New Telegraph

September 29, 2023

AFO 2023: Why Governments, Residents Should Rise To Avoid Another Disaster

The 2022 Annual Flood Outlook (AFO) by the relevant agencies predicted a possible flood disaster in the country, but both the government and the people took the prediction largely with levity and they paid for it in a hard way. This year, another prediction of a worse possible flooding has been released by the same agencies. ADEYINKA ADENIJI in this piece urges the government and the people to take precautionary measures now

Every year, floods plague many parts of Nigeria. The gravity of incidences and devastating dimensions on the economic and human lives has manifestly proved the annual climate prediction by the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMET) as a worthy Authority when it comes to climate predictions in the country.

Flooding is both nature induced and maninspired. Its effects are, plainly stated, devastating. The phenomenon has become an annual ritual of loss, teeth-gnashing, wanton destruction of lives and properties, and orchestration of dilapidation to infrastructures and means of livelihood.

The government through the Ministry of Water Resources makes efforts at stimulating public consciousness and puts in place measures to mitigate and minimise the frequency as well as degree of losses from incidences of horrendous overflowing waters.

Accordingly, various environmental/climate-based government agencies and private corporate concerns, in the course of discharging their duties, engage in diverse standards, which include, but are not limited to preparation and public presentation of official documentation of seasonal climate predictions.

This they do as they undertake to curb the incessant manifestation of floods through public sensitisation. The government also provides useful information as to the magnitude and probable outcome of flood disaster outbreaks, in the form of forecasts and predictions periodically.

The Annual Flood Outlook (AFO) is one such authoritative document prepared to help guide in inspiring and aiding the right approach to flood mitigation and minimisation of losses therefrom. An annual release of the NiMET and Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA), government offices saddled with the responsibility of ensuring security for life and property against water-related hazards, the 2023 Annual Flood Outlook released on 17th of February 2023, characteristically raised the alarm on impending dangers of flooding once again.

According to the document, floods would be experienced between April and November. Typical of previous years, most states of the federation will experience destructive flooding. 2022 predictions and outcome A similar Flood Outlook for the year 2022 established the integrity of the official Ministry of Water Resources coordinate annual climate prediction.

It also revealed laxity in the preparedness of authorities in taking proactive measures in ensuring the security and lives and properties and the environment at large. The 2022 edition of the AFO had predicted that 32 states across the country, with the FCT will experience torrential rains that would lead to a flooding crisis.

Manifesting the efficacy of the NISHA forecast, not only were a total of 34 states eventually ravaged by a never-seenbefore magnitude of the flood that destroyed lives and properties; some of the states, like Kogi, Bayelsa, Anambra, among others were submerged under rainwaters  for weeks  true to the forecasts.

The manifestation also showed accuracy as to the publicised month-by-month timeline predictions by the agencies. As predicted, both coastal and hinterland states across the federation were submerged for weeks, while many resulted to makeshift habitats where they navigate flooded communities and streets paddling make-shift canoes.

The situation prompted both humanitarian and health emergencies across the nation. An undeniable resultant cholera outbreak, waterborne disease broke out in Borno, Bauchi, and other states where the floods wreaked havoc, killing dozens. These arguably cannot be dissociated from the hazards posed by flooding on the general body of environmental water and degradation of the soil, which ultimately creates food insecurity and scarcity concerns.

According to various reports by relevant MDAs, causes of the 2022 flood disasters, rated unprecedented in the annals of the country, include effects of climate change like; precipitation, and oceanic tidal surges; indiscriminate refuse disposal which causes blockage of canals and drainages.

Other major causes peculiar to urban centers like Lagos are not limited to densely built and fully paved ground surface areas, which culminate into distortion in the normal hydrological cycle. A higher Land Cover to Land Use (LC/ LU) ratio limits the percolation of flood waters while increasing surface runoff, resulting in flood incidences.

Last year’s flood disaster was sadly climaxed by the release of dam water from neighboring Cameroon. Effects of 2022 flood Generally, environmental violation; man’s unholy encroachment on parts of the geography that should ordinarily be left inhabited constitutes largely flooding. This, however, is caused by the need to solve shelter problems as a result of increased population and ecological modernisation.

A post-disaster assessment account by the Federal Government revealed that the 2022 disaster surpassed the 2012 occurrence, which was hitherto considered the gravest in terms of casualties and general loss to the economy. Government records revealed the statistics of losses at the end of November 2022, when the waters eventually subsided.

As of October 2022, over 1.4million people had lost their homes, some utterly, others partially destroyed. Over 600 lives were reportedly lost and about 2500 were left injured. According to a statement released by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), over 200,000 houses were damaged and 332,327 hectares of farmland destroyed. Analysts believe the galloping costs of food items in the market have been partly orchestrated by a shortage in national production.

This is traceable to a lot of factors; the major of which is the high costs of transportation of farm produce, which is occasioned by a shortage in supply of petroleum products because road transportation networks were disrupted as floods washed away roads in places like Adamawa, Bayelsa, and Imo states and so on.

Going by the reliable level of precision as has been proved by NIMET/NISHA AFO over the years, viz-a-viz exactness of the forecast, which manifested in the gravity of resultant loss to flooding, this year’s impending disaster, as predicted, may yet prove to be another catastrophically unprecedented dimension of tragedy.

Observation around some flood-prone locations, particularly some of the areas affected by the similarly predicted flood emergency zones of 2022, shows widespread palpable apprehension among habitats exist. While many citizens whose abode falls along the flood path corridors in some parts of Lagos do not mind relocating to makeshift shanties where they were forced to put up last year when the floods came ravaging, others are only hopeful and sure of the homelessness that stares them in the face any moment forward.

Victims recount experiences Victims’ accounts revealed there are palpable fears among those who may be vulnerable to the impending floods this year. At Arigbanla – Agege, New Telegraph spoke to a middle-aged man who simply identified himself and was fondly but ironically referred to by passers-by and neighbors as Onilé (homeowner or landlord), expressed hopes that the government would create a camp for vulnerables like himself and numerous others who would be displaced by impending overflowing waters as the rainy season commence in earnest.

Onile explained that the flood water that is gradually eroding the foundations of his rented residence is caused by the need to expand a flood channel that has been overstretched by increased flooding due to the growing population and the narrowing down of natural floodplains through urbanisation. Similarly at the Ahmadiya area of Agbado Oke-Odo, 20-year-old, Julius Obayomi, who engages in electrical repair works around the Bajomo Street, Hamadiya-Ojokoro neighborhood of Alimosho, lamented the ordeals of inhabitants of the area.

“It’s getting worse every year. 2021 was better than 2022. We are moving out soon,” he said. While calling on authorities to think of any last-minute magic to save lives and properties of Lagosians in the area. At the back of his house lies an abandoned canal work. New Telegraph traced the alignment of the about 20-meter-deep under-construction high-volume canal to the Obadeyi bust stop of the busy Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway.

It was meant to carry the body of rain waters from the opposite Ojokoro LCDA axis, towards the Agbelekale canal on Ekoro road, Abule Egba, towards Aboru.” Expectedly, the non-completion of the flood control infrastructure at Bajomo Street is now causing more problems than there was immediately to solve.

The people are now preposterously considering any other place, including dump sites at the dreaded Katangowa Market, Oke-Odo as an option. Another affected resident on the street, Abdulahi, who rides Okada in the neighborhood, says he has only one option left if he wouldn’t revert to his native northern village.

He is considering going back onto the trash heap where he came from. “This house is going. If it rains, we cannot stay,” says 20-something-year-old Abdul, as he is also called, who says he was a cart pusher before buying a motorcycle which he now rides for commercial purposes.

“My brother ever refers,” referring to the government-designated refuse dump at the Oke Odo axis of the busy highway. “I will go back there,” he concluded with determination as his countenance revealed an undeniable retirement to fate. Also at Fatoki Street, Orile Agege, in the Agege Local Government Area, where vehicles including SUVs were swept away by torrential flood following precipitation on the 9th of July, 2022, expansion works commenced on the popular canal remains a work in progress.

It passes through the area towards Almaroof on the Lagos Abeokuta Expressway inward Aboru, but residents say work has remained at the speed of snail. Dwellers who were all sacked from their houses but returned after weeks, later last year are not ready to risk their lives.

To them, when the rain starts, any other places become better than their own houses. The situation had informed socio-economic losses around the areas. Return on property investment has been eroded, in places where tenants consider it manageable to sleep each night with one eye wide open. Few of the houses still occupied may soon become entirely deserted.

A shop owner who goes by the name Mrs. Shogade says her landlady, a septuagenarian widow, has not asked for rent since the beginning of the year. She had suffered wanton destruction of her stock of provisions which she sold in the shop before the destructive visitor of July 9th, 2022.

“Even my landlord knows what I lost last July,” said a woman in a tailoring shop, who said she learned the art of sewing when her provision shop valued at hundreds of thousands was destroyed by the flood. In reference to her landlady, Shogade said: “Grandma is waiting for us to move at any time. She knows nobody will rent the shop again until the government finds a solution to the everyyear flooding in the area.”

She disclosed plans to relocate to Ogun State. “We are relocating to Ogun State. I will start life afresh when we eventually move. That’s why I am not looking for a new shop yet. We have a shop in front of the house” Virtually everywhere visited by New Telegraph, which happens to have experienced the floods in 2022, had an under-construction flood control infrastructure or the other not far from them.

Sadly, they are either abandoned or far from completion. 2023 NISHA annual flood outlook According to the latest release by the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA), titled; “Flood Prediction and its Impact on Socio-Economic Livelihood of Nigerians, Adamawa, Abia, Akwa- Ibom, Anambra, Bauchi, Bayelsa, CrossRiver Cross-River, Delta, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Edo State will experience flooding this year. Others including; Gombe, Imo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Lagos, Nasarawa, Niger, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Rivers, Sokoto, Taraba, Yobe, as well as Zamfara states, and the FCT, will also be hit by flooding.

A total of 178 local government areas in these states were marked as highly probable flood zones. Also, for April, May, and Jun, 66 LGAs across the country are marked as Highly Probable Risks Areas, with 148 other LGAs in October and November 2023.

According to the Minister of Water Resources, Engr. Suleiman Adamu, while presenting the 2023 Annual Flood Outlook on Friday 17th, February 2023; impacts of floods this year are expected to be high and negative on population, agriculture, livelihood, livestock, public and civil infrastructures, and the overall environment.

Similar to last year’s, NiMET also predicted a month-by-month timeline of the impending flood tragedy. Areas in the South-South, particularly Bayelsa, Rivers, and Akwa Ibom, were predicted to downpour in March. Southern inland cities like Ibadan in April while central states will experience theirs in May. Fears for 2023 Already, it’s becoming clearer by the day as the 2023 spots of rain commence, that NIMET and NIHSA may have come to register themselves as reliable weather forecast agents in the West African sub-region.

The assertion may not be logically faulted as the seasonal climate prediction is already manifesting. The few rains recorded in the year, especially in April left frightening snippets into what could be expected, going by the accuracy of past predictions. On April 12th, in Sagamu, Ogun State, a 14-year-old secondary school lad who was identified with his school uniform as a student of Agbele Community High School,was said to have been washed into a canal with a commercial motorcyclist who was taking him home in a flood.

Areas like Ajaka, Express Junction, Ogunyanwo, Olayinka, and Isale-Ojumele of the town were badly hit with properties worth hundreds of millions destroyed. According to an Environmentalist, Dr. Gbenga Ogunkan, a lecturer in the Department of Town and Regional Planning, The Bells University, Ota, factors that give rise to the frequency and severity of destructive impacts of flooding are being tackled by the government, but more needs to be done.

Speaking further, he said another factor that will contribute to a pinhole precision in the fulfillment of the 2023 climate forecast is the continued encroachment on flood paths, especially towards riverine areas. Lagos State government Nonetheless, the Lagos State government said it was ready for the rains this year. Speaking during a media briefing on the year 2023 seasonal climate predictions and its-economic implications for the state, the commissioner for environment, Tunji Bello, said, “We will put all emergency, traffic management organisations and other emergency-related organisations on high alert to help lessen the detrimental effects of thunderstorms and associated rains in the state.”

He also averred that occasional flash floods are inevitable, as they percolate the ground shortly after. Adding that it is only when precipitation takes place that a case of flooding occurs mostly. Precipitation and frequently unabated heavy downpours, over time culminate in flash floods. This according to the 2023 outlook, is another inevitable factor that may increase flooding casualty figures this year.

This is so due to the ungodly corruption of the environment. The continued emission of environmentally unfriendly carbon, with damaging impacts on atmospheric layers, may increase the chances and likeliness of precipitation. The untoward emission represents a violation of the environment and this may aid in stimulating the accuracy of the AFO 2023.

Bello’s statement highlights the parts played and which will continue to be played by urbanisation in flooding disasters, which will be significant and will most definitely contribute to the accuracy with which the latest AFO may most likely come to pass.

Further, he said, “Another contributory factor to flooding which everyone should be cognizant of is lagoon level rise. Anytime there is high tidal movement, it may “lock up” the discharge points of drainage channels and until it recedes, there will be no discharge. Accordingly, relevant government agencies say they are getting ready for the annual ‘visitor’, each working within their mandate to ensure that flood risk is kept low this year.

Clement Nze, Director-General of NIHSA, who earlier announced that 178 LGAs in 32 states and the FCT would experience severe flooding in 2023, called for action to be taken early enough to avert any disasters. Speaking recently at a public gathering, he said, “This time, we came out early with this prediction and we expect that relevant actors, governments, and individuals will go to work.

“We expect that actions should be taken, especially at the sub-national levels, early enough, to mitigate the impact of flooding in the country,” Now, more frightening is the observable under-preparedness in terms of physical improvement on existing, yet outstretched anti-flooding infrastructures.

This indicates that the 2023 AFO, like others in the past, is heavily pregnant with wanton destruction of wealth. Incontrovertible also is the fact that the fast-approaching rainy/ flooding season may yet pose another round of humanitarian, and environmental crises.

There are valid fears among citizens that the economy will be the worst hit once again, as incidents will lead to a drastic reduction in national productivity. Soil nutrients are usually washed off during flooding. This is feared may have negative impacts on food quality and may contribute to increased economic human loss.

The fast-approaching rainy season is pregnant with another round of yearly loss, both economic and human. Failure, however, on the part of governments across the tiers, to spring last-minute surprises in completing all abandoned canal construction works, within a couple of weeks to come, may prove last year’s crisis, which was said to have rubbed the system of over 2 trillion naira as a child’s play.

Instructively, the 2022 flood disaster; the wanton loss of lives and displacement of over 2 million people; destruction of over 200,000 houses, and the unquantifiable value of farmlands and agricultural output, followed by a similar warning by the 2023 AFO, is, hence, a wake-up call for stakeholders  government and vulnerable members of the public  to brace up and be prepared for greater responsibilities, particularly taking steps to ensure that foreseeable risks are minimised.

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