Government could do more to cushion the rage of floods

While rainfall is a normal occurrence that people ordinarily look forward to because of its importance to the survival of plants and animals, the situation has changed so dramatically in recent years because of the havoc often associated with it. Even where there are no reliable statistics, since the beginning of this decade, thousands of lives have been lost in the country while several communities have been submerged by water. Yet these floods do not just happen on the nation by some accident.

For the current season, Ogun and Katsina States have had to face the fury of horrendous flood occasioned by torrential rainfall. In the case of Ogun State, no fewer than 11 persons lost their lives with about 3,800 families affected one way or the other. The death toll in Katsina State was put at more than 50, even by conservative estimates. With no fewer than 500 houses destroyed, Governor Aminu Masari confirmed that aside the instant death of 44 persons following the overnight rainstorm that ravaged the border town of Jibia, 20 other persons were also missing.

However, the tragedy was not restricted to Katsina and Ogun States; it cuts across the entire country. In many states, residents are still taking stock of their losses as property estimated at billions of naira had been lost to flood. From schools and shops to farmlands as well as health and worship centres, many structures have in recent weeks succumbed to the fury of nature. Hundreds of vehicles have also been swept away as rivers overflowed their banks. The South-West zonal spokesman of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Mr. Ibrahim Farinloye lamented that Nigerians have largely ignored massive sensitisation and enlightenment campaign by the agency.

Apart from the heavy rainfall, NEMA believes that there is a lack of safety consciousness in the country. “The suspected cause of this, aside from the heavy rainfall was lack of safety consciousness on the side of the people which built on flood plains. Instead of constructing corresponding adequate drainage systems that could mitigate expected danger, shallow ones were put in place. In some houses, the drains were blocked with wires to glitter waste/garbage,” said Farinloye.

Similarly, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) has consistently warned that many parts of the country are likely to experience flooding due to a shift in rainfall pattern caused by climate change. In line with NiMet’s 2018 Seasonal Rainfall Prediction (SRP), so much water would be made available on the surface between the last week of July and end of August. Against the background that the havoc which the rains have wreaked on Nigeria’s coastal communities in the past five years has been monumental, it is sad that all the warnings by the relevant agencies were ignored.

As we have continued to admonish, government, at all levels, should go beyond mere promises and relief handouts and begin to tackle the floods head-on, through provision of drains and improvement of the riverbanks. It is very likely that once the waters dry, these communities will relapse into their old ways of life. There is also the need to resettle those living close to the waters far from their flood-prone areas. Naturally, there will be resistance from people who would not like to move from their present habitat but they must be made to realise the consequences of whatever choice they make, between accepting to be resettled and staying back in their endangered communities.