The Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA), on May 28 this year, released its 2020 Annual Flood Outlook (AFO) in which it revealed that massive floods will sweep through many parts of the country between September and October this year.
It specifically said that about 102 local government areas in 28 states are at risk of flooding.
The agency said 275 local government areas across the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory fall within the moderately probable flood risk areas, while Lagos, Rivers, Delta, Edo and Kogi states are on top of the list of states to witness major flooding. It also named other states likely to be affected to include Borno, Yobe, Gombe, Adamawa, Taraba, Bauchi, Plateau, Nasarawa, Benue, Niger, Enugu and Anambra. The rest are Imo, Abia, Akwa Ibom, Ekiti, Osun, Kwara, Zamfara, Sokoto, Ondo, Bayelsa, Kaduna, Oyo, Ogun, Kano, Kebbi and the FCT.
The agency advised residents of flood-prone areas to begin relocation because heavy rains will precipitate the flooding leading to destruction of property and likely loss of lives.
This early warning by the agency should be given adequate attention by the relevant authorities and should not be treated with levity.
The months of July, August, September, and October are usually associated with heavy rainfall, flooding, and flood disasters in most parts of the country.
The floods are often aggravated by the trans-boundary inflow of rivers Niger and Benue from outside the country before they empty into the Atlantic Ocean in Nigeria.
Flood is one of the most frequent natural disasters in Nigeria with a devastating impact on the poor and vulnerable populations who live along river banks and rely on flood plains for livelihoods.
Each time flooding occurs, it impacts on various sectors, including agriculture, water resources, health, transport, infrastructure and entire livelihood of people living in the affected communities.
It is unfortunate, in the opinion of this newspaper, that since the devastating flood of 2012 which swept away many communities across the country, and the early warnings by relevant government agencies on the impending flood and how to mitigate against it, people flout the directives from relevant agencies and maintain unhealthy lifestyle that result to flooding and the attendant consequences.
Just last week, an early morning flood swept away many communities in Niger State as well as the Federal Capital Territory leaving in its trail over 10 people dead and properties worth millions of naira destroyed.
As early as June, severe flooding incidents with attendant destructions and loss of lives were recorded in certain parts of the country.
This has continued unabated even when the country is still more than two months away from the peak of rains and its flooding incidents.
The nation is already facing a national emergency, the coronavirus pandemic that is threatening the national economy. Can Nigeria afford another national emergency at this time?
That is why it is important that everybody including federal and state governments, environmental NGOs, as well as other public spirited individuals and corporations should do everything to clear the drains, relocate people living in flood prone areas now that the floods have not yet come and mount a massive awareness campaign on how to escape the impending flood.
Those to be evacuated should be encouraged to voluntarily do so. Aside de-silting of the drains to ensure free flow of water, excavated refuse should be properly disposed to avoid blocking the roads and falling back into the canals. Constructions along the flood paths should be discouraged. Those that flout the orders should be apprehended and diligently prosecuted while the constructions should be demolished immediately.
While we commend the relevant government agencies for their early warnings and the actions taken so far, it is our view that the authorities need to do more especially in the area of urban planning and rural development.
It is good, in our opinion, that the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has listed programmes aimed at carrying Nigerians along in a bid to prepare for the 2020 flood season. These include public enlightenment campaign using the radio, TV jingles, social media and so on, targeting vulnerable communities and advising them to undertake mitigation actions and prepare for evacuation to safer ground.
The agency has also given assurance of stocking relief materials, food and non-food items that will be needed in providing succour to people that may be affected. It also indicated that it has constituted a committee to lead the national preparedness, mitigation and response to 2020 flood.
In all these we believe that prevention is better than cure that is why we are pleased with the news that NIHSA has developed a Flood Mobile App which it said would be used to give actual daily flood situations to everyone, especially those in the rural areas through the use of SMS services.