Between Nigerians And Inclement Weather – By Emmanuel Onwubiko

Edo Flood

The year 2012 has again achieved an infamous first in the annals and sequence of existential events in Nigeria -the country with arguably the largest black population Worldwide.

The year 2012 has brought with it the worst weather calender in the history of Nigeria’s existence as a geographical and/or geopolitical territory since the amalgation of the Southern and Northern Protectorates by the then British colonial masters in 1914 led by the late Lord Lugard.

Still smarting from the unfortunate realisation that the year 2012 is one in which the largest number of innocent Nigerians have so far been killed in the most gruesome of fashions by armed Islamic extremists waging a war of attrition against the Nigerian State and perceived religious enemies made up essentially of innocent Christians and moderate Moslems, Nigeria’s weather has become so inclement and vicious in fatalities so much so that at the last count over one thousand persons have lost their lives from massive floods that are said to have emanated from the South Eastern Nigerian neighboring country of Cameroon when the dam was reportedly opened by the Government of Cameroon to ease up the excessive water threatening the integrity of the dam.

The release of the dam water from Cameroon has resulted in the dangerous massive overflow of the River Niger in Nigeria thereby creating weather nighmares and flash floodings across the communities that border both the River Niger and the Benue River.

Hundreds of thousands of farmlands have been submerged in places like Lokoja and other adjourning communities in Kogi Sate, several communities in Anambra, Adamawa, Benue States have also suffered and millions of Nigerians mainly farmers and travelers are now passing through the horrific and horrendous ordeals of being swept away by the massive floods.

Another equally dangerous and potentially damaging effect of the current massive submerging of farmlands from the floods is that sooner rather than later, Nigerians may be subjected to the untold hardship of food insecurity because, according to experts, a lot of the crops planted by the affected farmers all across the country do not have the capacity to withstand the massive overflow of water from the Cameroon dam.

There is also widely circulated report that 40 communities near the Sokoto Dam in Sokoto State would surely experience submerging of their communal farmlands when eventually water is released from the dam as is the usual practice every year because the Nigerian Government has not thought it wise to build dry dams all across Nigeria especially around riverine communities bordering River Niger and Benue to absorb the overflow of flood water from the Cameroon dam when ever the Cameroonian authority releases water from that dam or from the Sokoto dam. Last year, thousands of persons lost their lives in Sokoto because of flood waters from the release of dam water. The philanthropist Alhaji Aliko Dangote was seen on national television sharing relief materials to affected Nigerians in the last year’s Sokoto floods and even the devastating flash floods in Ibadan, Oyo State same year.

The natural outcome of the ongoing flooding all across Nigeria is that the National Emergency Management Agency of Nigeria [NEMA] is currently over burdened and since this very proactive and very vibrant agency of the Federal Government is not assisted by any existing emergency management agencies of the thirty six states and the over seven hundred local Government areas in a large nation like Nigeria, the National Emergency Management Agency [NEMA] understandably can not humanly speaking handle the enormous challenges occasioned by these spectacular natural and unnatural disastesr that have befallen our great nation.

I will return to the strategic role being played by the National Emergency Management Agency[NEMA] and the need for the State Governments and the Local Council administrations in Nigeria to quickly complement the effort of this workoholic Federal Agency by establishing and funding proactive and viable disaster/emergency management and rescue agencies in their areas of jurisdiction to control disaster at their local areas.

But first let me point the attention of my readers to the present and clear dangers posed to Nigeria and Nigerians by the monumental and massive floods all across the six geopolitical areas of the Nigerian nation and to try to suggest some workably longstanding and sustainable palliatives and measures through which Nigeria and Nigerians can competently be prepared to face these kinds of challenges in the nearest future.

There is a global fact that scientists and weather scholars have fingered Nigeria as one of the places whereby the effects and consequences of climate change would be severe because of the comprehensive indiscipline and lack of compliance to both urban/town planning and good sanitation attitudes by Nigerians and the poor implementation and/or enforcement of urban/regional and town planning laws and statutes that are articulated and promulgated by the Nigerian legislatures at the National and State levels to guide against natural and unnatural/man-made disasters.

Paul Shaba Marley, a Professor of Crop Production and the Managing Director of the Upper Niger River Basin Development Authority recently predicted that Nigeria could face imminent food insecurity and crisis occasioned by the perennial flooding being experienced across Nigeria this year.

His words; “Flooding is a threat to national food security programme of the Federal Government and the signal to possible food scarcity next year due to washing away of many farmlands, especially in the North of Nigeria.”

According to this erudite scholar, the current volume of flood water in the submerged farmlands is inimical to the growth of cereal crops and crop production generally and except the water levels rescinds in those affected submeged farmlands, especially in places where cereals were grown in the Northern Nigerian region, the nation will inevitably experience grave food shortage because according to him, cereals have low water tolerance.

The Professor of Crop Science spoke with media workers in Minna, Niger State.

The Nigerian press quoted Professor Marley as stating thus; “There is no doubting the fact that flooding is a threat to the food security of Nigeria. Except for Rice that is highly tolerant of water, other cereals are not”.

The Agricultural crop expert further stated thus; “Horticultural crops and other food crops in the flood affected areas are being lost and these will cause big problems in food production next year because it may take long for the water to rescind”.

Experts say that flood defined as the overflow of water that submerges land may be controlled effectively by flood control reservations and dry dams. Experts say that in many countries, rivers are exposed to the dangers of floods and are often carefully managed.

From Wikipedia the online Encyclopedia we can learn that defences such as levees, bunds, reservoirs, and weirs are used to prevent rivers from bursting their banks. When these defences fail, experts are of the knowledgeable opinion that emergency measures such as sandbags or portable inflatable tubes are used.

Experts say that a weir also known as a lowhead dam is most often used to create millpounds.

But in Nigeria with ‘fire brigade’ and very poor emergency preparedness and infrastucture, it is not known how many of these flood control measures have been deployed by the Federal and Governments of the thirty six states of the Federation and the many unviable and dysfunctional local council areas. President Jonathan recently jetted out of the country to attend the United Nations sessions amidst the widening threats to lives and property of Nigerians caused by the massive flood waters that have effectively blocked a major national road network that connects the political apital of Nigeria with the rest of the country in the Southern segments of the large landmass that make up Nigeria.

Experts in Nigeria have also attributed the floods across Nigeria to poor town/urban and regional planning and the lack of readiness of Government agencies to transparently enforce laws against building houses on water ways. Why for instance are the Universities in Nigeria not sufficiently funded to set up research centers on urban/regional and town plannings and why are the Federal ministry of Justice and the state ministries of justice not in the forefront of the fight against abuses of the laws promulgated to safeguard the health of our environment?

Why for instance is the Federal Capital Territory Administration under the current Minister going ahead with the deliberate abuse of the Green Areas by allocating Green Areas to some influential business executives under the guise of attracting developers to open up new satelite districts?

Another question is why most Nigerians would build their living structures on water ways and why the respective State Government never take remedial and preventive actions to relocate their people in these dangerous water ways before the flood waters arrived even with the widespread announcement in popular mass media by the National Emergency Management Agency?

Writing under the theme of what is flood?, the writers of the article in Wikipedia stated thus; “While flood damage can be virtually eliminated by moving away from rivers and other bodies of water, since time out of mind, people have lived and worked by the water to seek sustenance and capitalize on the gains of cheap and easy travel and commerce by being near water. That humans continue to inhabit areas threatened by flood damage is evidence that the perceive value of living near the water exceeds the cost of the repeated periodic flooding”.

I doubt however whether most Nigerians that have lost loved ones and property due to floodings made worst by the absence of emergency control measures, will forget the monumental damage suffered by them this year alone.

For the first time in recent recorded history, the ever busy Abuja-Lokoja Road which is a major link road from the Northern Nigeria to Southern Nigeria has been cut off by the floods that have submerged major towns and cities in Kogi State forcing the Federal Roads Safety Commission [FRSC] to ask motorists coming from both ends of the divide to switch over to other routes that would take longer period of time to get to their desired destination from and to Abuja and other parts of the country.

Many locals in Kogi State are said to have taken refuge on tree tops even as the state and Federal Government have done nothing tangible to resolve this dangerous national emergency.

What the Federal Government has done is to take the easy and unviable solution of constituting a national emergency committee made up of relevant Federal agencies charged with emergency and rescue mandates such as the National Emergency management Agency to assess the extent of damage caused by the floods but the affected populace are left to their unfortunate fate. What a country?

This tepid and illiterate measure adopted by the Federal Government of Nigeria is unworkable and at best is cosmetic. Worst still, because of the collapse of Federal Road infrastructure all across Nigeria and especially in the South East, the problems occasioned by the flood waters have become ever more complex due to absence of alternative viable roads whereby travelers could follow.

Nigerian Government at all levels need to immediately activate workable mechanism for emergency and disaster management strategies and to immediatelly commence the establishment of functional disaster management agencies in the states and local Government areas.

Government needs to adequatelly fund the National Emergency Management Agency [NEMA] to double her activities towards setting up functional national emergency/disaster volunteers’ corps to teach Nigerian youths the different ramifications of disaster management in Nigeria.

The National and State legislatures should also introduce legal and legislative framework for the setting up of state emergency/disaster management volunteer corps to recruit hundreds of thousands of unemployed school leavers and graduates to carry out the national assignment of enlightening Nigerians on how best to prevent man-made disasters and strategies to protect their lives and property from the deadly consequences of disasters/emergency situation and these large army of youth can be deployed to plant economic trees all across Nigeria to protect our naion from the notorious consequences of climate change.

Multinational companies and other corporate bodies should be encouraged to contribute certain percetage of their profits as corporate social responsibility towards the funding of the proposed National disaster/emergency management vlunteers’ corps to be coordinated by the National Emergency Management Agency [NEMA].

Again, technical ministries and agencies like the Federal and state ministries of Environment and the Nigerian Meteorological Agency must be staffed with competent and qualifies Nigerian experts to properly carry out their constitutional mandate because the Federal Ministry of Environment with a career politician as minister has failed to play active role in the control of the ongoing massive floods all aross Nigeria thereby leaving the burden to be carried alone by the National Emergency Management Agency.

Broadcasting outfits and the print media should also focus more airtime and print space on weather reports to keep Nigerians abreast of the current weather situation. Civil society organizations, Community based bodies and faith based bodies also have critical roles to play in this regard.

Nigerian youths should also be sponsored to study weather related courses n the Universities so that Nigeria will be ready in the future with the required manpower to withstand the threats pose by climate change.

+Emmanuel Onwubiko, Head, Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria, blogs @www.huriwa.blogspot.com.

 

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