Government must pay attention to the environment

As if the news of the devastating flood disaster in Lokoja, the Kogi State capital, is not distressing enough, the authorities in Bayelsa last week directed the immediate closure of all schools due to flooding in the state. According to the Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr. Daniel Iworiso-Markson, a large number of communities in virtually all the local government areas were seriously affected by the flooding. “The Bayelsa State Executive Council has directed immediate closure of all schools including private institutions in the state as a precautionary measure to avoid loss of lives to severe flooding in the state”, he said.

It would appear there is hardly any state in the country that is not affected by the current flood as hundreds of thousands of our nationals now take shelter in internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps, in the hope that the waters will soon recede. But the waters are not receding fast enough as the nation is still littered with submerged roofs and ruined neighbourhoods. Within the past one month, villages, schools and farmlands have been submerged as more and more Nigerians join the growing population of internally displaced. While hundreds of thousands of citizens are still counting their losses, nature is wreaking more havoc on communities in several other states across the country.

In the last decade, Patrick Okigbo’s Nextier has been raising concerns about a general disinterest in the challenges we face even when “there has been steady increase in the number of natural environmental insecurity in Nigeria. This ranges from climatic issues such as desert encroachment to erosions and flooding.” It is therefore no surprise that in several coastal cities across the world today, climate change is creating a situation where too much water comes at an unexpected time, or in unexpected places causing serious problem. With that, densely populated, low-lying cities and towns in our country have also become an environmental nightmare for most of the inhabitants on account of flooding.

Instructively, while Nigeria has many challenges, environment is not often listed as one of them. That only shows our lackadaisical disposition to serious issues. It is therefore time Nigeria became part of the global trend of putting issues of the environment on the front burner while the relevant authorities should be more proactive, especially in the prevention of natural disasters. And when they inevitably occur, governments at all tiers, complemented by private organisations and well-endowed individuals, should come to the aid of the victims as we see in other parts of the world.

Beyond such intervention both by the government and private sector is the need for Nigerians to begin to imbibe the correct attitude to waste disposal because flooding in some of our major cities cannot be solely explained by the factor of nature. The habit of the people indeed plays a crucial role in what has been happening over the years anytime it rains. Most of the drains are blocked due to the indiscriminate dumping on the roads and drainages empty cans and pure water nylons, among others.

Meanwhile, it is not enough for the government to just ask citizens to leave their houses built on flood path without providing compensations or any measures for their relocation, especially if those buildings have all the requisite permits which suggest that the owners are not to blame. Also, there is need for the authorities to resettle those living in flood-prone areas, especially in situations where that is the only solution to the problem.

In the final analysis, Nigerians must come to terms with the fact that we are at a period in history when the forces of nature are raging and we must be prepared to deal with them.