• Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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Just before the floods: Are we prepared for it?

Just before the floods: Are we prepared for it?

With the increasingly devastating effects of the seasonal, flushing floods, exacerbated by global warming about to dawn on us for the umpteenth year, the time to start taking concrete, proactive steps is now, not tomorrow.

Not when the dams have swelled over their banks, swallowing up the pothole-riddled roads, homes, offices and shops. Not when casualty figures have risen to tens of thousands before half-hearted, panicky measures are embarked upon by top government officials, in a sordid show of cosmetic concern.

My dear reader, what you have just read is an excerpt from my thoughts on a similar topic written by yours truly and severally published in May 2013. That was some 11 years ago. Unfortunately, Nigeria’s policymakers, including many state governors have to be reminded every blessed year about the need to take proactive measures to stem the ever-rising tides of the floods.

Indeed, they also have to be reminded about the need to judiciously spend the ecological funds from international donor agencies, sent in hard currency. That is precisely what they are meant for, instead of pilfering it to feather their already well-woven nests.

To begin with, they have to take the timely, annual warnings from the Nigerian Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) and the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMET) with all the seriousness they deserve. For instance, recently the former alerted 31 states in the country to be prepared for the floods. According to Prof. Joseph Utsev, the warning is based on the 2024 Annual Flood Outlook for the country.

Amongst the states that got the letter from the federal government agency in that regard are Adamawa, Akwa-Ibom, Anambra, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Ogun, Rivers, Sokoto, Taraba, and Yobe. In precise terms, the floods will most likely affect 142 local government areas across the country.

While 72 LGAs fall within the high flood-risk areas for the months of April, May and June; 135 LGAs will be affected between July and September 2024. Parts of 44 LGAs will be faced with the floods especially in October and November, of this same year. Also revealed is the prediction that 249 LGAs, including the Federal Capital Territory, FCT should be prepared for moderate floods.

So, what urgent and solid steps should be taken to avert or drastically reduce the deleterious effects of the floods by the local councils, as well as the states listed? That is the million naira question.

Viewed from the global perspective, there were Early Warning Conferences in 1998, 2003 and 2006. The salutary aim of course, was to critically analyse and examine preventive methods that were working and others that were not. In fact, the 2005 World Conference on the disasters brought about by Climate Change, held in Kobe and a similar one that took place in Bonn, Germany made appreciable progress.

The conclusion reached was the need for the people to understand the risks involved in the flood disaster and bolster the information link between the agencies, such as NiMET and NIHSA and the people, rather than being fixated only on the technical accuracy of the warning signals. The aim is to concentrate on proactive actions, taken by the people themselves all in the bid to mitigate the scourge of floods.

As was highlighted in 2013 by the then Director General of the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, Muhammed Sani such early warnings should give the policymakers ample opportunity to assess the situation in their communities to come up with remedial measures.

Furthermore, to curtail the rage of floods there has to be a holistic approach to it. The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, Agriculture and Rural Development, as well as Science and Technology, must work in concert to discharge their duties to the people.

The mass media must be carried along towards the sensitisation of the populace even through their local languages in the enlightenment process. They should be well informed on the importance of the frequent clearing of gutters, proper waste disposal methods to prevent blockage of drainages, and the need to keep the number of children they can cater for, to avoid population explosion.

Others include the avoidance of erecting buildings and structures close to rivers, lagoons and the ocean. And of course, the planting of trees instead of felling them.

Also, concerted efforts must be made to reduce the emission of greenhouse, carbon gases that have contributed to the thinning of the protective ozone layer. That would also be in sync with the agreement reached at the Kyoto Protocol on December 11, 1993, but came into effect on February 16, 2005, with 192 Parties, including Nigeria.

In that regard, the Federal Government must come up with the exit date for the use of fossil fuel vehicles, as several other countries such as the United States, Germany, India and the United Kingdom have done.

Taking such preemptive measures would reduce the menace of the floods that cause ecological disasters, turning fertile fields into gullies, also leading to water-borne diseases such as cholera and measles. Floods also caused the displacement of 1.4 million Nigerians back in 2021, killed and injured 603 and 2,400 citizens respectively in 2022, killed some 45 people and displaced 171,545 others in 2023.

In all of these, we must brace up to face the harsh realities in this era of freaky weather conditions; characterised by intense heat waves, the thawing of snow, increasing drought and desertification spreading southwards. It is, therefore, up to each and every one of us to play his part in reducing the scourge of the annual floods and the attendant disasters.