Concerns mount over impending floods amid ‘governments poor preparedness ‘
Nigeria may suffer more devastating impact of floods in 2023 due to government’s poor preparedness depite the forecast from metrological agency, experts and climate change activists have warned.
They knocked the government at all levels for failing to take the necessary steps to mitigate the impact of floods which citizens would be forced to bear, despite the devastating floods suffered in 2022.
Early this year, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMET) predicted worse floods in this year. The Agency (NiMet) had asked Nigerians, especially those in riverine areas, to expect more floods.
“Flood is a natural event and with the increase in climate change activities there will be more floods. This is because climate change is due to increasing temperatures. With increased temperature, the atmosphere will be more pregnant with more water vapour. That means more rain. This rain will come in high intensity”, director-feneral, NiMet, Mansur Bako had said during the public release of the 2023 Seasonal Climate Prediction (SCP).
Kenechukwu Onuorah, an expert at Global Rights- an international human rights capacity-building non-governmental organisation, decried that government has not shown any seriousness in addressing the factors that fuels severe flooding in the country.
Onuorah stated that the measures that are needed to mitigate the impact of excessive rains and floods are still not in place.
A major factor that contributed to severe floods in 2022 according to government officials, was the release of excess water from the lagdo dam.
“The lagdo dam will inevitably be opened, and when that is opened, the flooding of last year will be little compared to 2023”, he warned , adding that, “sea levels are rising, rainfall is increasing, it would be worst than flood of last year.”
Read also: Low-income countries need $440bn over 5 years to accelerate growth – IMF
Nigeria had entered an agreement Nigeria with Cameroon to build a dam big enough to hold water from excessive rains, but Nigeria did not fulfil its part till date. Onuorah reiterated that Cameroon have every right to open the dam, and Nigeria ought to have built a dam big enough to hold water from excessive rainfall that cause erosion and flooding.
The expert also expressed concerns that communities and states bordered by water are not adequately protected. “In the west, they build water walls to protect residents from water, does Lagos have that, does Porthacourt have that?” He queried.
“There are no talks around fixing what happened last year, Is there any talks with Cameroon? Nothing! Clearly, we are not prepared. It is not a priority, all we are talking about is retaining power”, he further said.
He stressed that Nigeria must take very seriously the need to put in mitigating measures, while explaining that Africa is bearing the adverse effects of climate change, such as flooding even if the continent contribute less carbon emission, barely 5 percent, but due to the lack of mitigating measures.
Several stakeholders have repeatedly called on the federal government to dredge the rivers Niger and Benue and build dams, but government is yet to take any action on that.
The Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMET) recently expressed concerns that its forecasts on flooding were ignored by most state governments including most vulnerable states across the country. As a consequence, citizens, and businesses were made to face devastating floods. Many of the affected communities are still yet to recover from the impacts of the event.
Reports from the federal authorities showed that the 2022 floods resulted in 662 deaths across 33 states as the deluge of rain washed away years of investments in agriculture, hundreds of hectares of farmlands, and properties estimated at billions of Naira. The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) estimated that over 2 million Nigerians were displaced and that the national economy lost a whopping N4.2 trillion to the floods. Over 569,000 hectares of farmland was destroyed.
An official at Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency said the agency has issued its annual flood outlook is for early warning, and the minister of environment have written letters to state governments to sensitize their citizens.
Magdalene Idiang, a climate change actuvist at Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) explained that issuing warnings is not enough to mitigate impact, but “government continues to fail in designing responses that are both effective and sustainable.”
A HOMEF research on the flood situation, reveals the urgency need for the Nigerian
government to improve their emergency response procedures in the areas of flood
forecasting, warning and victims’ evacuation.
According to Idiang, “There should be effective strategies put in place to reduce the speed and size of floods. Such strategies may include but not restricted
to moving embankments back from rivers;
restoring wetlands, floodplains and meanders and; slowing down run-offs.
“There has to be improvements in dam management. Dams exacerbate floods when they overtop, collapse or are poorly operated. A safety assessment of existing dams is, therefore, critical and plans for remodelling unsafe dams should be prioritized. People must be discouraged from living in areas most vulnerable to flood.”
Apart from the obvious destruction of properties and displacement of persons, there is a high risk of contracting diseases especially among children. The NiMet predicts the probability of occurrence of malaria. The agency warned that parts of Taraba, Benue, Kogi, Kwara and Nasarawa states might have a malaria outbreak.
Jide Johnson, an expert on child rights stressed that and women and children are most vulnerable and suffer the impact of climate change the most. “When water rises above 3-5 feet, children are the first to be submerged . When families are displaced, it affects their diet, it affects their physical and environmental wellbeing. They are at risk of cholera, diarrhoea and other water-related diseases. There could even be an epidemic.
“But, what steps have we taken? Government have failed to address the issues”, he said.
The expert urged govenrnent to start the evacuation process and relocate those in most vulnerable communities to temporary shelters.