The states must brace up to avert another major disaster

A heavy flood which recently claimed the life of a pregnant woman along with four of her children and five other persons in Suleja, Niger State, is a sign of what to expect in the course of the current raining season. In May, the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) released the 2020 Annual Flood Outlook (AFO). Based on the forecast, 102 local government areas in 28 states fall within the highly probable flood risk areas while 275 councils in the 36 states, and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), fall within the moderately probable flood risk areas. The remaining 397 councils fall within the low probable flood risk areas.

We hope the authorities in the states would put preventive measures in place. These states include Rivers, Cross River, Delta, Lagos, Ondo, Bayelsa, Sokoto, Kogi, Niger, Kaduna, Gombe, Adamawa, Benue, Nasarawa, Delta, Oyo, Ogun, Osun, Ekiti, Ebonyi, Edo, Abia, Anambra, Imo, Borno, Kano, Kebbi and the FCT. In Kwara State where flooding was not expected, a bridge embankment recently collapsed, killing three when a vehicle conveying five passengers was washed away by flood. In Akwa Ibom, also not listed, hundreds of houses were destroyed in Eket following a heavy downpour that rendered thousands homeless.

As we have repeatedly highlighted, some of the causes of flooding are self-inflicted by residents of these communities who are fond of dumping refuse on waterways. We have also seen many instances where people arbitrarily put up structures on flood plains and water channels. This act of lawlessness obstructs the waterways and makes the areas prone to flooding. Besides the loss of lives, the economic consequence of flooding for the country can be dire.

Flooding does enormous damage to the eco-system and destroys public utilities. It also elevates the risk of hunger and malnutrition because of disruption of farm lands and commercial losses for farmers engaged in subsistence farming. With its urbanisation rate put at 5.5 per cent yearly and considered one of the highest rate in the world, the number of Nigerians at risk or vulnerable to flood hazards is likely to increase. One needs to quickly recall the devastating effect of flooding in various parts of the country in times past. Specifically, in 2012, similar warnings were given by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) which were not heeded by the state governments and local communities at the end of which scores of lives were lost.

The then President Goodluck Jonathan who visited some of the hundreds of thousands of people rendered homeless as major rivers like the Niger, burst their banks between July and October, 2012 had called it a “national disaster”. But it seems no lesson had so far been learnt going by the latest warning of NEMA regarding possible flooding incidents in 28 states. Since the warning by the agency, has there been any precautionary measures put in place by the state governments to avert a repeat of the 2012 incident?

For that not to happen, the federal and state governments must take immediate steps to ensure that we do not witness another flooding disaster. Perhaps, it is pertinent to ask: What has become of the ecological fund that billions of naira are usually voted for annually? How are the funds utilised in the affected states and what are the moves being made by the state governments to take care of the river banks?

The authorities must find answers for these questions as we witness another deluge of rains.