Flooding imminent, Federal Government warns

Flood in Nsukka
Flood in Nsukka

The rains are back. The Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) says in its Annual Flood Outlook (AFO) for the year that 35 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), are flood-prone. The agency is advising residents of 314 of the country’s 774 local government areas to be at the alert. BUNMI OGUNMODEDE writes that relocating to safer havens may be a wise decision.

WITH the August break over, the rainy season is expected to go into full swing this month. The Federal Government yesterday renewed its flood alerts to Nigerians – millions of Nigerians across 314 local government areas may be affected by varying degrees of flooding. The government through the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) had warned in an Annual Flood Outlook (AFO) to brace for flood-related challenges.

The council areas are spread over 35 states.

The government urged states and local government areas to apply necessary environmental regulations in their areas to guard against recurrence of flood.

The Water Resources Minister, Mr. Suleiman Adamu, told reporters in Abuja: “Well, let me say that by the nature of our governance structure, each tier of government has its laws. In addition to the Federal Government, they also have their laws.

“So, I am sure all the states of the federation have environmental laws that guard against what is happening, especially issues like erecting buildings on the watercourse.

“So, I don’t think they need to be reminded of this; they just need to make sure that their agencies are making the necessary surveillance and kind of regulating this development.

“Number two issues like cleaning of drainages and so; I think this is something that everybody should do not only the government at state or local government level, even the community themselves should be involved.

“Why do we have environmental sanitation in many states, it is for them to be able to do this and we know that this thing is going to happen and they are the ones directly affected.

“Why must they wait for the government to come and do this thing for them and what are the local governments doing.

“But let me also say that the Annual Flood Outlook (AFO) we normally provide is not for show. It is serious government’s business to alert the nation of what is likely to come.

“And then it is the responsibility of those sub-national governments to take it up from there.

“We have shared the information with everybody, with all the states. It’s their responsibility to take it down to the local governments.”

Adamu said that the dredging of Rivers Niger and Benue were part of government’s effort at curbing the menace of flood in the country.

“We approved such an idea to dredge Rivers Niger and Benue which we have found very useful and we will do a lot to safeguard the banks of the rivers and the communities downstream from excessive flooding.” the minister said.

He was echoing Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who led a federal delegation to the IDPs camp in Makurdi on Wednesday to identify with the victims.

Osinbajo, who stood in for President Muhammadu Buhari, hoped that the dredging would not only tackle flooding but also creates job opportunities for the youth.

He said: “We need to look at a realistic solution to this problem, the dredging of River Benue is very important in addressing this flood issue and we will do something about it.’’

The government, he said, was not only concerned about this year’s flood disaster but the 2012 disaster too and would find permanent solution to Benue incessant flooding.

“The intention of the Federal Government is not just to assist flood victims but also to find ways of providing real opportunities to help Nigerians improve their standard of living,” he assured.

According to the Manager at the International Market Camp for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Makurdi, the Benue State capital, James Iorhuna, no fewer than 4, 775 persons have been dislodged from their homes, have registered.

The camp was set up following flood which displaced more than 100,000 persons in 21 local government areas of the Northcentral state.

Iorhuna said: “We have so far registered 1,387 male children, 1,349 female children, 531 men, 642 women, 585 children under the age of five, 92 pregnant women, 115 nursing mothers and 74 physically challenged persons.”

The camp manager said the United Nations Children Education Fund (UNICEF) had provided water and 40 toilets at the camp, while other basic needs of the IDPs were being met.

The states and local governments were yesterday urged states and local government areas to apply necessary environmental regulations in their areas to guard against recurrence of flood.

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An ecologist, Mr. Abdullahi Aremu, urged the Federal Government and other relevant stakeholders to adopt flood proof technologies that could minimise the effect of floods in the country.

Aremu, who is the Director-General, Advocacy for Environmental and Sanitation Integrity, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), was reacting to the floods which recently destroyed many property and rendered thousands homeless in Benue and Katsina states.

He said: “Floods occur when ponds, lakes, riverbeds, soil, and vegetation cannot absorb all the water. Water then runs off the land in quantities that cannot be carried within stream channels or retained in natural ponds, lakes, and man-made reservoirs.

“There is need for government and other relevant stakeholders to devise means of holding water where it falls by adopting flood proof technologies.’’

Aremu also urged them to minimise flood damages by restoring upland wetlands and improving agricultural practices, saying: “There is need to encourage collaboration among academic disciplines such as engineering, social science, and other science and technology fields in controlling and solving flood problems.

“Flood control in both structural and non-structural forms helps protect lives and property from flood devastation. Floodplains are naturally occurring low-lying areas adjacent to waterways that act as natural filtration systems, serve as flood water storage sites and help recharge ground water and aquifer systems.’’

The environmentalist said that the public should be educated about the risks and costs of living in the floodplain.

Some states governments, including Lagos, have urged residents to relocate from flood paths to avoid disaster. Lagos is among the states listed by the NIHSA to brace for flooding. The agency advised the state to take proactive measures in 18 local government areas. They are: Badagry, Ojo, Amuwo-Odofin, Apapa, Eti-Osa, Epe, Agege, Mushin, Somolu, Lagos Island, Lagos Mainland, Surulere, Ajeromi-Ifelodun, Ibeju-Lekki, Kosofe, Ifako-Ijaye, Ikeja and Ikorodu.

Last week, the Lagos State government, through its Environment Commissioner Babatunde Adejare, advised residents in the listed local governments to find a safer haven, informing them of plans to release water from the Ogun-Osun Dam.

In Delta State, the government is collaborating with the Federal Government and the World Bank to initiate remediation projects five communities.

It launched yesterday the Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP) in Asaba. Governor Ifeanyi Okowa said project will proffer solution to erosion and environmental challenges.

NEWMAP, which is an interventionist programme assisted by the World Bank in collaboration with the Delta State government under the auspices of the Federal Government is designed to check gully erosion and flood.

The described as worrisome, the existence of over 100 active erosion and flood ravaged sites in the Southsouth state.

He said: “The World Bank has partnered with us in different areas and we are happy with the development as we are ready to partner with any organisation or individual that is ready to assist our people, especially, those in erosion and flood prone areas, and in the area of our job creation efforts.”

The Senior Environmental Specialist, World Bank and NEWMAP Task Team Leader, Dr. Amos Abu, lauded the administration for its commitment towards the development of Delta State, especially in tackling environmental challenges which was evident in the quick release of the counterpart funding of N530 million.

Some of the flood-prone local governments as listed by NIHSA’s annual flood outlook are: Abia’s four local governments of Umuahia South, Umuahia North, Ukwa West and Ukwa East – are to be affected; nine local government areas in Cross River State; six council areas in Ebonyi; 15 and 11 local government areas in Rivers and Akwa Ibom states respectively.

In Ogun State, six local government areas – Abeokuta North, Abeokuta South, Ifo, Obafemi-Owode, Ijebu-East and Ogun Waterside – are to be affected. Sixteen of the 33 local government areas to experience varying dimensions of floods.

At a workshop on AFO in Abuja, the NIHSA Director-General, Dr. Moses Beckley predicted flooding in eight major rivers across the country. He advised residents living in flood prone areas to relocate.

The expected areas of flooding are: Niger, Benue, Sokoto-Rima, Anambra-Imo, Cross River, Niger Delta, Komadougu-Yobe, Ogun-Osun and several other sub-basins of the country.

Dr. Beckley said: “This outlook forecast is to get the people aware, enlightened, so that they can prepare effectively for what to likely expect from flood incident.

“We in the agency advise those living in these areas to relocate to safety regions having the knowledge of hydrological hazard which floods have caused in previous years in the country.

Beckley, however, explained that the areas to be affected by flood this year would be lower than that of last year.

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