New Telegraph

Stepping up Nation’s Flood Defences

Last week’s deluge which affected Lagos and many other cities across the country only further highlighted the urgent need for proactive measures to be taken by 31 states in the country, to stem the tide of the imminent floods, as predicted by the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency, (NIHSA) dawns on us as we enter further into the rainy season.

The imperative of such preventive moves is hinged on the bitter fact that despite similar warnings given by the Agency in previous years, the incident of the flushing floods has been reported in several states across the country. At the end of the day, ecological disasters take place resulting in the loss of precious lives, destruction of property worth billions of naira, food scarcity, increase in cholera and water-borne diseases, with some of the governors of the affected states shedding crocodile tears.

It would be recalled that recently the Federal Government sent letters to at least 31 governors informing them of the impending flooding in their states between the month of April and November this year. Specifically, NHSA listed a total of 148 local government areas in Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Borno, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi and Edo.

Others include Imo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Lagos, Nasarawa, Niger, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto, Taraba and Yobe. According to the Minister of Water Resources and Sanitation, Prof. Joseph Utsev, the warning on the likely floods is based on the 2024 Annual Flood Outlook for the country. Breaking it down, he stated that parts of 72 LGAs fall within the high flood risk areas in April, May and June while parts of 135 LGAs are to be affected in July, August and September.

Also, parts of 44LGAs are predicted to be affected in October and November. In addition, 249 local government councils in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) are predicted to witness moderate flooding. Such warnings should neither be taken with a pinch of salt nor wished away with vacuous promises without prompt actions. It was such an inept and lukewarm approach to previous warnings that led to serious disasters.

For instance, in 2021 the number of people affected by widespread flooding across Nigeria rose to over 3.2 million, with over 600 fatalities. Over 1.4 million people were displaced. So serious was the impact that 14,000 people were affected by cholera in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states with 443 deaths. Also, 4.1 million people faced severe food insecurity and 1.74 million children under -5 suffered from acute malnutrition that year Similarly, in 2022 floods affected many parts of the country. According to Federal Government data, the floods displaced over 1.4 million

The questions needing urgent answers include the root causes of flood disasters, the part government, the private sector and the people should play to reduce the scourge

people, killed over 603 people, and injured more than 2,400 people. About 82,035 houses were reportedly damaged, and 332,327 hectares of land were affected. As at October 2023, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said that 45 persons died while 171,545 persons were displaced as a result of widespread flooding experienced across the country in that year.

The questions needing urgent answers include the root causes of flood disasters, the part government, the private sector and the people should play to reduce the scourge and of course, the imperative of mass public enlightenment; to let the people understand the role they too have to play as preventive measures. Several studies have shown that flooding has become a frequent hazard in Nigeria traced to factors such as excessive rainfall, terrain and nature of soils, poor environmental planning/monitoring, as well as housing development in flood-prone areas.

Other factors include deforestation, haphazard developments resulting in the blockage of drains, poor waste disposal practices and negligence by governments in power. Worsening the situation are the challenges of rapid population growth, urbanisation, poor urban planning and climate change. The last listed has become disastrous, especially leading to increased frequency and intensity of rainfall which has resulted in flooding in major parts of Nigeria.

Answers have to be sought and implemented to reduce the annual flooding in the country. Some of the measures include building of dams, wing dykes, diversion spillways, afforestation and artificial levees. Dams are the classic hard engineering solution to flooding problems. It has become important to enlighten the people on the need to stop building houses close to rivers, lakes, lagoons and oceans, to also stop the indiscriminate felling of trees and blocking water pipes with all manner of wastes.

As for this year, it is good to note that President Bola Tinubu has inaugurated the National Economic Council Ad-hoc Committee on Flood Mitigation, Adaptation, Preparedness and Response. Also, the Water Resources minister has informed the various state governors of the possible flood situation for them to make the necessary preparations to effectively mitigate the negative impact of floods in their states.

With regards to the states, Benue is demolishing riverside buildings, Lagos State has directed residents close to rivers, canals and the Atlantic Ocean to relocate. The campaigns on environmental protection are ongoing in Sokoto and Edo states. All these proactive steps should be sustained to avert a flood disaster that could lead to destruction of valuable property and loss of innocent lives. Prevention will certainly be better than cure.

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