Government should do more to cushion the impact of floods

A recent warning from the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) that floods from the upper reaches of the Niger Basin comprising eight African countries – Guinea, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Benin, Chad and Cameroon –will threaten several states in the country confirms that when it rains in Nigeria, it actually pours. 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.

According to the NIHSA Director-General, Mr Clement Nze, daily records from the agency’s hydrological measuring stations across the country show steady rise in water levels. Nze said this started manifesting early in no less than 15 states, namely Niger, Lagos, Edo, Imo, Abia, Jigawa, Adamawa, Delta, Rivers, Cross River, Oyo, Enugu, Kebbi, Nasarawa, Bauchi and the Federal Capital Territory, adding that the localised urban flooding incidents being witnessed in some cities and communities were expected to continue due to high rainfall intensity, long duration, rainstorms, blockage of drainage system and poor urban planning.

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. Like the preceding months, August has had a sad share of tragedies. 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 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 NIHSA Director General 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.

The authorities in the 36 states and local governments 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 drainage 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, bridges and economic activities.

If we are to overcome this perennial challenge, 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 in Nigeria. Experts endorse a conscious planting of vegetation to absorb excess water, construction of floodway, dams, ponds and reservoirs to retain the extra water generated during the crises.

Such remedies, no doubt, require political will, long-term planning, allocating of 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.

Beyond the intervention of the government at all levels is the need for Nigerians to begin to imbibe the correct attitude to waste disposal because flooding cannot be solely explained by the force of nature.