The season of rain is here, so also is the threat of floods. This has become a cycle, perennial even if avoidable. Every year, Nigerians, especially those who live on the nation’s flood plains, face at least three months of battling against heavy rains that could lead to deadly, destructive flooding. We insist that the apprehension that comes with the rains are avoidable. The Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NiMet), on a regular basis, gives warnings as to what to expect. Yet, in spite of the expert tip off, the rains and the floods take everyone by surprise.
This year is no different. The nation is gradually entering the peak of flooding season and there is the need for the general public, especially the government at all levels, to intensify efforts towards averting flood-related disasters. Curiously, the emphasis is on what should be done when the rains and the floods happen, the relief materials to be given to victims. Little attention is paid to the causative factors in any flood disaster.
For the avoidance of doubt, we recognize the fact that floods occur naturally. The issue is the preparations made to manage the flood to prevent it from becoming a disaster agent. This requires proactive thinking and planning which are presently not sufficient if not lacking.
Geographically, Nigeria is located within River Basins shared by nine other countries. As the upper catchment of the Basins get flooded, Nigeria should expect to experience flooding incidents. The period of flooding in these upstream countries is August and September of every year. This is known to the authorities well ahead of time.
We point out that at this period of the year, impoundment of water into the Lagdo Dam in Cameroon is still in progress. Under normal circumstances, it is usually around the third week of September that the dam reservoir approaches an elevation of 213m. Spillage of water can only take place once the reservoir level approaches 216m. Therefore, no release of water from Lagdo Dam has taken place as at today.
Recently, more than 320 families across communities in Adamawa, Bauchi and Jigawa states were reportedly displaced by flood. In Bauchi alone, 200 households were displaced in Cheledi, headquarters of Kirfi local government area of the state as a result of flood that ravaged the area. In Jigawa State, over 120 households were sacked at the Unguwar Tsallake area of Guri local government area, while about 66 houses and 150 farmlands were also destroyed in Lababiri village, Bakta district in Shelleng local government area in Adamawa State.
In the opinion of this newspaper, what this unfortunate development reminds everyone, is the urgent need for the governments, environmental stakeholders, as well as other public-spirited individuals and corporations to do the needful to avert an avoidable disaster. It is the duty of everyone to clear the drains. It is the duty of the government and its relevant agencies to see to it that people living on flood plains are dissuaded from insisting on remaining in those places. They should be assisted to relocate to areas that are not flood prone. This requires, among other measures, a sustained awareness campaign directed at the attitude of the people who believe that water channels are also refuse dumps.
Furthermore, the government should take necessary steps to prevent flooding menace of the past years. 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 and such structures demolished.
The Town Planning Code of Conduct in our view, should be enforced to allow for the construction of houses and drainage structures as outlined by town planners and constantly free the waterways from obstruction. This also entails the provision of adequate refuse dumping facilities. If well managed, this can also become a source of revenue generation.
Again, experts have suggested that the government should look into what other countries are doing to manage flood-related issues. Defence measures such as levees, bunds, reservoirs, and weirs are used to prevent rivers from bursting their banks. It will not be out of place to suggest to the government to bring back the public works department (PWD) that made recognizable impact in road maintenance through taking the flood away through channels.
In the meantime, we urge the Nigeria Hydrological Service Agency (NIHSA) to constantly monitor development on the Rivers Niger and Benue basins and keep close contact with the Cameroonian authorities regarding flooding scenarios in the upper catchment of the sub-basin.
Above all, we cannot stop appealing to the people to take care of the environment around them. Proper disposal of refuse is one way of making the channels free and flooding avoidable.