Udora Orizu writes that the widespread destruction and loss of lives caused by flooding in 2020, calls for all hands on deck by all tiers of government to put in place structures and adhere to warn…
Udora Orizu writes that the widespread destruction and loss of lives caused by flooding in 2020, calls for all hands on deck by all tiers of government to put in place structures and adhere to warnings issued by flood monitoring agencies ahead of the next flooding season
September 12, 2020, around 8:00pm, residents of Alapere area of Lagos State, raised alarm as another flooding tragedy struck. Two yet-to-be-identified children were swept away as people battled flood after a heavy rainfall that lasted for hours and led to destruction of properties.
This is just one of the horrific, heart-wrenching experiences Nigerians go through, following havoc wreaked by floods every year. Yet nothing is done by stakeholders to ameliorate the disaster.
Nigeria with a population of over 200 million people, faces numerous natural disasters, with flooding being the most common. Most states in the country are increasingly suffering from annual flooding during the rainy seasons. However unlike some natural disasters, rainfall flooding can be controlled with proper planning and the provision of necessary infrastructure.
Flooding in Nigeria is usually caused by climate change, river overflowing, dam opening, current poor urban planning practices, poor drainage systems that cant cope and so on. In the northern parts of the country, heavy rains are likely to cause rivers to overflow their banks and cause flooding in the neighboring states.
Floods have large social consequences for communities and individuals. The immediate impact of it include loss of human life, damage to property, destruction of crops, loss of livestock, and deterioration of health conditions owing to waterborne diseases. These were seen recurring this year, in various states of the federation.
Havoc in Some States
In a report on October last year, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said torrential rainfall, river floods and flash floods since September have cumulatively impacted 192,594 people across 22 states in Nigeria. Furthermore, around 826 injuries and 155 fatalities have so far been recorded and 24,134 people were reported to be displaced.
According to the Red Cross, the overflowing Benue and Niger rivers caused severe floods in Jigawa, Kebbi, Kwara, Sokoto and Zamfara States from October 6, affecting 91,254 people or 15,209 households. At least 57 people died, 473 were injured and 22,357 displaced. Flooding was also reported in southern parts of the country, Bayelsa, Anambra, Rivers and Delta States, were affected and fatalities reported.
One of the most devastating impact of floods was seen in Kebbi State. The flood swept away villages and peoples, displacing families and destroyed about 90 per cent of crops, putting the country’s food security at risk. Over 30 lives were lost, hundreds of houses destroyed and thousands of residents displaced by the devastating flood that sacked communities in the state.
The losses incurred by the farmers, particularly rice farmers in Kebbi State were colossal and immeasurable , they run into billions of naira . Thousands of hectares of fadama rice farms in the state were affected by the flood. Rice farms , other agricultural crops, livestock and even communities were not spared by the raging floods.
Chairman of the State Emergency Management Authority (KSEMA), Alhaji Sani Dododo, revealed that five different bridges had been washed away across the state.
The Birnin-Kebbi-Makera-Kangiwa road, an international highway, which runs from the state capital to Niger Republic, is at the risk of caving in at Duku. Some of the minor bridges and culverts along the highway are already caving in, following erosion caused by rising water overflowing the nearby River Rima.
Also, the Bagudo-Tuga-Kaoje route, which leads to Benin Republic border, including the Tuga Bridge, is also submerged, cutting border communities. Dododo, who confirmed the number of deaths recorded so far, said 10 people died in a boat that capsized at Ihiru in Jega Local Government.
Only eight bodies have so far been recovered; a family of six father, mother and children were wiped away in Arewa council area. We recorded one death in Yauri, among others. The numbers may increase, since we are experiencing rainfall daily. In Bagudo council area is the worst hit by the flooding, as it was learnt that 98 per cent of the villages were affected.
In Iwaro Oka community of Akoko South West Local Government area, Ondo Statea middle-aged man was swept away by flood. Sources said the motorcycle of the farmer, identified as Akede, was seen inside the river very close to a popular filling station, which made people aware that the farmer was missing. Family members were thrown into mourning when all efforts to find him proved abortive. His body was later recovered in a river very close to St Patricks College, Iwaro Oka.
In Lokoja, Kogi State, the road linking Kogi East and Eastern Nigeria to the state capital was flooded for days as canoe and boats were employed to navigate the roads which is meant for cars and other road users.
In Niger State, officials of the state government visited communities submerged by flood to ascertain the extent of damage and to enable government render assistance to victims.
In Kano State, the Kano Emergency Management Agency confirmed four persons killed and over 5,200 houses destroyed due to flooding in Rogo and Danbatta Local Government Areas of the state. He disclosed that two persons lost their lives and 200 houses destroyed in Rogo, while two other persons and over 5,000 houses were destroyed by flood in Danbatta.
Also the South-south and South-east were wreaked by flood havoc. South-south states like Delta had over 150 houses submerged by flood. In South-east, Anambra for instance, over 5,000 persons have been displaced by flood that submerged houses, schools and churches in the Ogbaru Local Government Area. The Chairman of the council, Arinze Awaogu, said about 1,000 of the displaced persons were being catered for at Internally Displaced Persons camps in the area, while many others trapped in their communities needed evacuation.
He said, ”Over 5,000 families have been displaced, while churches, schools and many residential houses have been submerged by flood, with farm crops destroyed and displaced persons seeking refuge in Onitsha and surrounding communities. At the moment, we are housing over 1,000 IDPs; we have over 5,000 persons who have been displaced; some are taking refuge in the residences of their relatives, who live upland, including Onitsha. We need the Federal Governments assistance in the areas of donation of food items, non-food items, medical supplies, establishment of sick bays and sending enough medical personnel to help in handling the situation; our fear now is that of a possible outbreak of epidemic.
Earlier in the year, heavy rains and thunderstorms caused havoc in Lagos. Residents woke up in many parts of the city to find their streets and homes flooded and their property, including cars and other valuables, submerged.
In Abuja, four Area Councils, Bwari, Gwagwalada, Abaji and Kwali which are prone to flood were affected by the disaster with Gwagwala being the worst hit in July as eight lives were lost, over 100 houses submerged and properties destroyed. On July 25, after a heavy downpour which lasted for hours, five residents were swept away and several houses and cars destroyed in Gwagwalada, Dawaki, Giri and Zuba where the flood cut the bridge linking Ikwa, Yimi and other villages.
The incidence was confirmed by the Director General of FCT Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Idris Abbas who had said there was a building collapse in Dawaki as a result of the flood. Gwagwalada is flooded from Giri. A family of five were flooded at Giri.
“We got one body and still searching for four. We rescued six people and are in the hospital. The flood has damaged a lot of houses and property, especially at Gwagwalada. The residents are still saying some are missing but they cannot give us the identities of such persons who they claim to be missing. People should be careful when it is raining. They should not drive on water. They should not build on flood plain. They must respect the master plan of FCT and ensure that all drainages are clean. What happened in Giri-Gota was because people built on flood plain”, he said
Federal Lawmakers Laments
Back in September, the Kebbi State Caucus in the House of Representatives while commiserating with the government and people of the state on the recent flood disaster that ravaged the entire state, said the disaster is a major setback to the federal government effort to boost local rice production as part of measures to end rice importation.
The Chairman, Hon. Muhammad Jega, representing Gwandu/Aliero/Jega federal constituency, lamented that the disaster could not have come at a worse time for the farmers who were looking forward to a bumper harvest this year to reduce the rising cost of food items.
The lawmaker, while commending President Muhammadu Buhari and the state Governor, Senator Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, for the prompt response to reduce the hardship caused by the flood, also urged them to as a matter of urgency send relief materials to alleviate the suffering of the people in the state.
Jega further urged the federal government to commission a study with the aim of providing a lasting solution to the perennial flood disaster in the state.
According to him, The flood is a serious setback towards addressing food security in the country; the government, therefore, needs to address the shortfall of the food supply chain to reduce the hardship and cost of food items in the market, and also address the severe environmental degradation caused by the flood. This may include adequate and early preparation for dry-season farming and reconstruction of major infrastructures affected in the state.
The estimated cost of the disaster is over N10 billion across the state. We call on the federal government as a matter of urgency to send relief materials to alleviate the suffering of the people in the state, as early preparation for dry season farming should commence in earnest with provision of seedlings, fertilizer and other inputs to be made available to the farmers in good time.
Also, a member of the House of Representatives, representing Ndokwa/Ukwuani Federal Constituency of Delta State, Hon. Ossai Nicholas Ossai, decried the submerging of over 150 houses in Delta State, by devastating floods.
He said that since past two weeks, the Ndokwa East Communities of Delta State have been bedeviled by constant and frightening heavy downpour, being accompanied by excessive flooding and erosion, that is seriously and presently wreaking havoc in the Communities.
According to him, the affected communities are; Ossissa, Onyah, Ase, Ushie, Ibedeni; Asagba, Aballa-Uno, Agballa-Obodo, AgballaOshimili, Uchi, Okpai, Onuaboh, Inyi, Benekuku, Aboh, Onyah, Asaba-Ase, Ibrede, Ashaka, Afor, Abalagáda, Umuolu, Igbuku, Obettim, Obodo-Okolafa, Iyadama,0nuogboko, UtagbaOgbe, Utagba-Uno, Ogume, Onitsha-Ukwuani, Akarri, Umuolu, just to mention a few.
He said he was disturbed that “schools, farmlands, health centres, places of worship have seriously been affected and over 150 households has been rendered homeless particularly children and women and more is still being affected daily. About 90per cent of the ommunities in the entire Ndokwa East Local Government Area has been submerged,and worse still is the deplorable economic conditions of the peasant farmers in these agrarian communities.
He observed that these communities are often prone to serious environmental disaster as a result of vulnerability of constant coastal flooding and erosion from the River Niger.
The legislator, pleaded with the Federal Governnment, to Direct the Ecological Fund office to conduct an environmental survey with a view to addressing the excessive flooding in these Ndokwa Communities and urge the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to urgently provide relief materials for the Hood victims in accordance with section 6 of NEMA Act.
NIHSA Flood Alerts
In February, the Director General of Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA), Clement Nze, alerted the government, stakeholders and all citizens to use this period of dry season to prepare ahead for 2021 flooding.
Nze lamented that Nigeria currently doesnt have enough dams, saying more dams would help to mitigate floods.
He explained that with the increasing global population and the expanding activities of man, flooding would continue to persist, hence the need to control human activities, environmental adjustment and purposefully adopting actions in certain areas that would make adjustment possible.
According to him, Flooding problem is a global environmental issue which is faced by many countries worldwide, particularly in areas close to low lying terrains and river valleys. Over the past years, there have been increasing concerns that human actions and natural catastrophes have been adversely impacting the environment, posing serious ecological and environmental hazards.
Though flood is a natural environmental phenomenon, it can be greatly accelerated by human-induced activities as it is the case worldwide. Some floods may result in major disasters involving structural and erosion damages, disruption of socio-economic activities, loss of lives and properties, displacement of people, destruction of agricultural land and contamination of water and environment in general.
The director general said this is the appropriate time to construct drainages where they are necessary (but not provided), dredge river channels, clear blocked gutters and drainages, and pull down structures that are within the floodplains and flood paths.
There is a reasonable time to do that before the rains set in. According to the 2020 Seasonal Rainfall Prediction (SRP) made public recently by the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet), February 24 and June 22 are the predicted onset of rainfall in the South-south and Northern states respectively, while the respective predicted cessation dates are December 28th and September 26th. This implies that Nigeria is likely to experience longer period of rainy season in 2020 compared to year 2019, he added.
Again, in September, the agency warned members of the public to expect more floods in the months of September and October.
Nze, gave the warning at a press briefing in Abuja, saying that the current flood level sighted in Niamey poses a dangerous threat to the country.
Nze explained that any release of excess water from the dams in countries upstream Rivers Niger and Benue this year would have more negative impacts on Nigeria, which is located downstream of countries in the Niger Basin.
He identified the highly vulnerable states as Kebbi, Niger, Kwara, Kogi, Anambra, Edo, Delta, Rivers and Bayelsa.
He said that the flood that ravaged Kebbi State just about a week ago left so many damages and noted that the current flooding situation called for vigilance on the part of all the stakeholders.
The director general called the states and local governments as well as multi-national companies and public-spirited individuals to join hands to save the country from the consequences of twin pandemic (COVID-19 and flood) in the year 2020.
Nze warned: The rains are finally here. The volume of river flows on our river is surging and river channels could no longer accommodate significant runoff as floodplains, which traditionally serve the alluvial plains and are rich in agricultural productivity, lost its retention capacity to give way to flooding of adjacent lands.
Farmlands and crop yields are being lost to furry of floodwaters, livestock and ecosystem species are diminishing while hope for livelihood hang in the balance due to monumental economic losses.
As a matter of fact, all the states of the federation have suffered several degrees of flooding since June 2020. The danger is not yet over. Information received from the regional Niger Basin Authority (NBA) by NIHSA, has it that as at 7.30am today September 10, 2020, the River Niger flood level in Niamey, Niger Republic, attained an unprecedented level of 7.02m (702cm). This is a far cry from the value of 6.60m which I reported in my last press briefing of August 25, 2020.
Noting that the Red Alert Warning Zone in Niamey is 6.20m and above, the current flood level sighted in Niamey poses a dangerous threat to the country, Nigeria, which is at the Lower portion of Niger Basin within this month of September and October.
Based on the report of the expected flood coming down from Niamey and the projected contributions by the inland rivers, both Kainji and Jebbo Dams built on River Niger have continued to spill water downstream. The Shiroro Dam on River Koduno, with reservoir level at 381.48m as at 9.00am today, has been maintaining a regulated spilling into the River Niger. The effect of all these is that the communities in the states adjoining River Niger will continue to be highly inundated by River Flooding as is being witnessed in the recent time.”
Recently, The DG of NIHSA, briefing the press on March 24, 2021, again advised the three tiers of government and citizens across the country to prepare against impending devastating floods in 2021.
Nze, who gave the advice at a press conference in Abuja, said this was because Nigeria was at the receiving end of disastrous floods among the nine countries of the River Niger Basin.
He said, There is still time for states/LGAs (Local Government Areas) and individuals to take necessary steps to avert or minimise the disastrous effects of flood in the year 2021.
As the country gradually steps into the 2021/2022 Hydrological Year in the River Niger Basin which covers nine countries of Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroun, Chad, Cote DIvoire, Guinea, Mall, Niger and Nigeria, it means that Nigeria is gradually inching towards the peak rainy season with its attendant flood incidents.
He also advised Nigerians residing at waterways to relocate to safe areas before the peak of the rains, just as warned that Nigerians have about three months to prepare against the disastrous effects of flood.
He explained that the country’s geographical location is downstream of all the countries in the Basin, making it to be at the receiving end of disastrous flood and pollutions from all the countries upstream.
The DG lamented that relevant authorities are frustrating the effort of the Federal Government by neglecting the predictions, as could be seen in the results of last year’s damages.
Nze while urging the general public to take necessary measures to prevent the ugly flooding menace of the past years, noted that there is still time for stakeholders to take steps to avert or minimise the disastrous effects of flood in the year 2021.
Expectations from Stakeholders
In the last few months, President Muhammadu Buhari has been sending solidarity messages to some states affected by flood disasters with promises of federal aid. The president authorised needed assistance to 12 states worst affected by the seasonal rains. The states are: Kebbi, Niger, Kwara, Kogi, Edo, Anambra, Delta, Kano, Jigawa, Rivers, Bayelsa and Adamawa.
However, flooding in various state has become a recurring decimal for decades, all tiers of government are expected to put all hands on deck and come up with a permanent solution. Flood is a natural disaster, but lack of preparedness is a man-made disaster.
As Nigeria is months away till the next rainy season, stakeholders have ample time to do the needful and heed to flood warnings by various monitoring agencies in order to avert another impending tragedy.
One of the main strategies as stated by NIHSA is that, the 36 States and the FCT authority should create retention basins for harvesting flood waters downstream of major rivers where there is scarcity of groundwater thereby using the flood waters for possible groundwater recharge and other uses. By so doing, the fresh flood water will not be lost to the sea to become saline water.
The agency is also urging state governments to pull down structures built on flood plains and expand the drainages for easy flow of water as one of the strategies mapped out.