The rainy season is gradually setting in, and as it does, sad memories of the floods that ravaged many parts of Nigeria last year remain very fresh.
In 2012, virtually every state in the country had one ugly tale or the other to tell about the floods which destroyed farmlands and property and rendered millions of people homeless in places like Kano, Jigawa, Cross River, Taraba, Adamawa, Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo, Imo, Niger and Anambra States. Unfortunately, governments in those states as well as the Federal Government were caught unawares and it took a while before any reasonable effort could be put in to check the rampaging floods and rescue affected Nigerians. Many of these affected people are still groaning from the aftermath of the floods.
For the current year 2013, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) has again predicted that rainfall pattern would not be different from what the country witnessed last year. According to director general of the agency, Anthony Anuforom, the annual rainfall amount is expected to be above normal in comparison to 2012 in the northwest areas of Sokoto, Kebbi, Niger, Kwara, Zamfara States and environs, while the rainfall amount will be below normal in Ogun, Oyo and Kebbi States.
While predicting the rainfall amount to be normal in most parts of the country, Anuforom disclosed that in the extreme north, rainfall is expected to range from 400 to 1,000mm, while in the south, it is expected to be between 1,500 and 3,000mm.
Experts have said flooding can cause a range of health impacts and risks, including death and injury, unhygienic drinking water, harmful material spills, increased population of disease-carrying insects and rodents, mouldy houses, and community disruption and displacement. As rains become heavier, streams, rivers, and lakes can overflow, increasing the risk of water-borne pathogens.
In the face of this, NIMET advises the Federal Government, states as well as the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and other related organisations to ensure adequate preparedness to reduce the nation’s vulnerability not only to flooding but to other weather-related natural hazards, especially in the face of climate change, or face the possible occurrence of emergencies nationwide.
It is heartening that some states are already taking precautionary and preventive measures. In Lagos, for instance, where flooding is a perennial problem, although the state was spared much of the devastating impact of last year’s floods, the government says there is no cause for alarm as it is fully prepared for the rainy season this year. Tunji Bello, the state commissioner for the environment, said this while inspecting drainage projects in parts of the state. Governments of Ogun and Oyo States are also reportedly making concrete efforts in that direction.
While we commend these efforts, we join NIMET to call on the Federal Government, state governments, NEMA, NGOs and other concerned bodies to intensify efforts to ensure that this year’s rainy season does not take the nation by surprise. Nigeria cannot, once again, afford the huge cost of last year’s devastations. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.