Greater loss of lives and property to flooding loom if states, cities ignore NIHSA warnings, By Chima Nwafo

Posted by News Express | 30 July 2020 | 996 times

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•Flooded Nigerian community

 Generally, a prediction is a statement or an informed guess about the future, sometimes based on facts or evidence. But that is not in all cases. Perhaps, most popular in our clime is the prediction of the outcome of a soccer duel to which enthusiasts believe like the Bible and often bet their last kobo. People concerned about their destiny globally consult fortune-tellers – who use a crystal ball or ifa (Yoruba) or (afa) in Igbo, among other African traditional means – to make a prediction. However, “a meteorologist uses maps and scientific data to tell us about the possibility of rain, snow or sunshine.” And that is the purpose of this discourse.

The Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) on January 21, announced its Seasonal Rainfall Prediction to “guide agriculture, water resources management, energy, transport and aviation.” Much as NiMet’s weather forecast is popular in the transport and aviation sector (the supervising ministry), its impact on agriculture and water resources management is still debatable. How equipped is the agency to provide its scientific predictions? The agency sincerely admits: “The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) requires its 192-member countries to ensure adequate monitoring of its weather by making sure that the gap between two weather stations is not more than 50 kilometres. (However), NiMet is yet to attain this level in our station network density.” Since in Nigeria we are used to “managing” things, consequences of such infrastructural shortfall on the efficacy of its services may not be of concern to anyone.

On its part, the Nigerian Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) – a parastatal in the Ministry of Water Resources – released its prediction in February and warned of disastrous flooding in 2020.    

The Director-General, Mr Clement Nze, who disclosed this when he briefed newsmen on the 2020 flooding season in Abuja, admonished Nigerians to make adequate preparation to avoid unnecessary loss of lives and property to flash floods. He said NIHSA was the most active and visible agency in the prediction and issuance of flood early warning alerts in the country, adding that “flooding is caused by high intensity rainfall of long duration, inadequate drainage of low lying areas, human activities and increasing global population, among others.”

According to the News Express report, Nze recalled that last year, flash floods hit, at least, 124 local government areas across the 36 states and Federal Capital Territory  Abuja (FCT) and affected 210,117 people with 171 casualties and 130, 610 people reportedly displaced. He said flooding incidents had led to loss of lives, property, disruption of economic activities and loss of several hectares of agricultural lands across the country.

“This is also the right time to pull down structures that are within the flooding plains and flood paths; this dry season is a reasonable and better time to do that before the rains set in,’’ he noted , adding that this is the appropriate time to build dredges, river channels, clear blocked gutters and drainage. “Therefore, there is the need to control human activities, environmental adjustment and purposefully adopting actions in certain areas that will make the adjustment possible.’’

He said that the agency would be presenting the 2020 Annual Flood Outlook to the public very soon.

 That is not all. The World Health Organisation and other institutions, both local and international, categorised 2012 flood disaster in Nigeria as the worst flood to have hit the country in the past 50 years. Among natural disasters, floods have been reported to be responsible for almost half of the casualties. “Floods are among the most-devastating natural hazards in the world, claiming more lives and causing more property damage than any other natural disaster.” Besides flood, other major environmental disasters in Nigeria include drought, oil spill, bush fire and landslide.  

  Although flooding has been a yearly occurrence in the low-lying belt of the nation’s mangrove and fresh water swamps along the coast, nothing seems to have been done structurally to contain the disaster that compels families to flee their traditional abodes, turning them to internally-displaced persons with all the losses and inconvenience, despite the annual warnings from the NIHSA. Notwithstanding, experts agree that flooding can be prevented by building dykes and levees, which are structures built to control flooding. Dykes are known as flood-control erections, same as levees. They are built to block and control river-flooding, including water surges as experienced in the coastal areas.

 Besides NIHSA’s record of floods in 2019, Flood List News of October 2019 provided more details.

 “Further flooding has affected parts of Nigeria since late September 2019, according to a recent Red Cross report: The International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies (ICRC) said in a report of October 7: ‘Arising from high-water levels in Rivers Niger and Benue and heavy rainfall, Cross River, Kogi, Niger, and Taraba states have experienced flooding from 21 to 27th September 2019.’

“Some of the worst of the flooding came on 21 and 22 when there was a high peak in the water levels for River Niger and Benue. The Niger River at Lokoja, Kogi State, reached 10.5 metres, well above the red alert stage of 9 metres. Overall, the flooding affected around 18,640 people (3,104 households) in 54 communities while some 4,485 people (746 households) are currently displaced due to the floodwaters (2,300 in Taraba; 1,129 in Niger State and 1,056 in Cross River.”

The Red Cross affirmed that “since June 2019, torrential rainfall and flash floods have hit 124 local government areas within 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory – Abuja. This has affected a total number of 210,117 people with 171 casualties recorded in hospitals and 130,610 people reported being displaced. “Almost 20,000 were displaced by the Benue and Niger River floods.”

The report added that Adamawa and Bornu experienced their worst in seven years. According to the United Nations, flooding (in 2019) has once again hit areas of North-east Nigeria, severely affecting thousands of people in Borno State. “Meanwhile, the flood situation in neighbouring Adamawa State continues, with almost 20,000 people rendered homeless.”

Despite the foregoing crowd of witnesses of predictions, warnings and coordinated records and informed reports of previous flooding incidents, there is no evidence that state governments and relevant federal agencies heed the warnings or take the necessary preventive acts to ameliorate and checkmate the effects and destructive impacts of floods in Nigeria. Given that federal records agree with international organisations’s that the 2010 flooding was the worst in 50 years, there is no evidence of measures taken after that experience to minimise the impact of flash floods.

And since then the situation has not improved, either. On the contrary, 2019, in line with climate change warnings, recorded worst torrential rainfall and flash flooding than previous years. And in all cases, there were no available records that dykes, levees, have been built, and clearing of channels, and other measures taken. In line with what is already a tradition of fire-fighting approach to issues, emergency rehabilitation centres are usually created by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in cooperation with affected state governments.

Therefore, against the backdrop of the current prediction by the NIHSA, we expect to see structural changes in states, especially the low-lying coastal areas. This does not exempt non-coastal states from also taking necessary actions, especially in erosion-prone states ahead of the rains.     



•Chima Nwafo, Consulting Editor News Express/Environmental Analyst, can be reached on:; +2348029334754.


Source: News Express

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