The flood alert in FCT, 30 states

In an apparent move to mitigate the devastating effect of the ongoing flood in the country, which has killed scores of people including the Director of Finance, Federal Capital Territory High Court, Mr. Tony Okecheme, Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) last week issued flooding alert the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Lagos, Rivers and 28 other states.

The agency said that about 279 local government areas in the identified states are at risk following the rise in the water levels of Rivers Niger and Benue. According to the NIHSA, the 30 states may be affected by both river and urban flooding as flood from the Niger Basin would be arriving Nigeria next month.

NIHSA said daily records from its hydrological measuring stations across the country show steady rise in water levels.

The Director-General of the agency, Clement Nze, broke the news during a briefing on flood updates across the country in Abuja. He listed the states as: Lagos, Rivers, FCT, Sokoto, Anambra, Kano, Bayelsa, Borno, Jigawa, Edo, Katsina, Kebbi, Niger, Zamfara, Kaduna, Kwara, Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Plateau, Taraba, Yobe, Benue, Kogi, Nasarawa, Delta, Ogun, Osun, Oyo, Abia and Cross River. The director-general said 15 of the states had been experiencing urban flooding as predicted by the agency this year.

Nze said: “Daily records from the agency’s hydrological measuring stations across the country show steady rise in water levels. Particularly, the hydrological measuring station downstream the confluence in Lokoja, Kogi state, show likelihood of spread of damages that may arise from flooding incidents in 2019”.

Nze said that the warning became necessary to alert Nigerians that the country would soon experience the peak of flooding season for the year 2019. He reminded the states that river and coastal flooding should be expected to come into place as the nation approaches the peak of the raining season. According to him, some of the flooding witnessed in some major cities and communities are expected to continue.

He said: “The localised urban flooding incidents being witnessed in some cities and communities in the country are expected to continue. The flooding incidents are due to high rainfall intensity of long duration, rainstorms, blockage of drainage system and poor urban planning resulting in erection of structures within the floodplains and waterways.

He said: “This means that the relevant stakeholders, especially the individuals and state governments, have failed to heed the flood predictions for 2019, thereby resulting in avoidable flooding incidents leading to loss of lives and property, disruption of economic activities and loss of several hectares of agricultural lands.”

It is unfortunate that the menace of flood and its attendant devastating impacts on human lives, livelihoods and infrastructure development has become re-occurring phenomenon in Nigeria. Although factors like rapid population growth, poor governance, poor drainage facilities and decaying infrastructure, lack of proper environmental planning and management strategies, poor practice of dumping waste/refuse and climate change coupled with inadequate preparedness have been identified as being responsible for the disaster, Nigeria is yet to live up to these challenges.

A pointer to this assertion is the fact that the NIHSA’s red alert is coming after flood in Abuja and other parts of the country had killed scores of people and ravaged millions of naira property. Most disturbing was the case of the Director of Finance, Federal Capital Territory High Court, Mr. Tony Okecheme, who was swept away by floods a fortnight ago at Galadimawa roundabout, Abuja.

Okecheme, who was on his way to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in his official 2017 Toyota Camry when his car got stuck in the flood, was swept away by the raging flood, but his driver was rescued by some young boys in the area. Eyewitnesses said the officials of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), who came to the scene, failed to rescue Okecheme and his driver, who were reportedly trapped in the flood for about an hour before the water swept away the director. His car, which was filled with mud water, was, however, pulled out of the ravines by the rescuers, who were angry over NEMA’s failure to rescue the man.

This unfortunate incident raises the question as to why in spite of the warnings by the United Nations in the aftermath of the 2012 flood disaster to the effect that climate change, increasing urbanisation and population growth will further exacerbate the impact of floods in the future, the Nigerian agencies failed to take proactive measures to forestall the impending disaster.

Furthermore, why have no measures been put in place to prevent the 2012 flood experience, which NEMA had described as the worst in 50 years? In 2012 floods ravaged about 30 states in the country, killing 363 people and displacing over 2.1 million people while 618,000 houses were destroyed; the floods affected an estimated seven million people and caused damages and losses valued at N2.6 trillion.

While the relevant agencies unravel these knotty issues, we advise the federal government to, as a matter of utmost urgency, implement the UN recommendations that countries devise robust programmes to forecast and respond to floods. Oganising prevention, improving planning and speeding reaction times to flood will, no doubt, go a long way to minimise their impacts. Such programmes would also help relief agencies coordinate aid distribution more effectively.

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