.
Have we learnt our lessons as a nation from the effects of the 2022 flooding to prepare well against 2023, with the warning from NIMET that next year’s flooding will not be less? It is doubtful. The absence of a viable water resources management policy will continue to pose serious problems for the country except our policy makers and leaders go back to the drawing board and give serious attention to the need for proper collection, management and utilization of the nation’s water resources. One way to achieve this is by completing the abandoned dam projects spread throughout the country, especially in the north and the effective utilization of the completed ones for agricultural purposes. It will also be helpful to complete the dredging of the nation’s two major water channels [River Niger and River Benue], which was started but were abandoned half way.
With the high number of IDPs, it is hoped that the National Emergency Management Agency and the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, would team-up effectively to work out modalities to ensure that the 1.4 million displaced victims of the flooding at the numerous camps where they are stationed at the moment do not suffer untold hardship.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Dr. Nasir Sani-Gwarzo, has already announced a Federal Government response with the approval of the National Emergency Flood Preparedness and Response Plans by the Federal Executive Council. The plans aim to mitigate and reduce the impact of the flood on citizens nationwide. One would appeal to the agencies involved with the care of the affected citizens to be thorough in the exercise by also providing for the medical needs and eventual rehabilitation of the victims. Finally, the nation should start early to prepare for the 2023 flooding which has been predicted by NIMET since it may turn-out to be as severe as this year’s flooding with current adverse weather changes. Early preventive measures can help the nation tackle annual flooding threats and also assist in saving millions of Naira in disaster management. Ends.
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