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Anxiety As Flood Ravages States

The issue of climate change can no longer be ignored as flooding caused by torrential rainfall poses serious danger this year. As the nation approaches the peak of the rainy season with the prediction of more floods across the country, there is growing concern about how prepared the federal government is to tackle this natural disaster EMAMEH GABRIEL, FRANCIS OKOYE (Maiduguri) SAM EGWU (Lokoja) OBINNA OGBONNAYA (Abakaliki) and BEATRICE GONDYI (Bauchi) write

Climate change and the downpour of heavy rains moving across parts of northern Nigeria, including the federal capital territory and some states in the south, have continued to pose serious risks causing hazards in the last few weeks.

This comes with increased flooding in several areas in parts of the country already suffocating, drowning and inundated, where waters have already swollen from previous rains and may be worse in the weeks to come.

Forecasts have shown that there could be overflow of several rivers, in most states across the country and those already affected, some of which are already running higher than average.

The fear is that it will not take more rain to wreak havoc as information available from the daily monitoring of the Nigeria Hydrological Service Agencies (NIHSA) on flood water level of River Niger at Lokoja has revealed that water level since 8th July 2019 has exceeded the level recorded in 2012 and 2018 after a comparative analysis of same period.

LEADERSHIP Sunday could recall that the NIHSA had earlier this year warned that 600 local government areas were under threat of flood.

The agency had also warned that the 36 states, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), would witness different levels of flooding this year.

He added that out of the 774 local government areas of the country, 74 are predicted to be highly probable.

“While 279 local government areas are probable areas of flood and 421 are predicted to be less”.

Consequently, former Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu, had reiterated the need for Nigerians to prepare ahead as the report had hitherto served as early warnings to people and communities located in and near flood plains and other vulnerable areas. This came after a public presentation by NIHSA on its 2019 Annual Flood Outlook (AFO) in Abuja.

Already heavy rainfall in some parts of the country has continued to cause flooding leading to casualties and damage with records of deaths and houses swept, others submerged and people displaced. The worrying aspect is that this will continue as already predicted if action is not taken to prevent the floods.

With the recent devastating developments, the NIHSA had on Wednesday warned Nigerians to prepare for more floods due to intense rainfall with long durations taking the country by surprise.

Mr Clement Nze, the Director General of the agency, gave the warning while briefing journalists in Abuja recently in the wake of the threat.

Nze said that the warning became necessary as it served to alert Nigerians that the country would soon experience the peak of flooding season for the year 2019.

According to him, the localised urban flooding incidents being witnessed in some cities and communities in the country are expected to continue in the weeks to come.

“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.

“River flooding, as well as coastal flooding, is expected to come into place as the nation approaches the peak of rainy season. Therefore, states and local governments should endeavour to remove structures built within the floodplains, clear blocked drainage, culverts and other waterways,’’ he said.

Nze further said that the agency was closely monitoring the flooding across the country with the attendant loss of lives and property, a situation he said was the manifestation of earlier predictions by the agency and failure on the part of relevant stakeholders, “especially individuals and state governments who had failed to heed the flood predictions for 2019.”

While these developments have continued to raise concerns, the question is this, how much time do governments across states have to prepare ahead of the days to come and what are the efforts being put in place to avert further disasters?

In Lokoja where water levels of Rivers Niger and Benue continue to build up, Kogi Government had at the weekend appealed to residents of the state to stop the habit of dumping refuse in waterways to avoid flood disaster.

The state’s Commissioner for Environment and Natural Resources, Pharm. Sanusi Yahaya, made the call after he monitored some ongoing reconstruction of drainages in Lokoja, the seat of power.

The attitude of some persons towards blocking the drainages have become worrisome. He also expressed concern over  dumping refuse in water channels, and urged them to desist from such acts to prevent avoidable flooding.

Pharm Sanusi appealed to the people to ensure that they properly dispose their wastes at the designated communal bins for the good of all, stating that dilapidated drainages were being reconstructed by the Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP) in Kogi to ensure free flow of water in Lokoja city.

The Commissioner also expressed satisfaction over the intervention of NEWMAP in reconstructing some dilapidated drainages in Lokoja metropolis and other parts of the state.

Sanusi reaffirmed the ministry’s commitment through the Kogi State Sanitation and Waste Management Board to ensure continuous monitoring, appropriate intervention and enforcement of enabling law.

In the FCT, the nation’s capital city, for instance, the disaster called flooding has become a common phenomenon in parts of the city, especially in some estates, including Lokogoma district, where many houses continue to be at the mercy of floods anytime it rains.

Disturbed by the phenomenon, the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) had recently embarked on the demolition of some structures built on waterways and road corridors in the estates to prevent perennial flooding in parts of the FCT.

Also last week, the FCDA had marked about 50 houses in four estates in Mbora District, for demolition for violating building regulations.

Executive secretary of FCDA, Engr. Umar Gambo Jibrin, had told newsmen during the exercise that the houses would be demolished to avoid the repeat of what is happening in affected areas.

Also on Wednesday, the FCTA, through the FCT Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), organised a stakeholders’ forum on flood mitigation and response coordination.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the forum, FCT permanent secretary, Sir Chinyeaka Ohaa, had charged stakeholders to come up with a

blueprint on how to mitigate flooding incidents in the territory.

Ohaa, who also urged the forum to come up with watertight preventive

and response strategies against the impending flood, however frowned that despite repeated sensitisation and awareness programmes, many FCT residents still dump wastes in drainages and other prohibited locations, which, according to him, have resulted in blockage of waterways.

Hence, the permanent secretary maintained that the administration would continue to remove structures constructed in violation of relevant laws, which has further complicated the flood risk, adding that so far about 150 of such structures have already been removed in on-going exercise to clear obstructions of waterways, in line with the Abuja city plan.

The Director General of FEMA, Abas Idriss, had also noted that the recent flood incidents in parts of the FCT and further threats of occurrence, as alerted by flood forecast agencies, was a serious concern for stakeholders.

Idriss pointed out that given the proximity of the FCT to Lokoja and the increasing water level of River Niger, the

consequences are predictable, especially looking back at the 2012 flood incident.

A communiqué issued at the end of the one-day stakeholders’ forum, members had called on the department of urban and regional planning to ensure that there is no redesign and change of green areas to any other land use, while all development on flood plains should be removed.

The communiqué, had also called for adequate budgetary provisions and prompt releases for all flood related matters, while all stakeholder departments/agencies should make adequate budgetary provision for contingency plans.

Members also made case for strict enforcement and management of green areas and river courses, in line with extant laws, adding that national debriefing should be done after flood episodes, so that lessons learnt could be applied to prevent reoccurrence (s).

In Bauchi, the case is not different. The August rain has continued to wreak havoc. The last rain on Monday night damaged residential buildings including other structures with recorded loss of lives and personal effects.

At Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University (ATBU) Gubi main campus, a pedestrian bridge which links the students hostel and the lecture halls collapsed at 11:30 pm with students losing their lives while others had various degrees of injuries. About four students lost their lives in the unfortunate flood.

At Wuntin Dada, a suburb of Bauchi, not less than eleven buildings collapsed with residents sustaining injuries. Some lost their property including foodstuffs. Some vehicles had accidents on the road as a result of the downpour which inundated the roads, rendering it impassable for motorists.

Over the years, flooding has become a recurring decimal in Bauchi with citizens losing their hard earned properties and lives lost in the process.

According to Najib Umar, a schedule official with the directorate of conservation in Bauchi State Environmental Protection Agency ( BASEPA),  the culprit of flooding in the state is the dumping of refuse in water channels, erecting structures in water ways, blockage of drainages. He said this constitutes a major threat to flooding in the area.

He added that the areas prone to flooding in the state are Gwallaga, Yelwa, Wunti Dada, Toro Tafawa Balewa, Bogoro and other parts of the state.

Umar explained that the Agency is creating awareness to curb the incessant flooding, but few of the residents are already complying with the guidelines to prevent such occurrence as they prepare for the days ahead.

In Ebonyi where recent floodings continue to sack several residents, particularly, those of Akpoha, Amasiri and Akaeze communities in Afifkpo North and Ivo local government areas of the state, the situation appears to have overwhelmed the State government as no meaningful effort has been put in place by both the State and Local government areas to find a lasting solution to the problem.

The flooding which has become a regular occurrence every rainy season, has not just destroyed farmlands but has also destroyed properties worth millions of naira leaving residents of the areas to their fate.

The flood at the weekend sacked more than 5000 residents of the area in the two local government areas destroying properties worth millions, farmland and livestock while the residents are now taking refuge in schools and churches.

When Leadership Sunday visited the area, it was observed that properties belonging to the victims were still trapped inside their houses, as the people abandoned the properties to run for their lives and save their children from drowning in the flood.

Leadership observed that in Amasiri community, the flood pulled down a four bedroom bungalow belonging to a proprietor of a private school and destroyed several documents belonging to the school while other electronics belonging to the family was also destroyed by the flood.

Some of the residents in a bid to avert the destruction of documents and some other valuables, mobilized the youths of the community who were seen scooping water from the houses while others watched helplessly as the flood continued to rage into the building.

Apart from the houses the floods wrecked havoc in, it also caused heavy vehicular movement along the ever busy Amasiri-Okigwe express road, thereby forcing the motorists to pull over their cars to allow the over flooded express road to reduce.

In the last four years that the flooding had wrecked havoc in the areas which is known for rice production, investigations by LEADERSHIP Sunday have shown that the state government had not been able to make any positive impact to avert the flooding in the area.

LEADERSHIP Sunday observed that the floods which is usually caused by lack of drainages along the express roads and the constant overflow of the Ebonyi River along the express road, empty into the different swamps along the axis.

A resident of the area, Mr. Chinedu Egwu while recently narrating his ordeal, expressed regret that nothing would be achieved in averting a regular occurrence of floods except the Ebonyi River is redesigned and dredged to allow the free flow of the river.

According to him, the river usually overflows it’s bank and empties into the community thereby causing flooding. I believe the project is beyond the state government and needs federal government intervention. Except this is done, we will continue to experience the flooding which has rendered many of us homeless and has sacked many of us from our homes.

Aba, the commercial hub of Abia State is also not spared, as earlier predicted to be one of the states already marked by authorities to be affected by flood in 2019. Already several homes, shops and markets have been submerged in 13 local government areas.

The unfortunate situation also rendered scores of residents of the area homeless.

Authorities in the state have assured victims that succour would soon come to their affected communities, adding that Abia was among the 16 states slated to benefit from the N1.6 billion Federal Government Flood Intervention Fund.

The SEMA official said that the agency was committed to disaster risk management in the state, but had expressed regret that the agency’s operations were adversely affected by the shortage of personnel and logistics.

Mr Sunny Jackson, the Head, Planning, Forecasting and Operations of the agency, had told newsmen in the state.

“Some residents of the affected communities can no longer access their homes because their houses had been completely submerged.

“Some of the communities have been cut off from their neighbours because floods has washed off their roads.”

He said that the situation in Abia confirmed the predictions by the Nigerian Meteorological Agency and Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency about flooding this year.

According to him, Abia is one of the states that received an alert about the impending flooding in the country this year.

He said that Abia was among the 16 states slated to benefit from the N1.6 billion Federal Government Flood Intervention Fund.

According to him, the agency is in dire need of equipment such as Geographical Positioning System, digital cameras, trucks and ambulances for efficient service delivery.

“Building on flood plains and waterways, deforestation, overgrazing, improper channelling of water, blocking of drains and flood channels are capable of triggering the disaster”, said Jackson who acknowledged that flood is a natural disaster but attributed some of its effects as man made.

He said that to check the disaster required re-afforestation, desilting of the drains and prohibiting the erection of structures on waterways, among other measures.

Borno: We are prepared

With the peak of rainy season approaching, the Borno state government has taken precautionary measures against floods in the state.

Prior to this year’s rainy season, most drainages in the state was filled to capacity as a result of the activities of indiscriminate dumping of refuse by residents.

But through proactive measures of the Borno state Environmental Protection Agency (BOSEPA), most sewages within the metropolis are beginning to disappear.

According to the General Manager , BOSEPA, Malam Nasir Surundi, the effort of governor Babagana Umara Zulum guaranteed the evacuation of the waste along water channels in the state.

Surundi said upon emergence of governor Zulum, the agency approached him and intimated him of the need to evacuate the drainages to avert flood and immediately, the governor made funds available, hence it swung into action.

He said, “Honestly, with the shortest possible time governor Babagana Umara Zulum took over, we immediately notified him that we have to open all the major channels of drainages in the state to avert flood.

“Fortunately, he approved funds for the reopening of most of the drainages and initially, all what was happening was artificial , indiscriminate dumping of refuse was the cause of flood, but so kind for us , we have two river towers in the state that can accommodate the water that comes within the town.

“So within the week, the governor has released funds, and then we have commenced further evacuation of drainages. We have evacuated up to three places now. And also the coming of the European Union’s cash for work, which empowered over 500 youth in the clearance of waste, as well as that of the International Committee Of the Redcross  (ICRC), joined in curtailing flood in the state.

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