By Our Editors
Since this editorial was published a couple of months ago, not much has been done to assuage the sufferings of those displaced. We are repeating it in the hope that the authorities will appreciate the urgency of putting in place measures to help those in desperate need.
An earlier warning by the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) that the current flood level which it put at 7.02m sighted at Niamey, Niger Republic, posed a dangerous threat to the country, seem to be a prediction that is coming true with the states it named to be at greater risk already experiencing the hard time. The states are Kebbi, Niger, Kwara, Kogi, Anambra, Edo, Delta, Rivers and Bayelsa.
The disaster already being recorded in places like Niger and Kebbi states are not just posing a threat to the country but has actually devastated these areas and has also wiped out efforts to ensure food security in the country given the fact that these are areas that government had put in good money to encourage the cultivation of rice and other crops in anticipation of food scarcity.
In Kebbi State for instance, 11 Local Government Areas (LGAs) have already been completely submerged. Even worse, as at the time of writing, 33 deaths have been recorded and about 4000 injured.
These 11 LGAs, according to reports, represent the rice belt region in the state if not the country.
This newspaper recalls that Kebbi is in the North west zone under siege by criminal elements who have been impeding agricultural and other economic activities.
Now with this flood, the fury and destruction it is unleashing, will most certainly worsen the already perilous food situation in the country.
Government agencies are not spared as the flood takes its toll in the area. Reports indicate that Bagudu Prison, for instance, has been submerged necessitating the evacuation of the inmates to Birnin Kebbi prison.Bagudo general hospital was not spared as Kende River Bridge collapsed while the road from Tugar linking the International bridge to Benin Republic is impassable totally submerged. Tentative estimates put the value of the losses at about N3 trillion.
We are citing this level of destruction in the North west and parts of North Central just to draw attention to the negative impact flood is capable of if urgent steps are not taken to prevent it. It is sad to note that every year this situation that everyone knows will come about almost takes the nation by surprise.
With what is happening on the dams built on River Niger, Shiroro on Kaduna River as well as the River Benue Basin, may be, the worst is yet to be over.
If we also have to point out that the rivers mentioned flow down to the ocean, it becomes obvious that early warnings are just not enough. Concrete, dependable measures are what can ensure that the effect of the flood is made manageable and less painful than they presently are.
The NIHSA’s claim to be in contact with Cameroon authorities with regard to scenarios in the upper catchment of the Benue basin merely gives cold comfort to Nigerians who are yearly exposed to the same problem.
The government prefers to rehabilitate victims of this natural disaster instead of taking proactive steps to mitigate its impact.
It may be convenient to cite similar occurrences elsewhere, still it does not address the challenges we face as a nation among which is our reluctance to be proactive in a manner that will nip lurking disasters in the bud.
In our opinion, there is scant interest by government at all levels to put resources where they are urgently needed. The government prefers to buy mattresses and other sundry items, enrich a few contractors and political hangers- on rather than put money in research efforts that can yield results needed to help prevent the flood from occurring in the first place.
The most immediate effect of this problem is that it is going to compound the already bad issue of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). That is already happening. In the areas most affected, suffering, hunger and diseases of epidemic proportions are already waiting in the wings. In our view, and considering what is already on ground in IDPs’ camps scattered across the country, this will be one headache too many. We are not too certain what the government and its agencies are doing in the prevailing circumstance, it is, however, pertinent to posit that red tape is one feature of government process that is not needed at this time.
Calling on international community and donor agencies for aid may appear an attractive way out, but it must be noted that whatever comes from those sources will remain what they are meant to be- palliatives. The ultimate solution, we dare to suggest, is that the Nigerian authorities must do what they necessarily and urgently have to do to check this perennial disaster that is becoming an embarrassment because of the near primitive approach to managing it