Despite several warnings from the meteorological agencies, flooding has become a yearly occurrence in Nigeria. From Yobe to Ogun, Katsina to Niger states, it has been tales of woe on flooding this year.
Flooding, caused by torrential rains, left 52 people dead in Katsina and another 20 missing. Over 500 houses were destroyed and more than 5,000 people rendered homeless. The flooding swept away many people as their houses collapsed while they were sleeping.
In Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, more than 11 people died and many others declared missing while vehicles were swept off the roads and many houses severely damaged when the Ogun and Sokori rivers broke their banks after the torrential rain of Friday, July 13, 2018.
Again, in Niger State, eight people were reported to have died in flooding while two others were declared missing following a downpour in Rafi-Gora village and Gangare Saji in Kontagora Local Government Area of Niger State.
Also in Yobe State, 100 houses were destroyed and scores of people rendered homeless by flood caused by heavy downpour in Babangida headquarters of Tarmuwa Local Government Area of Yobe State. Fortunately, no life was lost.
All these happened despite the early warnings of high water level in 35 states in Nigeria by the Nigeria Hydrological Agency (NHSA) and the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMET), which hints at heavy rains and possible flooding.
In 2012, over 360 people were killed while almost two million others were displaced when 6,000 houses were destroyed in flooding, which affected 32 of Nigeria’s 36 states.
Again, in 2015, floods, caused by torrential rains, claimed 53 lives, leaving close to 150,000 people displaced. It was the same scenery in 2017.
NHSA had warned, in March this year, of high risks of river flooding in Sokoto, Niger, Benue, Anambra, Niger Delta, Ogun, Osun, Cross River and Yobe states. It also listed Lagos, Bayelsa, Rivers Delta and Ondo as states that may likely experience coastal flooding.
The 2018 flood outlook also indicated that flash and urban flood were expected to occur in Port Harcourt, Sokoto, Lagos, Ibadan, Yola, Abuja, Maiduguri, Calabar, Jos, Owerri, Ilorin and Osogbo. The agency attributed the flood outlook to a likely rise in the sea level and tidal surge.
Acting Director of NHSA, Mr. Olayinka Ogunwale, had also revealed that 318 local government areas of 35 states would be affected, while 78 of them would have high risks of floods.
Sadly, most of the states and communities listed completely ignored these warnings or have not been proactive enough to curtail flooding and attendant loss of lives and property.
Most communities are still building in flood-prone areas and/or blocking waterways. Curiously, governments are still giving illegal permits for such buildings, paving the way for disaster.
According to the flood outlook, more rains are still coming this year. Now is the time for any responsive and responsible government to move to prevent flooding and loss of lives and property as well as the attendant displacement of people.
Governments of the areas listed for possible flooding should wake up to their responsibilities of early warning to the people of flood prone areas. Government should develop the political will to demolish houses found to be on waterways, resettle and compensate victims. It is not too late to do proper urban planning.
Such governments should also put to test its emergency situation response. They should not wait for disasters to happen before they do this.
State governments receive ecological fund every year. Ecological Fund is a special intervention allocation of two per cent of the consolidated revenue of the federation and one per cent of the derivation allocation set aside to address ecological problems across the states of the federation, such as erosion, landslide, desertification, flood, oil spillage and draught.
We wonder what states do with funds allocated to them for such emergencies. It was recently reported that for 15 years, the federal and state governments diverted about N500 billion ecological funds meant to tackle environmental problems of communities. This is outrageous!
Now is the time for states to put such funds into good use by clearing drainages and constructing new gutters for free flow of water. It is high time government embarked on serious enlightenment campaigns to dissuade people from blocking water ways through illegal buildings or throwing refuse in the drains whenever it rains.
State and the Federal Government should also find ways to compensate victims of flood disaster. This will go a long way in alleviating their pains and misery.
In other climes, government takes serious warnings of meteorological agencies and they move to prevent loss of lives and property. An example is the United States where people are moved away from the path of hurricane.
Nigeria cannot afford to play the ostrich. It is not too late to act to prevent impending disaster. After all, we have been warned.
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