By Ochiaka Ugwu
The coming of rain, degradation of the environment by men in its quest to control it better and ocean surge which always result to flooding in many parts of the country always leave destruction on its wake. Only last year, flooding experienced across the nation should make us to prepare well for another flood that may just be on its way. The human and material loss occasioned by these floods should be an absolute wake-up call to Stakeholders, Communities, State government, the federal government and every Nigerian as well. The gruesome pictures and videos of the flooding that went viral on social media are better imagined than told.
The last year’s floods clearly showed the realities of the very bad experiences people and societies can suffer and the devastation that can result from the effects of climate change made worst by government negligence. Agreed that the harsh effects of climate change are global problems, but as citizens of a developing nation with third world challenges coupled with very high pollution level and environmental degradation, it is understandable why we experience the most devastation resulting from flood-swollen rivers, lagoons and oceans-surge, huge displacements of people and loss of economic values resulting from damage of properties and farmlands, and most especially the unquantifiable grieve from loss of lives and the lifelong impacts these will have on particularly poor families due to the emotional trauma it will institute on them.
Speaking on causes of flood, an Environmental Reporter, Mashe Umaru Gwamna said that flood in the cities and towns is a recent phenomenon caused by increasing incidence of heavy rainfall in a short period of time, indiscriminate encroachment of waterways, inadequate capacity of drains and lack of maintenance of the drainage infrastructure by the authorities saddled with such responsibilities. She noted that flood was a recurrent problem last year with several instances like Lagos floods, Benue floods and the most disastrous, Anambra and Kogi floods. She blamed the whole thing about flood on poor planning which she said has provoked the situation.
She also blamed human factors for the incessant floods we are having of late saying that more migration lead to less availability of land which makes land to have higher economic value. This however, results to more encroachment of water bodies which reduced economical services from water bodies.
Mashe said that pollution which came as fallout of increase in the urban population without corresponding expansion of civic facilities such as lack of adequate infrastructure for the disposal of waste results in waste clogging the natural channels and storm water drains causes flood as well.
Moreover, Illegal mining for building material such as sand and quartzite both on the catchment and on the bed of the lake have extremely damaging impact on the water body. The Zamfara episode which killed about 300 children is still fresh in our memory. Most source of drinking water for the city, has been suffering from illegal mining activities. Again, drainage congestion caused by badly planned construction of bridges, roads, railway tracts, hampers the flow of water and the result is flood. Most of the water ways in Abuja have been tempered by city’s officials who allocate land to unsuspecting Nigerians just to satisfy their avarice nature.
The fact remains that unplanned release of water from dams has been one of the greatest causes of flood in the nation. For instance, the usual unplanned release of water from Cameroun dam has caused a lot flooding in Nigeria and leaving a lot of damages at its wake.
Above all, lack of integrated flood control implementing agency and mechanism is also a serious issue. Inconsistency on the part of policy makers is another case in point where succeeding administrations will not like to continue with established policies.
As result of policy inconsistency, floods that happened in Benue State of Central Nigeria saw more than 110,000 people displaced in State after powerful rains. Thousands of homes, local markets and government offices were badly affected by the flood, with domestic animals dying in hundreds. To add to the difficulty, help has been slow to come on most emergency cases in Nigeria, flood disasters inclusive. While the relevant authorities will always be fast to boast of their readiness to provide relief materials on any emergency but previous events have shown they are nowhere near perfection as they have never walked their talk. This has even made good spirited individuals to take over relief provision as government has been overwhelmed in many occasions.
It has become a practice for National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the agency saddled with the responsibility of responding to distress people in the time of disaster to say they are equal to the task, but far from it, they are just struggling to tackle some in their sluggish way making people to conclude that they are only existing on paper. The floods disaster in Nigeria is not a new occurrence. It happens every year and will possible happen this year when the rain intensifies, but the authorities are not keen on bringing up a workable mechanism that will be used to cushion the after affect that will make it not have heavy human causality.
Nigeria, the biggest and fastest growing economy in Africa should focus more on planning that endure rather than aggressive acquisition of land for other use without considering its aftereffect. Because we have laid more emphasis on aggressive acquisition of land spaces by using lands meant for green area for buildings that will block waterways. In Abuja, this is the usual practice. Most spaces meant for recreation have gigantic buildings standing on it. Again, in Lagos, we ignorantly push back the ocean without due recourse to its consequences. We should bear in mind that a day of reckoning is here with hash aftereffect that always leaves us with bitter experiences that is better imagined than told.
It baffles many as how these floods will be happening yearly with the victims going back to their abode after the floods must have receded. One also wonders why NIMETH, the agency that has the duty of predicting natural disaster in Nigeria could not harmonise with the authorities to minimize damages of this yearly ritual that has become a big challenge to our society.
It is time government at all levels wake up to its responsibility of protecting the lives and property of all Nigerians. History is watching and may definitely be unkind to us. Nigerians from all works of life will see a new method in tackling these perennial floods. NEMA should wake up from their slumber. There should be inter-agency collaboration and not competition. NIMETH should collaborate with NEMA to plan ahead of the flood. They should see to it and plan towards ameliorating the suffering it will cause to ordinary Nigerians. The time is now to begin a concerted effort to arrest the situation before it becomes an emergency, because a leader is one who sees and solves a problem before it becomes an emergency. NEMA as an agency has been caught in one corruption debacle and another. They should know that the era of embezzlement of public funds through over invoicing, inflating contracts or embarking on white elephant projects or outright siphoning of funds meant for development of infrastructures, which is currently affecting the all round development of the Nigeria is gone and gone forever.
Indeed, now is the time for the government to recognize and aggressively pursue continuity in government policies and programs. We should avoid playing politics with everything, not even with human life. Primordial sentiment should give way to selfless service that will entrench equity and probity in the system. As a matter of urgency, an enduring plan should be drawn by the state to engage the citizens to promote high citizens’ participation in policy formulation and implementation on the most effective way to deal with drainage systems, solid-waste treatments, recycling and disposal as well as wastewater management, as these perhaps, are at the very heart of where flooding takes its roots in the neighborhoods, and indeed the entire country. With this totally entrenched, we can begin to move forward to ensure a flood free society.