Against the backdrop of the recent floods in the country, Chiemelie Ezeobi writes on measures for the safety of life and property
When it rains, it pours is a popular idiomatic expression denoting the multiple occurrence of good or bad. But it also seems to express the chain reaction of misfortunes that follow on quickly from heavy rains in virtually all parts of Nigeria. While the rains ordinarily shouldn’t be a problem, the after effect however, is where the challenge lies. An example of the after effect of rain that readily comes to mind is the 2012 flood disaster. At the peak of the 2012 flood, the effect was really disastrous. As high as 2.3 million persons were displaced, and according to statistics from a marine scientist, Dr. Julius Agboola, over a billion dollars was lost between 2012 and 2013 to flooding.
Experts have cited rise in ground water level and sewage system blockages as the major causes of flooding in the country. This then calls for high level regional appraisals as well as strategic assessments at local/state level with more detailed site-specific flood risk assessments.
Agboola in one of the sensitisation workshops on solid waste management: effects on flooding, relief and risk reduction organised by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), had called on developers to incorporate flood mitigation into building plans, adding that understanding flood risk was an essential step in managing its associated impact.
Similarly, NEMA South-west Zonal Spokesperson, Ibrahim Farinloye, said the solution to such flooding should be proactive instead of reactive. He said, “NEMA has been more proactive in disaster prevention through the current efforts of this administration with reinvigorating the training and empowerment of the NEMA/NYSC Emergency Management Vanguards and Grassroots Emergency Management Corps to take disaster risk reduction mechanism to the grassroots, especially the younger generation in primary, post primary and tertiary institutions of learning.”
Effects of Flooding
When it rains, floods take over the roads, drown people and submerge properties. Oftentimes, a number of houses and roads are submerged by the flood caused by the rain that last for hours. When such happens, many road users are either forced to return home or seek alternative shelter, waiting for the flood to abate.
Another resultant effect is that many might not be able to make it to work or their places of business or for students, who are forced to stay home for their safety. Also, it often leads to traffic snarl for those motorists who dare to brave the floods. This often translates to passengers being stranded at bus stops.
NEMA’s Solution for Flooding
As the agency responsible for tackling emergencies, especially at the federal level, NEMA has offered workable solutions for flood-prone areas. According to the Director General of NEMA, Engr Mustapha Maihajja, the assumption that there are natural and man-made disasters has been argued, the result being that all are man-induced. Thus, failure of man to study such hazards and device means to mitigate or prevent such from developing into disaster, are entirely man’s fault.
He said, “There is a paradigm shift from reactive to pro-active measures we should engage ourselves more in. It’s a United Nation call that people and governments should prevent hazards from developing into disasters, which is more cost effective than reacting to disaster effects. This is because disasters destroy developmental achievement of many years and the affected populations may not be able to regain their losses in one lifetime. Thus, there is need for everyone to be empowered through capacity building against disaster effects.”
On the prevailing heavy rainfall being experienced he said, “We are causing much of the adverse weather as we fell trees in multiples but fail to replace any, and you know that trees use up our carbon dioxide and give us oxygen to breathe. The felling of trees without replacement leaves more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which causes ozone depletion. This simply means that the Iceberg separating the sun from having direct impact on the earth cause rapid melting of the ice from above, while the excess carbon dioxide from the earth also enhance rapid melting of the ice from under.
“Thus, there is need for enhanced tree planting by everyone to checkmate the continuous heavy rainfall. These are attributable to destructive rain/windstorms that have caused havoc this year. Many houses and public infrastructures have been destroyed by this phenomenon, but our failures to plant tree breakers in our communities or houses have exacerbated the hazards into destructive disasters.
“Heavy rainfalls also destroy our social infrastructure, such as roads and causes gully erosions in many areas. In such rainfalls, it’s highly advisable to avoid taking refuge under a tree or make-shift objects during rainfall or lightning. The thunderstorms strike the tallest object especially trees, actually it travels between the dead inner part of the tree and the bark. Avoid staying back in your vehicles when there’s rainfall and flooding follows, because once the flood waters reaches half the wheels, the vehicle can be swept away by the raging water.
“Avoid sending children on errands when it’s about to rain or immediately after rainfall. You know children like to play under the rain and would not know the dangers embedded in a running flood.
“Stop dumping dirt/refuse into the drainage system, this can cause drainage blockage.
“On buildings that are structurally defective, people should not hesitate to call the attention of NEMA to any of those signs and the agency shall take appropriate actions immediately through its various stakeholders across the cross with utmost secrecy of the information. Also, avoid walking or driving during rainfall, especially near drainage.”
For the Northern region he said, “Some communities in the northern part of the country have earth dams used to care for their herds. These dams turn dangerous to the people in the communities during such flooding, thus, they must ensure children do not turn the place into swimming pools once it rains. Meanwhile, every house must ensure that an emergency kit is available and make a family communications plan especially those living in riverine communities.”
For those living in high flood risk areas, especially Lekki, Ajah and Lagos Island, all in Lagos State; Port Harcourt, Opobo and surrounding communities in Rivers State, other states including Bayelsa State, Southern Cross River State, Rivers Niger/Benue axis, if feasible, should construct barriers to stop floodwater from entering the building and seal walls in basements with waterproof compounds.”
He also disclosed that the agency has enhanced the activity of the Neurological Agency to issue weather focus hourly, thus if flooding is envisaged, people can listen to the radio or television for information. He added, “Also note that flash flooding can occur. If there is any possibility of a flash flood, move immediately to higher ground. Do not wait for instructions to move. Also, avoid walking in floodwaters because of live electric cables to avoid electrocution. Switch off all utilities.
Block possible access route that wild aquatic animals can crawl into your home.”
Charge to State Governments
The DG also emphasised on the need for the zonal operations to embark on disaster risk reduction activities. He stressed that NEMA officials should ensure capacity building of every Nigerian to enable them be disaster resilient. He also enjoined state governments to invest more on disaster prevention as insurance on developmental successes.
He said, “State governments should embark and enhance urban renewal strategies and process for building constructions that will withstand the current challenges of effects of climate change, which has become a reality. Also, there should be retro-fitting of schools for the safety of school children, which is an important factor during rainy season. Schools should be made to withstand heavy storm with planting of trees and wind resisting roofs.”