Government should make good use of data on hydrological behaviour at their disposal
The heavy floods being recorded in various parts of the country since the middle of this year have, not surprisingly, caused destruction of lives and property and also disrupted the socio-economic life of many Nigerians. Considering the predictability of these calamities, as they occur mainly during the rainy season, the unpreparedness that worsens their magnitude is both inexcusable and scandalous. Time has come for the nation to rise to the occasion and frontally confront this recurring shame and pain.
Unfortunately, even though the casualties are relatively lower this year, most affected areas are clearly overwhelmed. Like the preceding months, August has had a sad share of tragedies. It opened with rainstorms which killed seven persons, damaged dozens of houses and disrupted power supply in Yola, Adamawa State. Flooding in Abuja, a growing nemesis of some of its suburbs, in a bizarre move, also swept away a Director of the High Court of Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Tony Okwecheme, at the Galadimawa Roundabout in Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC). That day, some houses collapsed and an unspecified number of people were reported drowned at the Lokogoma axis of the FCT.
Still this month, the run of disasters continued in Kaduna State where the government was compelled to advise residents along the banks of River Kaduna to relocate temporarily to escape the upsurge. A devastating impact of floods was also felt by 15 communities in Ohaji/Egbema and Oguta local government areas (LGAs) of Imo State as 6000 people were displaced and over 200 homes destroyed. As if in a tragic consonance, a bridge within the precincts of the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University (ATBU) Bauchi, buckled in the rains, killing four students of the institution. These unfortunate incidents and others occasioned by similar circumstances are not inevitable, a fact that heightens the anger and frustrations accompanying the catastrophes.
It has been proved that negligence, the inability of applicable bodies to respond adequately and timely to warnings and some existing environmental factors contribute in making these frequent floods appear invincible. We recall that several months before the current devastating experiences, the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA), through its 2019 Annual Flood Outlook (AFO), had announced that 74 LGAs spread across the nation were particularly vulnerable this year, especially between June and September. The Director General of the agency, Clement Nze, had specifically advised stakeholders to take preventive, proactive measures to avert or ameliorate the consequences of the disasters.
However, government, at all levels, has failed woefully to optimally manage and utilise the data on hydrological behaviour placed at their disposal. State and local authorities in particular should control the unnatural causes of the onslaught of monstrous and destructive water flows, namely erecting structures on waterways, inadequate water channels, reckless dumping of wastes that block drainages and failure to clear drain systems regularly.
The country must not become accustomed to the ugly, far-reaching outcomes of flooding which are hazardous to health, housing, agriculture, hydrology, wildlife habitat, bridges and economic activities. Lessons should be learnt from other societies around the world where the painful results of overflowing rivers and torrential rains receive proper attention. Fruitful efforts are painstaking, unlike the quick-fix approaches often adopted here. Experts endorse a conscious planting of vegetation to absorb excess water, construction of floodways, dams, ponds and reservoirs to retain the extra water generated during the crises.
Such remedies, no doubt, require political will, long-term planning, allocating sufficient funds and professional execution. So, every necessary action must be taken now, especially with the recent further caution about next month’s expected water rage, to salvage the situation. Relevant stakeholders like governments, NIHSA, Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet), National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and National Orientation Agency (NOA) should urgently re-strategise and collaborate to stem these highly injurious tides.