Flooding has become a perennial problem in Nigeria. Although the degree and seriousness of the natural disaster fluctuates, flooding remains a recurring phenomenon in most parts of the country.
In 2012, the country was hit by the worst flooding which affected 32 states, killing more than 360 people and displacing almost two million others. The seriousness of the flooding was attributed to a combination of two events: very heavy local rainfall and the release of excess water from the Lagdo Dam in Cameroon.
In the current rainy season, Benue, Kogi, Niger, Lagos, Rivers have suffered various degrees of flooding challenges. In Lagos State, for instance, many streets and homes were flooded and property, including cars and other valuable submerged.
The situation is not different in Rivers State where residents of Eneka, Rukpokwu, Rumuigbo , Mgbuoba and other communities in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area and other parts of the state badly affected by the torrential rainfall, have continued to narrate their woes.
A resident of Mkpolu, Rumuigbo, Mr. Ifeanyi Onianwa,whose house was among the numerous houses affected by flooding lamented thus: “The weather has changed again. I’m praying that it should not rain because that will increase the volume of water in my compound already. In fact, after yesterday’s rain, it has increased so much. We now enter the house through an apian way. The environment is so messy”
Mr. Onianwa definitely is among a few lucky flood victims in the state, who still have access to their homes. Some of his counterparts have deserted their places of abode and are now taking refuge in places like traditional rulers’ palace halls, school classrooms, shops and others. A handful of the buoyant ones among them have also rented apartments at safer places.
Incidentally, flooding is not peculiar to Nigeria. It is a global problem which experts say is majorly caused by climate change, which has been shown to contribute to more extreme storms and rainfall. Some have also attributed the problem to rapid urban growth, poor planning and uncontrolled development.
Onianwa lamented a situation where it was predicted that there was going to be heavy rain and flooding this year by Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NIMET), but rather than take proactive measures to either avert it or mitigate the impact, both the people, the government and the agencies concerned went to sleep. For him, this didn’t signify that the state and indeed the country was serious about fighting flood.
He further blamed bad policies for the disaster. Hear him: “A situation where the government at the center is solely responsible for everything that has to do with water, what do you expect? The states cannot do much because the action point where the corrective measure should be taken in order to prevent flood belongs to the federal government.”
The environmental scientist insisted that unless there is devolution of power which will empower states to dredge rivers, we will continue to experience flooding annually. He advised that the major rivers should be dredged so that more water can be emptied into the seas and subsequently to the ocean.
Similarly, a resident of Rumu-esara, Eneka, Sir Ernest Muze, whose newly-built duplex was badly affected by the flood waters, forcing him and his family out of the building for over one month, blamed the havoc on lack of drainage systems and canals to take the water out.
Like other residents of Eneka, Sir Muze equally attributed the heavy flooding to the failure of the contractor who handled the expansion of Eneka/ Igwuruta Road to construct adequate drainage to take care of excess water. He said that uncontrolled development and failure of the town planning authority and other agencies responsible for checking abuse of the environment to carry out their duties effectively is also a contributory factor.
Another resident of Eneka, Mrs Roseline Amadi, agreed with Muze. She said the Eneka/Igwuruta Road contractor channeled the water into a borrow pit which could not contain the high volume of water thereby forcing the water into peoples’ homes and farmlands.
She passionately appealed to the state government to adopt some measures to reduce the impact of the flood like sucking away the excess water in the affected areas so that people who fled their homes could return and carry on with their lives.
In his own view, an Urban and Regional Planning expert, Mr Sunday Wisdom, attributed the flooding in Port Harcourt and other rapidly developing cities to urbanization which increases the number of roads and buildings. This, he said, increases the proportion of surface area where water cannot be absorbed into the ground leading to rapid runoff which leads to flooding during storms. He advised that water drainage systems should be properly built so that water can be directed to rivers effectively and quickly. He equally agreed with Onianwa that dredging of the major rivers in the country is the way to go.
A seeming response to the suggestion was given by the Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu, who at a recent event said, “We approved such an idea to dredge Rivers Niger and Benue, which we have found very useful and we will do a lot to safeguard the banks of the rivers and the communities downstream from excessive flooding. We need to look at a realistic solution to this problem, the dredging of these rivers is very important in addressing this flood issue and we will do something about it”
However, while the government and its agencies are looking into the above suggestions to tackle flooding, individuals have been advised by stakeholders to heed the call by the Rivers State Governor, Barr Nyesom Wike, to stop the dumping of refuse in water channels. The Governor said this during a visit to some flooded communities few weeks ago. He assured the people of his state of his administration’s readiness to tackle the environmental challenges faced by the state.
According to analysts, incessant flooding in the State and other parts of the country can be addressed if government, regulatory agencies and the citizens do what is expected of them and at the right time. They said providing material support to flood victims is appreciable, but the authorities should consider channeling such resources into preventing the menace as much as possible.