•FG insists magnitude of current natural disaster not seen since 2012
•No need for panic over food insecurity, minister assures
Emmanuel Addeh, James Emejo and Kasim Sumaina in Abuja
The hellish condition of those impacted by the flood in several states is intensifying even as the federal government confirmed yesterday that at least 500 persons had died in the last few weeks due to the devastating impact of the natural disaster.
The figure was released at a meeting in Abuja convened by the federal government comprising all relevant agencies of connected to tackling the menace in the country.
Aside the 500 persons that have now died as a result of the national disaster, the federal government also revealed that 45,249 houses have been totally destroyed while 70,566 hectares of farmlands have been damaged.
However, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Mohammed Abubakar, yesterday said though Nigerians could express concerns over the devastating floods across the country, there should be no panic over threats to food security.
THISDAY recently reported that a boat carrying more than 80 people, capsized in the south-eastern state of Anambra last Friday, as people desperately tried to escape the floods that had risen as high as rooftops.
In the same area, at least 600,000 people had been displaced, according to the country’s National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).
Apart from the catastrophic flooding for states located along the courses of rivers Niger and Benue, at least three of Nigeria’s overfilled reservoirs have overflowed, causing havoc in its wake.
The Anambra tragedy followed the devastating aftermath of a flood that swept through swaths of neighbouring north-central Kogi state a week ago, leaving buildings submerged under water that rose to levels not seen in a decade, according to officials of the Kogi Red Cross Society.
Also heavily submerged are communities along the fringes of River Benue in Nasarawa State and River Niger traversing the boundary between Kwara and Niger states.
“Many people have been rendered homeless in Lokoja … as houses were submerged by flood. The roads served as a link between North Central and Southern parts of the country and many passengers were stranded,” the Red Cross told CNN.
Governor of Kogi State, Mr. Yahaya Bello had revealed that nine areas along the Niger and Benue River were affected.
“Ibaji is almost 100 per cent under water while the rest range from 30 per cent up … We therefore have a serious and humanitarian tragedy on our hands, but I wish to assure every person, family and community which has been affected that they are not alone and that help is coming,” he noted.
The situation in Kogi, THISDAY gathered, had affected the movement of inter-state travellers, some of whom were stuck in traffic for days.
In addition, the situation had seriously impacted fuel supply in Abuja and environs as tankers from the southern part of the country have not been able to move beyond Kogi which serves as a gateway from the south to the north.
While displaced persons are now taking shelter in the homes of relatives and good Samaritans in neighbouring towns unaffected by the flood, Bello noted that he was working to reduce the impact of the flood.
One of the causes of the latest round of flooding, NEMA said, was the release of excess water from a dam in neighbouring Cameroon which it said was complicating Nigeria’s already disastrous flood crisis.
“The Lagdo dam operators in the Republic of Cameroun have commenced the release of excess water from the reservoir by 13th September, 2022. We are aware that the released water cascades down to Nigeria through River Benue and its tributaries thereby inundating communities that have already been impacted by heavy precipitation,” NEMA said recently.
But Kogi in the north central is not the only state reeling from the devastating impact of the latest flood. In neighbouring Nasarawa state, which is also grappling with flood water cascading down the River Benue, farmers are counting their losses from ravaged farmlands.
It’s the same in north-eastern Adamawa, where more people are dying from flood-related incidents.
In the south-east too due to River Niger bursting its banks around Onitsha and Ogbaru, many houses are now also submerged.
One of the biggest impacts of the flooding THISDAY learnt would be food shortage as farmers in the north cannot move their produce and animals to the south while tanker drivers cannot move fuel to the north.
Areas mostly impacted in Anambra aside Ogbaru and Onitsha North are Onitsha South, Anambra East, Anambra West, Awka North, Ayamelum and Oyi local government areas.
In Kogi, the popular Ganaja road leading to Ajaokuta, Kogi East and Eastern part have been submerged while oncoming have had to park by the roadside.
The situation is also expected to affect the price of rice around December as Olam Nigeria Limited, one of Nigeria’s biggest agri-business companies, said the massive flooding from River Benue damaged the company’s crops and infrastructure.
Vice-president, Olam Nigeria Limited, Ade Adefeko had said the incident affected the company’s $20 million investment and about 25 percent of Nigeria’s rice needs, describing the situation as “very terrible.”
“The entire team from the farm worked very hard to prevent the colossal damage…but it affected us to a large extent. We supply about 25 per cent of Nigeria’s rice needs and that has been affected and have lost over $20 million,” he said.
“When they say it rains. It’s not really raining, it’s pouring. So it’s terrible” he added.
The Olam Rice Farm is located in Lukubi Doma Local Government Area of Nasarawa state. The farm sits on 10,000 hectares and is one of the largest rice farms in Nigeria and Africa with N140 million worth of investment.
But the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sani Gwarzo, while releasing the latest statistics yesterday, told journalists that the government was working hard to address the situation.
“In the area of the flood disaster outlook, records from the field have indicated that the 2022 flood is comparable only to the 2012 flood in terms of human displacement, livelihood disruption, infrastructure damage and environmental dislocation.
“The National Emergency Management Agency has confirmed that as at October 9, 2022, water levels at Lokoja and Makurdi along Rivers Niger and Benue is 11 per cent above the level recorded in 2012.
“So far the flood has wreaked havoc in 31 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Over 500 persons are reported dead; 1,411,051 affected; 790,254 displaced persons with 1,546 persons injured.
“Furthermore, 44,099 houses are partially damaged; 45,249 houses totally damaged; 76,168 hectares of farmland partially damaged and 70,566 hectares of farmland are completely destroyed by the great deluge,” he revealed.
He added that relief materials were being made available to persons in need, stressing that NEMA had provided relief support to over 315,000 displaced persons across the flood disaster hotspots where state capacities had been overwhelmed.
He added: “The provision of food and non-food items for immediate relief and building materials for reconstruction and rehabilitation is ongoing. Field assessment of the situation is constantly received from NEMA zonal, territorial and operations offices across the country.”
According to Gwarzo, there had also been a deployment of vital materials so as to save lives, adding that the positive outcomes from the field were being felt by those impacted.
He explained that as part of the federal government’s food intervention to cushion the effect of inflation and pre-harvest food shortage, President Muhammadu Buhari had approved the release of 12,000 metric tonnes of grains from the national strategic grains reserve silos overseen by the agriculture ministry.
Floods: No Need for Panic over Food Insecurity, Says Abubakar
Meanwhile, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Mohammed Abubakar, yesterday said there should be no panic over threats to food security.
Speaking at a media briefing to mark the 2022 World Food Day celebration with theme: “Leave no one behind, better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and better Life,” he maintained that the federal government was doing everything humanly possible to ensure that Nigerians do not go hungry.
He said this was why the country has large quantities of grains stocked in the Strategic Grains Reserves, adding a lot of strategies were being put into action to ensure Nigerians don’t go hungry.
He said, “We don’t have a shortage of food in Nigeria at this point and we want to make sure there is no shortage. But yes, prices have risen…”
But the minister’s assurances came on a day the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and Oxfam highlighted continued threats to the country’s food security.
The minister said the government had also invested so much in the agricultural sector and created employment for Nigerians, insisting that President Muhammadu Buhari’s vision to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty was still on course.
Commenting on the flooding situation, the minister said, “We should be concerned, I am not going to tell you there’s no reason to be concerned, but panic, no! Because if you panic, then you lose your sense of ability to put yourself together to produce solutions. So, don’t panic but be concerned; we know what to do to correct and do damage control and we are doing that in every respect. And the government is doing everything to ensure there is no hunger.”
Abubakar, however, said in the face of global crises and escalating threats, therefore, global solutions are needed more than ever to safeguard life and transform our agri-food systems.
The FAO is actively working towards the achievement of food security and nutrition and supporting the necessary transformation of agri-food systems in collaboration with other UN agencies and partners at international and national levels.
He also reaffirmed a renewed commitment between the federal government and FAO for continuous collaboration to strengthen the agricultural sector and enhance food and nutrition security while contributing to the eradication of poverty, hunger, and malnutrition in Nigeria.
The minister said, “As we mark the 2022 World Food Day, the world continues to grapple with multiple crises which include conflicts, displacement, economic shocks, escalating food prices, climate change, and so on.
“This has resulted in food scarcity and affected global food supply; all must come together to bring about the transformation that the world needs.”
According to him, “The day is like a reminder to eat mindfully and consider that millions of people are unable to afford one meal for themselves.
“It is important that we rededicate ourselves to this very important event and its purpose by drawing attention through global awareness, bold action, and innovation to enhance effectively the channels that make our food systems stronger and more equitable.”
However, in his remarks at the occasion, FAO Country Representative in Nigeria and ECOWAS, Mr. Fred Kafeero, said an analysis carried out at the beginning of the year showed that about 19.4 million Nigerians faced food insecurity in 21 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
He said, “So as food insecurity worsens, so does the risk of malnutrition. It is estimated that about two million children suffer from severe acute malnutrition.
“We need to harness the power of solidarity and collective action to undertake sustainable production and consumption of healthy diet, address the problem of post-harvest losses, and increase efficiency in the use of natural resources…”
Similarly, Oxfam Programme Manager, Just Economies, Mr. William Mafwalal, at the briefing noted that over the past decade food crisis had been increasing across the West African subregion including in Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad, and Mali.
He said between 2015 and 2022, the number of people in need of emergency food assistance nearly quadrupled, from 7 million to 27 million.
He said, “The solution to tackling hunger is not to increase production, which is proposed by many supporters of industrial agriculture, no matter the environmental costs. It is to ensure more equal distribution and to address demand-side factors which increase food prices and drive farmland use for purposes other than food production, such as unsustainable biofuel production.
“The answer to tackling hunger does not lie in global value chains. Instead, the focus should be on supporting local food production. As the war in Ukraine has shown, overreliance on global value chains has created massive vulnerabilities, as a high number of low-income countries rely on just a handful of large agricultural producer countries to feed their people.”
Expect More River Flooding, NiMet Warns North Central, South-eastern States
In the meantime, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) yesterday warned that states in the north central and south-eastern parts of Nigeria should brace up for more flooding.
The Director General of NiMet, Prof. Mansur Bako Matazu stated this on the sidelines of the ongoing Hydro-meteorological status and outlook system (HydroSOS) in Abuja.
This was just as the Nigerian Hydrological Service Agency (NIHSA) revealed that the Ladgo dam in Cameroun would continue to spill till next month.
The NiMet DG, while speaking on the current flood impact across the country, explained that though flooding as a result of rainfall may have reached its peak, noted that as a result of the opening of dams and other water holding facilities could still affect states in north central and the south-east.
“You remember, we issued the forecast in February and we followed up with the monthly updates that we are going to have above normal rainfall in most part of the country.
“So in terms of the rainfall-induced floods, we have seen the peak, but remember we told you that this rainwater gets collected into the reservoirs and dams, and whenever they are filled, it gets filled.
“So on September 13, the Ladgo dam was released. Other dams were also released. So what we are witnessing now is riverine flooding. And from the information we are getting, we are going to see more flood.
“And now the rains are concentrating in the north-central and the southern states. So that will be a combination of short duration, high intensity rain, with riverine flooding. “We are going to see more of these floods in the north central states as we have seen in Kogi and also south eastern and south-western states as we are beginning to see in Anambra and some of parts of south-west.”
While speaking on the HydroSOS workshop hosted by the Nigerian Meteorological Agency in collaboration with the Nigerian Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) with support of the United Kingdom Centre 7 for Ecology and Hydrology (UKCEH) and World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), the director-general said: “It is no longer news to anyone here that water-related hazards and threats has become a global challenge in the face of a changing climate coupled with population growth and increasing socio-economic activities.
“Every year water-related hazard affects millions of people globally and cause damages to properties worth billions of dollars. It is expected that water-associated risks are going to intensify in the coming years as the full weight of climate change begin to bear on our earth.
” In Africa, water-related hazards such as flood, drought have become a major cause of food insecurity, strains on livelihoods, health risks and conflicts in many parts of the continent.
“Water-related challenges facing governments at all levels include securing water supplies, designing appropriate water governance schematic, sustaining the management of trans-boundary basins, managing flood and/or drought as well as ensuring the protection and conservation of our ecosystem.
“It has been observed that one of the major factors to effectively manage water resources and address some of the above challenges is the availability of hydro-meteorological information and products targeted to serve the needs of the different sectors,” Matazu said.
Also speaking at the event the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, represented by the Rector of the Nigeria College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Capt. Abdulsalam Mohammed, in his keynote address stated that, “over the years, the management and distribution of water resources as well as mitigation of water-related hazards and disasters has been challenging for government at all levels, globally.
“Sometimes, this may be attributed to deficiency of hydro-meteorological information during planning in times past exacerbated by the impacts of changing climate.”
Sirika further stressed that the deficiency of information could be linked to insufficient local-scale data, lack of regional to global coherence in hydrological information and modelling systems, limited dialogue between the multitude of actors, which renders the understanding of stakeholders’ water management needs unclear.
“As a result of these shortfalls, water managers and stakeholders cannot properly assess the availability of water resources on different spatio-temporal scales. Thus, the need to have hydrological information and products that are impact-based, demand-driven and users specific,” he added.
In his contribution, the Director General, NIHSA, Engr. Clement Nze, said the Ladgo dam in Cameroun would continue to spill water till November 18th this year.
Nze said: “Even though the flood maybe reducing in the northern part of the country, the southern part will still be going up. So, we should prepare.”
NIWA Commiserates with Anambra Govt, Residents over Boat Mishap
Also, management of National Inland Waterways Authority NIWA (NIWA) has commiserated with the people and government of Anambra State over the recent boat mishap which consumed 10 lives at Umnnakwo, Ogbaru Local Government Area of Anambra State
The agency while expressing deep shock and sadness stated that the boat mishap though described as a mechanical and human error, could have been averted if the basic safety guidelines of wearing life jackets and avoiding overloading amongst other safety rules were adhered to.
The Authority, in a statement by its General Manager Corporate Affairs, Jibril Darda’u stated: “According to the report from our Onitsha Area Office, at about 12:30pm of the 7th day of October 2022, it was revealed that the wooden engine boat, after it has loaded 48 passengers, left for its destination; but at a point, the engine developed a mechanical fault and as such could not start again.
“All efforts by the captain of the boat to restart the engine proved abortive and at that point, the wave/current of the river started to pull the boat backwards towards the bridge linking Umunnakwo/Ossomala.
“Some of the passengers who could swim jumped into the river for safety, while others tried to push the boat away from the bridge. Those that could not swim were trapped in the boat and out of fear, they all moved to one side of the boat and as soon as the boat collided with the bridge, it capsized leaving ten persons dead (all women and children). Out of the 48 passengers, 38 were rescued alive (5 were children and 33 adults).”
The statement further read: “Despite the several efforts of the Managing Director of NIWA Chief Dr. George Moghalu in distributing free life jackets to boat operators association in all our 23 Area offices Nationwide and sensitisation campaign and training for boat operators and water users on the importance of adhering to the safety guidelines on the waterways; to our dismay, it was revealed that only one of the passengers on board wore life jacket and was saved while others were not on life jacket.”