Last Tuesday, Damaturu, Yobe State was in the news – flood displaced hundreds of Damaturu residents. A week before that, it was reported that flooding had wreaked havoc in Jibia Local Government Area of Katsina State. The downpour which lasted hours, claimed lives of about 49 persons, left 20 missing, destroyed over 500 houses, killed 260 livestock and destroyed farmlands. Two days ago, another tragedy struck at Nibo, Anambra State, when a thirteen year-old teenager was swept away by a massive flood that resulted from a multi-hour downpour.
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.
Last year, Benue, Kogi, Niger, Lagos, Rivers states 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 was not different in Rivers State where many residents of Eneka, Rukpokwu, Rumuigbo, Mgbuoba and other communities in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area and other parts of the state were badly affected by the torrential rainfall. Many of the flood victims could no longer access their homes. They were forced to desert their places of abode and take refuge in places like traditional rulers’ palace halls, school classrooms, shops and others. A handful of the buoyant ones among them 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. Others have blamed bad policies for the disaster particularly in Nigeria. According to an environmental scientist, Mr Ifeanyi Onianwa, “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.” He said that unless there is devolution of power which will empower states to dredge rivers, we will continue to experience flooding annually, advising that the major rivers should be dredged so that more water can be emptied into the seas and subsequently to the ocean.
One disturbing thing is that year after year the Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NIMET), predicts heavy rain and flooding but rather than take proactive measures to either avert it or mitigate the impact, the people, the government and the agencies concerned go to sleep. Everybody goes about with their normal business not bothering about how our daily activities affect the environment. People keep building on water ways, some block the few available drainages with refuse and when the disaster strikes we start lamenting and those in authority make their usual promise to avert a recur of the unfortunate incident even when they would do nothing.
One could recall how the Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu, at an event last year 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” Many months down the road, Nigerians are still waiting for action in this direction.
Indeed our leaders have to take adequate steps that will show that the country is serious about fighting flood. They should ensure that road contractors provide standard drainages when constructing roads and see to it that the water is properly channeled. Government should not wait for bridges and roads to totally collapse before reconstructing them. Had the Obibia bridge in Nibo, Awka been repaired as at when due, the teenage boy that died on Wednesday probably would have been alive today.
However, while the government and its agencies are looking into the above suggestions to tackle flooding, individuals are advised to stop the dumping of refuse in water channels. We should adopt environmental friendly attitudes to safe guard our environment.
According to analysts, incessant flooding in different 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. Providing material support to flood victims is appreciable, but the authorities should consider channeling such resources into preventing the menace as much as possible.