Food scarcity looms in Nigeria as severe flooding persists

Nigeria looks set to face a shortage of agricultural produce in coming months as severe flooding continues to ravage farmlands.

The Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) had recently warned that flooding will persist till the last quarter of 2022.

Nigeria has been experiencing torrential rainfall in recent weeks, in addition to the opening of the Lagdo dam by the Cameroonian authorities, which resulted in heavy flooding that has affected more than half a million persons.

Almost all the 36 states of the federation including the Federal Capital Territory have experienced one form of flooding or another, leaving in its wake the destruction of lives, properties, and livelihoods. So far, nearly 400 persons have been killed, with Jigawa being the worst hit, and over 100,000 Nigerians have been displaced, according to the latest data released by NIHSA and the National Emergency Management Agency.

Agriculture has remained the worst hit; in the Northeast alone, more than 150,000 hectares of land have been destroyed. Farmers in the region have expressed concerns over large-scale destruction of produce, saying the damage caused by the disaster could be estimated at over N30 billion.

The flood destroyed rice, maize, sorghum, millet, beans, groundnut, beans farms and hundreds of livestock. They called for urgent interventions to mitigate the effects of the disaster, reduce hunger and enhance food security.

Kenechukwu Onuorah, an expert at Global Rights, an international human rights capacity-building non-governmental organisation, said one major consequence of persistent flooding is the huge impact it will have on agricultural output. According to him, persistent flooding will make basic foodstuff scarce and expensive if nothing is done urgently to control it.

“The persistent rain may be good because it creates swampy lands that are good for the plants but flooding is a disaster. It comes with erosion, especially in the South, and washes away the plants. It destroyed the crops and even livestock will have nothing to feed on,” he said.

According to Onuorah, the persistent flooding and rainfall is fuelled by climate change due to global warming, poor urban planning, and overflowing dams among others. He, however, said that flooding could have been averted, if the government had put preventive measures in place.

Read also: Hydrological agency predicts flood in 35 states

“There is so much we could do that we are not doing. We must ensure appropriate urban planning, and drainage systems. Government at all levels must work to set Nigeria on the path towards greener renewable energy in order to reverse the effects of climate change. Unfortunately, the government is not working in that direction yet,” he said.

The NIHSA, in a statement made available to BusinessDay on Tuesday, said flooding would persist, disclosing that the Rivers Niger and Benue system had started building up.

“As we are aware, Nigeria is located within the River Niger Basin, which is occupied by nine countries, namely: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroun, Chad, Cote D’Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Niger and Nigeria. Our country is at the lowest portion of the Basin. This means that once the upper catchment of the Basin gets flooded, Nigeria should be prepared to experience flooding,” it said.

The agency also warned that the situation at Kainji and Jebba Dams on the main River Niger and Shiroro Dam on the river Kaduna in Nigeria called for vigilance. The management of the three dams have started freeing up space to accommodate waters from the upstream countries.

“This is a flood warning signal and call for critical watch at this period,” it said.

The release of excess water from the Lagdo dam which commenced from September 13, 2022 will continue till the inflow into the Lagdo Reservoir recedes, the agency said. The water releases from Lagdo dam contributed to the increase in the volume of flow of River Benue and its tributaries such as River Faro and Mayo Belwa, which in turn contributed to the recent flooding in some parts of the North.

According to the agency, the situation at the country’s inland reservoirs (Kainji, Jebba, and Shiroro) and the Lagdo dam present a likelihood of river flooding between now and October ending; hence, the need to put in place adequate measures and enhanced preparedness to mitigate any eventual flooding.

It listed the states with the highest risk of flooding to include Kebbi, Niger, Adamawa, Taraba. Benue, Nasarawa, Kogi, Edo, Delta, Anambra, Cross River, Rivers and Bayelsa.

This is because they are on the main course of rivers Niger and Benue systems, the agency said.