Warding off impending flood disaster in the South-East

July 8th, 2018

The Director of National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), South East Zonal office, Mr Walson Ibarakumo last week warned of impending flood risk in parts of the South East geo-political zone. Specifically, he listed Enugu, Anambra and Ebonyi as the expected worst-prone states.
He said the warning was based on the forecast made by the National Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) and the Nigeria Meterological Agency (NiMET). The NEMA boss attributed the impending flood and storm to climate change, stressing that “the heavy rainfall, storm and wind currently experienced in these states is as a result of climate change so, the people should not be taken by surprise whenever they start experiencing it.
According to him, “Enugu South and East are the highly probable areas while Oji River, Udi and Uzo Uwani are the probable flood risk areas.
“In Anambra State, Aguata, Idemili North and Ogbaru are the highly probable flood risk areas while Anambra East and West, Anaocha, Ayamelum, Onitsha North and South, Dunukofia, Orumba North, Njikoka and Oyi are the probable areas.
“In Ebonyi State, Afikpo South, Abakaliki, Ebonyi, Ezza South, Ikwo, Ohaukwu and Afikpo itself are areas prone to flood risk”.
In a research work conducted by Erekpokeme Lucia Nemine, of the Isaac Jasper Boro College of Education, Sagbama, Bayelsa State, flooding could arise as a result of what is referred to as flash flood, which occurs immediately due to rapid rise of extremely dangerous water travelling at high speeds. There is also coastal flooding in oceans, which is driven by storm surges, hurricanes and tsunamis. Failures of dams or other structures
constructed to retain water may engender flooding.
According to a United Nations (UN) report of 1998, 23 million people were affected as a result of flooding in Xian, China. About 3,000 people lost their lives in that incident, while approximately one million people lost their homes.
In 1996, the monsoon floods in India affected more than five million people in the northern and eastern parts of the country. Severe floods also killed over 200 people in India and Bangladesh and left millions homeless.
Of course, the 2012 flood incident which occurred in Nigeria between July 2012 to October, 2012 was one of the most devastating and reminds one of a terrifying period in the country. Some of the states affected were Anambra, Kogi, Edo, Cross Rivers, Rivers, Benue, Delta and Bayelsa states. Even the Federal Capital Territory, Kaduna, Taraba, Sokoro, Oyo, Enugu and Imo states were not spared. The Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) had even before that incident, alerted that there would be above normal rainfall in the country leading to flooding in 12 strategic states in the country, but both the federal and state governments ignored the warning.
This, coupled with the release of water from the Lagdo dam in the republic of Cameroun, led to the over flow of the banks of Rivers Benue and Niger, resulting in monumental floods. The consequences were disastrous. People were rendered homeless, farmlands were destroyed, drinking water was
contaminated, and economic activities were totally grounded, while death casualties increased to 95 percent. The only means of transportation in affected communities were speed boats and local canoes which increased the cost of ferrying people.
The flood also brought invasion of reptiles such as crocodiles and snakes into many communities across the country. Farmers all over the country suffered huge economic losses. There were challenges of food storage, processing and marketing. Prices of commodities increased and schools were hurriedly shut down.
According to research conducted by Anugwara & Emakpe (2013), “the floods damaged over 1.9 million hectares of lands and reduced food production along flood plains. Rice production in the affected areas was reduced by 22.4%, maize was reduced by 14.6%, and soybean, cassava and cowpea were reduced by 11.2%, 9.3% and 6.3% respectively. A total of 12 million goats, 3 million poultry and 136 cattle were killed in the 2012 floods”.
On its part, NEMA estimated that a total of N2.29 trillion which represents 2.83 per cent of the then rebased Gross Domestic Product (GDP) amounting to N81 billion for 2013, was lost as a result of the floods.
Some time back on August 2011, the city of Ibadan in Oyo state, witnessed some of the worst flood disasters in Nigeria’s history which inevitably resulted in the death of scores of people and the destruction of property worth more than N20 billion.
Damages suffered by the University of Ibadan alone during the flood disaster was estimated at over N10 billion, included the washing away of its fish farm with different species of fish valued at about N300 million, the flooding of the zoological garden, leading to the death of animals, extensive damage of the Teaching and Research Farm and the destruction of books estimated at about N2 billion.
Oyo State is not an isolated case because on June 7th 2012, when the 50-year old Abakpa-Nike Bridge in Enugu State collapsed under the heavy weight of rainfall, commuters remained stranded for several days before the Enugu State Government mobilized a private construction company to carry out remedial recovery of the bridge.
In 1979, in the wake of the Hurricane Agnes and the three mile High Nuclear Accident, the US Congress and former President Jimmy Carter through a combination of legislations and an executive order, established the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Emergency management council.
In Nigeria, we have also established a national emergency management agency. However, even with the federal and several state-run disaster management agencies, only NEMA seems to be working thereby endangering the precious lives of our people who may be far away from the city centers where the activities of this federal agency is felt. This poor attitude to disaster management must change!
Nigeria must go back to the drawing board, design and implement effective disaster management agenda and ensure that at every level from the local government to the federal, effective disaster management and rescue infrastructure are put to work. The fire-brigade approach to issues must equally stop, while we must emphasise prevention on pro-active basis. We cannot afford to spin around and trade blames this time. A stitch in time, they say, saves nine.

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