Heeding the flood alert
Given that the rainy season is bound to generate seasonal flooding in many parts of the country, it is necessary for government and the people to take proactive measures to prevent loss of lives and property, damage to crucial infrastructure, disruption of socio-economic activities and even displacement of people in flooded areas.
Against this background, the warning issued, the other day, by the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA), should be taken seriously and heeded in order to avoid disaster.
The NIHSA raised alarm of imminent flooding in about 35 states of the federation while presenting the 2017 Annual Flood Outlook in Abuja. According to the Director General, Moses Beckley, the flooding would spread across many local governments areas of the country and this calls for early preparation.
The states expected to be affected include Niger, Kebbi, Zamfara, Sokoto, Katsina, Kaduna, Kwara, Abuja FCT, Kogi, Taraba, Adamawa, Gombe, Bauchi, Benue, Nasarawa, Plateau, Delta and Bayelsa.Others are Anambra, Imo, Rivers, Enugu, Ogun, Oyo, Ondo, Lagos, Ekiti, Abia, Cross River, Akwa-Ibom, Kano, Jigawa and Edo.
Beckley noted that some states would experience flash floods as the rains intensify, adding that the number of people who might be vulnerable to devastating floods would continue to increase because of large-scale urbanisation and population growth in flood-prone areas.
The agency said it is sensitising the general public, especially, those living in flood plains, on probable food shortage and advising them to take proactive steps to avert physical danger as well as damages to living-style.The NIHSA deserves commendation for issuing this timely flood warning.
Every year, billions of naira worth of valuable property are destroyed by floods and may lives are lost. Incidents of building collapse also tend to rise. The devastating flooding that submerged as many as 24 states in 2013, especially, within the Niger-Benue rivers catchment area destroyed farmlands and displaced millions of people. Many of the victim-states were caught unawares.
Effective natural disaster management therefore requires early warning signals for impact mitigation. The alert demands proactive measures from the relevant authorities and communities along the coastal areas and river banks.
Evacuation of people living in the danger zones is one sure way to save lives. Although, NIHSA did not give precise dates for the flooding, from experience, flooding in Nigeria occurs at the peak of the rainy season in June and September.
The first peak is not yet over; the next peak is in September after the August break. Usually, there is an overflow of the Niger-Benue River basins and other sub-basins, with flooding in the adjoining states. Flash floods usually occur in some urban centres like Lagos, Port Harcourt, Sokoto, Ibadan, Kaduna, Yola, Maiduguri, Makurdi and Hadejia due to poor drainage systems.
Flooding usually occurs in Nigeria from a combination of heavy downpour, ocean surge or the release of water from the Lagbo Dam in northern Cameroon. Each year, coastal communities and those on flood plains, especially, on the Niger/Benue trough bear the pains.
The problem climaxed in 2012 and 2013 when all the states around the River Niger/Benue, down to the Niger Delta, were submerged with consequent huge economic loss of lives and property.Following the disaster of 2013, there was an agreement between Cameroon and Nigeria, which required Cameroon to give early warning notice to enable Nigeria put in place proactive measures to prevent destruction of lives and properties. This recent warning issued by the NIHSA therefore serves as enough warning to avert disaster.
Regrettably, since the last flood cases, few states have taken any measure to checkmate flood disasters. And not even the Federal Government has done much in that regard. There is need to designate camps for those who may be displaced by floods. Only Bayelsa State has taken proactive measures in this regard.
Recent downpours, which submerged Lekki Residential Areas Phases One and Two in Lagos, point to a bleak future, except appropriate protective dykes and embankments are erected to shield the areas from the ravages of the Atlantic Ocean.
The Lagos State Government had appropriately earmarked some N36 billion to tackle the menace of ocean surge by building 18 groynes (sea breakers), at intervals of 40 meters between Goshen Estate and Alpha Beach. State authorities along the Atlantic coastline should take cue from Lagos State.
The same measures should be extended inland by states bordering the Rivers Niger/Benue system while the Federal Government should collaborate with the states accordingly.
There should also be public enlightenment at the community levels, to educate the public on the dangers ahead and how to prevent it. Traditional rulers, council chairmen, community and youth leaders should work together to educate the people in their domain. They should ensure that blocked drainage channels are cleared. This flood warning should not be ignored to avoid unpleasant consequences.