Written by the Editorial board of The Guardian Newspaper
The flood alert issued by the Nigerian Hydrological Service Agency (NHSA) is a timely warning that should not be ignored but heeded to avert disaster. Effective natural disaster management obviously requires the early warning element, but that alert demands proactive measures from the relevant authorities and communities such as evacuation of people living in the danger zones.
Although, NHSA did not give the actual dates of the floods, from experience, flooding in Nigeria occurs at the peak of the rainy season in June and in September. With the first peak over, the next peak is September after the August break during which the NHSA predicts an overflow of the Niger-Benue River basins and other sub-basins, with fears of flooding in the adjoining states.
States at risk include Niger, Benue, Sokoto, Anambra, Imo, Cross River, Yobe, Ogun, Kebbi, Osun, Zamfara, Katsina, Kwara, Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba, Kogi, Plateau and Nasarawa. Others are Rivers, Edo, Bayelsa, Delta, Enugu, Lagos, Ondo, Akwa Ibom, Ebonyi, Abia, Jigawa and Kano. With 33 states listed, virtually, the entire country is, therefore, at risk.
This disclosure at the official presentation of the Annual Flood Outlook (AFO) in Abuja, the other day contained warnings that Lagos, Port Harcourt, Calabar, Delta and Ondo might experience coastal flooding due to the rise in sea level.
Flash floods are expected to also occur in some urban centres like Lagos, Port Harcourt, Sokoto, Ibadan, Kaduna, Yola, Maiduguri, Makurdi and Hadejia due to poor drainage system. The predicted probable flood area this year would be higher than the previous year.
Nevertheless, the expected inflows in the country for the year would be lower than that of 2012 flooding, which resulted in loss of lives and property in several states across the federation.
Every year, flooding occurs in Nigeria from a combination of heavy downpour, ocean surge or the release of water from the Lagbo Dam in northern Cameroun. Each year, coastal communities and those on flood plains, especially, on the Niger/Benue trough bear the pains. The problem climaxed in 2012 when all the states bestriding the River Niger-Benue, down to the Niger Delta, were submerged with huge loss of lives and property.
In 2013, in order to curtail the damage caused by the release of water from the Lagbo Dam, there was an agreement between Cameroun and Nigeria, which required Cameroun to give early warning notice to enable Nigeria put in place proactive measures to prevent destruction of lives and property.
The alert issued by the NHSA, therefore, serves as enough warning to the authorities in Nigeria to act proactively, and to avert a similar disaster as occurred in 2012.
Regrettably, since the last flood incidents, few states have taken any measures to prevent such disasters. And not even the Federal Government has done much in that regard.
Last year, Bayelsa State, one of the most vulnerable in the 2012 flood season, reportedly empowered the Bayelsa State Emergency Management Agency (BSEMA) to set up Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps in response to the flood alert. Relief materials worth millions were procured. All the listed flood-prone states should also take proactive measures to forestall a potential disaster. The 2012 floods caused maximum damage because there was no preparation just as there was no early warning signal. Besides, misuse of ecological funds contributed to the disaster.
Worldwide, there is growing flooding incidents attributed to climate change. In the last couple of weeks, India, China, Vietnam, Nepal, United States and Japan, among others have experienced severe flooding. A report published by the European Environment Agency indicates that 3,500 flood events occurred in Europe between 1980 and 2010.
Similarly, the United Nations reports that between 1995 and 2015, floods affected 2.3 billion and killed 157, 000 people. These are unusual events in the annals of flooding globally.
That the world is literally drowning is no longer in doubt. It calls for concerted action and synergy between nations.
To help mitigate flood impacts, the Japanese authorities are reported building a $2.6 billion flood tunnel, otherwise, called the G-Cans Project in Tokyo.
Given the apparent global climate swing, Nigeria’s coastal areas are at risk of submergence. The Lekki Peninsula, a low-lying track of land, now housing unprecedented infrastructural development from reclaimed marshland is at great risk. The same goes for the Niger Delta region with huge oil infrastructural facilities.
Recent downpours, which submerged Lekki Phases One and Two, in particular, point to a bleak future, except appropriate protective dykes and embankments are installed to shield the area from the Atlantic Ocean.
It is heart-warming that the Lagos State Government has already earmarked N36 billion to tackle the menace of ocean surge by building 18 groynes (sea breakers), at intervals of 40 metres between Goshen Estate and Alpha Beach. State authorities along the coast should follow the Lagos State example.
The Federal Government should also collaborate with the states and save Nigeria from disaster.