Minister of Environment, Mrs. Hadiza Ibrahim Mailafia
By Chuks Okocha, Muhammad Bello and Shola Oyeyipo
The Federal Government has raised the alarm that the disastrous effect of flooding being experienced in some parts of the country may result in food crisis occasioned by lack of good yield.
This came as the Kogi State Government has put in place measures to urgently reduce the negative effects of the flooding that has ravaged the state on food production.
It noted that the devastating effects of flooding caused by heavy rainfall which submerged many farmlands call for serious attention if famine must be averted in the land.
Speaking with journalists after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) Wednesday, the Minister of Environment, Mrs. Hadiza Ibrahim Mailafia, said there was need for a national debate to address the flood disaster which is becoming a threat to food security.
She said: “Where you have in a country, well over 5,000 farmlands washed away, then the chances are that there is cause for attention. It is of national interest. So, all what we are saying is that it is a national emergency. It calls for sober reflection. It does for open debate of who did that and what.”
The Deputy Governor and Chairman, State Emergency Management Authority (SEMA), Mr. Yomi Awoniyi, who made this known Wednesday in his office, said: “a post-flood management mechanism is already in place to address the food shortage that is likely to follow the flood.”
According to him, there is the concern that there will be scarcity of food after the flood because several farmlands have been washed away by the flood across the country.
“Kogi being the most hit and as a way to mitigate the effect, we have keyed into a programme to access the rapid maturing of seedlings to enable fast growth of farm products.”
He also added that while the state government is encouraging communities not affected by the flood to embark on increasing their food production, there is an ongoing assessment of affected farmlands with the hope of providing compensation to affected farmers - as an incentive to encourage them back to farm.
He expressed high hopes that the state will overcome its current predicament.
Awoniyi also eulogised the Federal Government for its proactive measures aimed at reducing the damages wreaked by the flood.
Noting, however, that it was a natural disaster which government was doing its best to tackle, the minister said, “The flooding we are experiencing in the country do not in any way fall into what you can term man made. This is a natural phenomenon that cuts across the globe. With the kind of technology put in place in the United State, they still had flooding there, in China and even one of our neighbour Niger, an arid land, they are experiencing flooding.
Also, the Minister of Water Resources, Mrs. Sarah Ochekpe, has said contrary to reports in some quarters that the cause of the current flooding in some areas of the country is solely as a result of excessive rainfall and climate change, the disaster should be blamed on the inability of the previous governments to build the Dasin Hausa Dam, which is capable of saving 16 billion cubic metres of water.
Speaking at a press conference Wednesday, the minister said because of the configuration of the River Valley and the high water resources of the environment, it was proposed in the late 70s that two dams be constructed by Cameroun with Lagdo Dam and Dasin Hausa by Nigeria.
However, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) urged some communities in Ibaji Local Government Area of Kogi State and others in Benue to immediately move to higher plains in the neighbouring councils or Anambra State due to the increase in the level water level from the River Benue and Niger.
The Director General of NEMA, Muhammad Sani-Sidi made the warning yesterday after presenting additional relief materials to victims of flood in Kogi State.
The warning came as the flood ravaging communities in the two states yesterday turned messier yesterday as NEMA rescue team along the banks of the rivers evacuated affected persons from rooftop and trees, where they had fled to safety.
Sani-Sidi said: “It is now necessary to call on people living in Ibaji to either move to Idah Local Government Council of the state or to closer communities in Anambra State”
The DG also added that the agency was working with the Nigerian Red Cross Society to explore further assistance to the affected persons.
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has chided the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) over its comments on the flooding that affected some parts of the country, explaining that the closure of the Abuja-Lokoja road was aimed at achieving safety measure to preserve lives and property.
It also said that the comments of the ACN amounts to acts of insensitivity and opportunism on throwing decency and the dignity of the human lives to the winds and playing politics and grandstanding rather than sympathise with the people on what they were going through.
In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Olisa Metuh, the party said the comments of ACN over the floods in Kogi State and other parts of the country were ridiculous.
According to Metuh, “ACN in its statement even went to the ridiculous extent of condemning the closure of the Abuja-Lokoja road which is a precautionary measure taken to save lives following the disaster.
“While we welcome constructive criticisms meant to keep us on our toes, we would not succumb to cheap politicking from political jobbers who do not know when to draw boundaries between partisanship and national humanitarian interests,” Metuh said.
PDP said that the action of the ACN was nothing but “unnecessary politicisation of this force majeure is an indication of their insensitivity to the plights of the victims. They would rather scavenge for political capital while the victims remain homeless, hungry and prone to diseases.”
The statement from PDP reminded the ACN that natural disasters are not restricted to any particular parts of the country, as Lagos State which is under the ACN has suffered multiple cases of flooding yet not one came out to ascribe them to the failure of infrastructure by the state government.