The latest flood alert by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) may have been a false alert as the states it said would experience imminent flooding have not recorded such incidents.
LEADERSHIP Sunday reports that on October 7, 2023, NEMA issued warnings of possible floods in nine states based on the sudden floods experienced in Adamawa State.
Subsequent incidents point to the fact that the disaster interventionist agency may have sent out the warning without complete data on the volume of water released from Lagdo Dam in Cameroon or the expected rainfall.
The director general of NEMA, Mustapha Ahmed, had at a press conference warned of possible floods in Adamawa, Taraba, Benue, Nasarawa, Kogi, Anambra, Edo, Delta and Bayelsa.
However, in seven of the nine states listed, the floods failed to materialise. The implication is that many Nigerians may start to take flood alerts less seriously and refuse to heed subsequent warnings from the government.
At the October 7 press conference, Ahmed had said, “NEMA has been alerted on sudden increased inundation of riverine communities and farmlands along the banks of River Niger in Adamawa, Taraba and Benue states in the past 48 hours.
“The sudden situation is attributed to the rapid release of water from Lagdo Dam in the Republic of Cameroon and has resulted in the displacement of several inhabitants of the affected communities. Furthermore, crops, lands and valuable infrastructure are at risk of getting washed away by the flood waters.
“Situation reports from Adamawa State confirmed the upsurge of flood waters along the flood plains of River Benue.
“The situation is expected to be replicated in downstream states of Taraba, Benue, Nasarawa, Kogi, Anambra, Edo, Delta and Bayelsa as the River Benue joins River Niger and flows to the Atlantic Ocean through the Niger Delta.”
The agency has, however, defended the warning it issued last weekend, saying it is still monitoring the flood situation after activating the emergency response centres.
But in Adamawa State, which was already experiencing floods when the warning was issued, no fewer than 33 people died and 1,600 households were displaced by the floods.
The Adamawa State Emergency Management Agency, ADSEMA, attributed the reason to release of water from the Lagdo Dam in Cameroon.
Muhammed Suleiman, the executive secretary of the agency, said the households affected comprised 9,960 individuals.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP Sunday yesterday, the head of press, NEMA, Ezekiel Manzo, said the reason for the alert last weekend was due to unusual rainfall and release of water from Lagdo Dam in Cameroon, which caused flooding in Adamawa already.
He explained that in order not to be caught unawares, NEMA as a responsible agency had to address the press to prepare the grounds for any eventualities.
He said: “The reason for the press conference last week was the sudden occurrence of flood in Adamawa. Prior to that flood, we were beginning to see haze like dry season, then all of a sudden, the flood came in Adamawa. More rains continued to fall and we decided to look into it.
“The purpose is to alert Nigerians, especially those people living in the River Benue line, of the abnormality and that it may result in flood and we wouldn’t want to be caught unawares.”
On the water level, he said: “The water in River Benue after the initial release increased. But as God would have it, it is not to the extent that will cause massive flooding as initially projected.
“However, Anambra State is already having flood issues as the deputy governor, Gilbert Ibezim visited NEMA headquarters on Thursday to seek assistance in tackling floods in his state. This is what happened. We felt that with the flood in Adamawa, and if the rain increases and with Lagdo Dam constantly releasing water, it could get worse around the states on the River Benue bank. As it is, the situation is being monitored and the alarm that was raised is being monitored, and that is why we are not saying anything about it again for now. ”
Meanwhile, some of the states that had previously been warned about possible floods are however still taking precautions and are preparing for possible floods.
Enugu was listed as one of the states that may witness flooding in 2023 but our investigations have revealed that, so far, no part of the state has been flooded to a dangerous extent. Also, it was observed that the state has not recorded loss of lives caused by any form of flooding.
But NEMA in Southeast Zone and the state governments, through the State Emergency Management Agencies (SEMAs) had commenced sensitisation campaigns in local councils as part of measures to equip the people with the knowledge of how to avert flooding and also to be prepared in the event of any flood.
Although the Nigeria Meteorological Agency (Nimet) predicted that no fewer than 15 local government areas in Rivers State would be affected by the 2023 impending flood, there seems to be no sign of the yearly disaster yet.
Communities in Abua/Odual, Ahoada-East, Ahoada-West and Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni local government areas are affected by the yearly flood due to their proximity to the Orashi River and its tributaries.
LEADERSHIP Weekend observed that apart from Governor Siminalayi Fubara, who recently set up a multi-sectoral committee on flood involving various stakeholders, like the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Social Welfare, a majority of the local government chairmen in the state had also constituted flood committees, which have been going round communities to sensitize them on the impending flood.
The committees also embarked on the clearing of drainages and canals in the various communities in their respective local government areas.
In Benue State, following the flood alert issued last weekend, the Benue State government had designated public schools in 22 LGAs of the state as camps for persons expected to be affected by floods in the state.
Acting executive secretary, State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), James Iorapuu, who disclosed this when he visited the paramount ruler of the Tiv nation, Ochivirgh Prof. James Ayatse, to intimate him about the flood alert and the need to sensitise his subjects, also informed him that 473,000 persons were estimated to be affected by flood this year.
According to him, “The traditional institution plays key roles in the development of the society hence the decision to pay homage and solicit collaboration in the sensitising and awareness creation on the projected impact of flood to the communities to enable flood prone communities to relocate.
“This year’s flood is projected to affect 22 of the 23 local governments in the state, particularly those along the coastal lines in Makurdi, Guma, Gwer West, Buruku, Agatu, Katsina Ala and parts of Gboko will be the worst hit.”
In another development, the acting SEMA boss, during a visit to some of the flood prone communities in the state, appealed to those residing on flood plains to vacate such areas for their own safety.
“I want to appeal to all those residing on flood prone areas to heed to government advice and move to higher grounds and I am assuring you that the agency will keep the people abreast with every development concerning the looming flood as its unfolds,” he said.
Our correspondent heard from unofficial sources that over 10 persons lost their lives in the flood and that a majority of the people at the flood prone areas, who were refusing to move out, were allegedly forced by a committee on flood which were moving house to house.
However, all efforts to speak with the executive secretary of SEMA and the Commissioner for humanitarian and disaster management were unsuccessful as they had not answered calls or responded to text messages sent to them at the time of filing the report.