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Flooding: When nature unleashes its fury

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Flooding: When nature unleashes its fury

…As heaven opens up  in torrents

 

Rain is usually a welcome relief, especially when it comes after a drought. But it has its consequences when it becomes nonstop. This year alone, it has wreaked havoc in many communities. Many Nigerians, as captured in this report by OUR CORRESPONDENTS, dread the flood, which usually accompanies the rain

 

 

Hindatu Yahaja was a July bride. She must have laughed happily as she was joined with her husband, Malam Sani Yahaya, in matrimony. She probably dreamt of wonderful years of child bearing and rearing. But a terrible flood ruthlessly swept that dream away. Indeed, the couple was still savouring the new experience of being husband and wife, when the heavens angrily opened up days after the nuptial. It was like nature unleashed its fury and the rains, which appeared to fall endlessly, furiously cleared and devoured everything on its path. Hindatu was also swept away by the flood.

 

The remains of Hindatu, who got married three days before the flood in Jibia town in Katsina State, were recovered in Niger Republic. The heartbroken husband recounted: “My wife was missing for some time but her corpse was retrieved at Girka village in Mada-Rumfa town of Niger Republic.

 

The flood occurred on a Monday about 2a.m. and cleared my house. It took away my wife. We searched in the river and rubble of the collapsed walls of my house and the houses of our neighbours but we couldn’t locate her. “As we were searching, we got a phone call from people that were helping us in Mada- Rumfa town of Niger Republic, that the corpse of a young woman had been retrieved from the river that passes through their town.

 

We rushed to the town and discovered that it was the remains of my wife. We collected her body and brought it back to Jibia town, where we buried her in accordance with Islamic injunctions.” Sani and his late wife were not the only people affected by the fury of nature. In Babangida Tarmuwa Local Government Area of Yobe State hundreds of people, including women and children were rendered homeless after a heavy rainfall.

 

The rain, which started on a Sunday night, fell all through Monday, leading to massive flooding of several communities. The flood devastated several farmlands and houses. It was learnt that although not many people died, over 100 houses were destroyed, along with food items and other personal property of residents. Mallam Babangida Usman, a resident of Tarmuwa, said: “I lost five rooms of my house.

 

Almost all my house was destroyed. I also lost my food items and clothes to the flood. Right now, I’m taking refuge with friends.” Another resident, Mustapha Buba, said: “My house has been destroyed. I have sent my family home, while I take refuge at the primary school, pending when government will come to assists us.” The South-West is not left out in this litany of natural disasters. In fact, in July, heavy rainfall wreaked havoc on Abeokuta, Ogun State.

 

The rain resulted in the loss of lives and wanton destruction of property. Roads were flooded, bridges submerged, drainage channels overflowed and vehicles swept off after three hours of downpour.

 

All these and many more sufferings of citizens have made Nigerians to wonder about the preparedness of the State Emergency Management Agencies (SEMA) in different states. Our correspondents went round the states to speak with the SEMA officials. Enugu State, with loss of lives and property worth millions of naira, has had its share of natural disasters since the beginning of the year.

 

Such natural disasters include flood, windstorm, rainstorm, landslides, mudslides, fire outbreaks and others. The most recent disaster occurred on July 4 where two persons drowned after a downpour in Nsukka. The flood destroyed property worth millions of naira with several households displaced.

 

The Executive Secretary of the Enugu State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Mrs. Nkechi Eneh (a lawyer), said the agency had embarked on flood sensitisation and awareness campaign, with special focus on the flood-prone communities like Nsukka.

 

Eneh said that the awareness campaigns were organised in collaboration with the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to expose people to information on how to respond during floods. She said: “As you know, this is rainy season and early in the year, the Nigerian Metrological Agency (NIMET) made some predictions about the form and nature of rainfall this year. Then subsequently, the Nigerian Hydrological Services Agency (NISA), in its 2018 annual flood outlook also mentioned some states and cities in Nigeria that are flood-prone and also stated the level of risks that would be faced by these cities.

 

They categorised it in highly probable risk areas and probable risk areas. Enugu State fell into the category of probably risk areas. However, a particular area, Nsukka, was mentioned as highly probable risk area and they also predicted that there was going to be flooding in Nsukka. It happened as predicted, because in July, there was flooding in Nsukka and we responded as an agency alongside some other stakeholders.” Eneh added that SEMA had put measures in place to confront disaster generally and flood specifically, an emergency response plan.

 

The document of the plan is expected to be deployed in case of any emergency, depending on the magnitude of the emergency. She said: “We reviewed that document May this year. This document contains everything that is required to respond to any emergency in the state.

 

It’s in different sectors. Then also we have embarked on flood sensitisation across the state. We first of all started with radio jingles, sensitising people all over the state about the dangers of flooding and also measures that could be put in place in order to forestall or mitigate the damage assuming and when it occurs.

 

“The essence, of course, is to enlighten the people that live in such flood prone-areas and educate them on what they need to know. If you live in a floodprone area, you are expected to evacuate once you know that rain is going to fall. Or assuming that you are there, and rain starts falling, you watch and see that precipitation is high, there is high intensity and as a result of that it will lead to flooding. You are advised to move to another location. “Secondly, we discourage people from carrying out socio- economic activity on flood plains and also to try to clear their drainages. Do not block the drains, because when these drains are blocked, it results in flooding.”

 

Eneh noted that the agency, in support of the governor, has stockpiled relief materials in readiness for any disaster. According to her, the agency is not expected to provide all that victims may have lost, but the essence is to assuage their losses and provide any momentary support to the affected persons. She added: “It’s not just flood because we experience fire, flood, building collapse and windstorm, like the windstorm that occurred from April through May. Enugu is ready to respond to any disaster that occurs in the state.

 

We also ensure that all our stakeholders, because SEMA is not a response agency, it is a coordinating agency for the stakeholders, we coordinate the first responders. So on our own part, we have ensured that all the necessary stakeholders are also prepared and ready to respond to any disaster when they are called upon.”

 

The executive secretary said the agency did not handle issue of ecological fund. According to her, government provides all that the agency needs to tackle any form of natural disaster.

 

“Government provides for all that the agency needs in order to respond effectively and efficiently to any disaster. Government procured an emergency response vehicle for the agency, about three months now; and in that vehicle, we have the basic search and rescue equipment in case of any auto crash or anything. We have cameras that can be used in case of building collapse.

 

“We have the power unit, we have the spreader in case of auto crash or something; we use it to separate the vehicle so that we can bring out the victims trapped in there and all that. In terms of funding, we are receiving the necessary support in order to operate efficiently as an agency,” she stated. Eneh disclosed that some of the flood disasters occurred on University Road, Nsukka, (where two lives were lost); Uwali/Agbani also in Nsukka and Aku/Ukehe, both in Igboetiti Local Government Area. She said that Nsukka had a history of flooding, which, according to her, takes different dimensions and can be attributed to climate change.

 

She, however, said that the agency was on top of the situation. Abia State has been singularly lucky not to have any major emergency situation over the years. There have been no cases of internally displaced persons arising from natural or man-made disasters. Even the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) couldn’t remember the last time it attended to major flood or fire victims displaced until recent cases.

 

However, when there is need for them to respond, it has been in collaboration with NEMA. The Executive Secretary, Abia SEMA, Mr. Sunday Jackson, said that the agency, in conjunction with NEMA, recently attended to victims of border clash between Isu in Arochukwu Local Government Area and their Utuma neighbours in Cross River State. He said the victims of the clashes, who lost their property and fled their homes, were provided with relief materials.

 

Jackson said: “The agency is doing an assessment report of the recent flood and windstorm that destroyed houses at Nkporo in Ohafia Local Government Area. Four communities were affected by the flood caused by the overflow of the river in the community. The level of response would determine the assessment report which would be ready soon. SEMA works in collaboration with NEMA in emergency situations. The report of the Nkporo disaster would also be sent to the national office in Abuja for action.” He gave an assurance on the readiness of the agency to contain emergencies in the state.

 

On the funding for the agency,  he said, “that will be a matter for us to sit down and discuss”. Rivers State does not have SEMA, but it tackles flooding through direct interventionists’ programmes whenever it rains heavily. It also handles flooding through environmental awareness campaigns targeted at residents. Rivers State was originally listed among the beneficiaries of the Ecological Fund, but did not get its share when the Federal Government eventually released the fund.

 

Its exclusion was strongly condemned by the state House of Assembly last year. But through the delisting of canals, sand filling of swamps, the evacuation of wastes and campaigns against developments on drainage channels, the flood that affected more than 1,000 residents around this time last year, had been averted.

 

Engineers from Julius Berger and officials of the state Ministry of Works toured the affected areas with Governor Nyesom Wike last year. He promised to take some tough steps to ensure that the state wouldn’t experience such devastating flooding in the future.

 

The Liaison Manager of Julius Berger Plc, Sam Ngbor, assured the governor that the company would work with the state government to resolve the challenges posed by flooding.

 

It was the same Julius Berger which tackled the flooding that occurred for years at St. Johns Bus Stop and Market Junction on Aba Road, Port Harcourt. The Lagos SEMA (LASEMA) said that it was collaborating with other relevant ministries and agencies in the state to avert flooding, following the recent heavy rainfalls.

 

The General Manager, LASEMA, Tiamiyu Adesina, said the agency was being proactive by collaborating with other state agencies and the state Ministry of the Environment to clear the drains and canals for easy flow of the storm water and prevent flooding, which could result into loss of lives and property. He said in order to ensure safety of lives and property, LASEMA had procured new set of hi-tech rescue equipment.

 

Adesina added that the equipment included caterpillars, excavators, boats and other rescue gadgets. He said: “In Lagos, the life of the citizen is paramount and we will not wait for disaster to occur before we swing into action. We are working with relevant agencies in the clearing of the drains and canals across the state. We have done it in Bariga and Shomolu areas and we are ready to do it anywhere people experience flood.”

 

On the preparedness of the state, in case of displacement by flood, Adesina said that the state had two relief camps in Agbowa and Igando which could accommodate over 2,000 people. He said: “We are prepared; we won’t allow them to suffer double jeopardy. We will quickly take them to our relief camps either in Agbowa or Igando. The essence of governance is the safety of life and property.

 

No one will be displaced on the account of disaster such as flooding or rain storm in Lagos.” The Executive Secretary of SEMA in Oyo, Mr. Akin Makinde, said there was no fear of experiencing any flood disaster in the state during this raining season or anytime thereafter.

 

He said: “All the major rivers are being dredged right now. Gutters across the state are being cleared, and we have embarked on sensitisation both in the electronic and print media. We have been visiting local governments, educating them on the risk in dumping refuse in streams and drainages.

 

“There have been no emergency cases or disaster during this raining season and we don’t have any. This is because banks of many of the bridges have been widened. We are fully prepared. All the buildings obstructing free flow of water have been pulled down. We do not expect any calamity.” On the ecological funds, he said the state was not found wanting. “We have always been judiciously utilising our available resources and that is why we have not been having any incident of flooding again like we had it in August 2011.

 

There has not been any flood disaster again in the state.” Worried by NIMET’s recent prediction of flood in Kaduna SEMA has started sensitising residents to the early-warning signals in the flood-prone areas of the state and especially Kaduna metropolis. Before now, some parts of Kaduna metropolis like Kigo Road, Nassarawa, Gonin Gora, Malali and Unguwar Romi all bordering the plains of River Kaduna had suffered from flood at one time or the other.

 

It was in view of this that the SEMA Executive Secretary, Mr. Ben Kure, and his team took a tour of flood prone areas in Kaduna to advise residents of the area on safety measures to mitigate the effect and guide against loss of lives and property in the event that the flood becomes a reality. Kure said that Governor Nasir el-Rufai had directed the agency to ensure that no life is lost to flood.

 

Before now, government had always advised residents to vacate flood-prone areas, especially after every incident of flooding in the state, but the advice has always fallen on deaf ears. But as part of the measures to mitigate the effect in case of any eventuality, Kure insisted that the campaign was undertaken because of the need to remind the residents to relocate from floodprone areas to safer places, in view of the predictions of NIMET.

 

He also disclosed that government has made adequate arrangements to cater for potential Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the floodprone areas if the prediction becomes a reality, adding that in the event of flooding, public primary schools would be used as temporary IDPs camps.

 

Kure also told the residents to heed government’s advice to relocate from flood-prone areas to safer places. Measures that could be taken now, disclosed Kure, were to clear the drainage channels in their neighbourhoods, while refraining from dumping garbage in the drainage to prevent blockages. The Kaduna Environmental Protection Authority (KEPA) in collaboration with ZL Global Alliance – Nigeria, also embarked on emergency evacuation of refuse from strategic areas prone to flood in the state capital.

 

 

Areas visited include Kigo Road, Bachama in Malali and Rafin Gusa in Tudun Wada all within Kaduna metropolis. Speaking during the exercise, the KEPA Manager, Dr. Yusuf Rigasa, said the agency was not happy with the way residents were dumping refuse indiscriminately on the waterways. He added: “We are here to respond to emergency because this place is likely to experience flood this year. All of us must copy from other cities of the world where this has worked. People should do the right thing to help themselves.

 

The measure now is that, we want the citizens to work together with us because this is a collective responsibility. “We need to realise that the state government is working for us and we are part and parcel of that government. The community must come and join us.

 

When you see your neighbours throwing something into the drains, check them because enforcement is not just about being arrested by the police, but we can do it on our own as individuals.” The Managing Director, ZL Global Alliance, Dr. Abiola Bashorun, noted that el-Rufai had earlier called for emergency meeting of key stakeholders to see how flood could be prevented, hence the immediate action by her company and the agency. She said: “We are here trying to evacuate refuse under a project called ‘Operation flush’. What we have realised here is that, the people in this area have continued to dump refuse in the canals.

 

We are trying to evacuate the refuse as directed by the governor in addition to what we have been doing since 2016. “For some of us who have been following environmental issues across the country, Katsina and Ogun states have been hit by flood. We should know that Kaduna is close to Katsina and that was why the governor called for the emergency meeting to see how we could be proactive to prevent that from happening in Kaduna.

 

“If you can remember, before the 2016 evacuation, this area was known for flooding and we are doing this to protect lives and property here. But as much as government is trying its best in this regard, people should learn to manage their waste from their homes. We have to keep educating them. Our town crier will be here to continue with the education.”

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