On Curtailing the Recurrence of Nigeria’s Flood: Future Perspective

Reports indicate that this year’s flood in Nigeria is the most disastrous season of floods the country has ever experienced in a decade; the flood has resulted in over 600 fatalities and the displacement of 1.3 million people from their homes since September. Parts of the country became more vulnerable to flooding as a result of heavy rains, and food prices have started to skyrocket as a result of crop losses.

The situation became so critical that Sadiya Umar Farouq, Nigeria’s minister of humanitarian affairs, requested that five state governments get ready to evacuate people who live in floodplains.

To this end, it has been forecast that food prices may rise as a result of certain large agricultural firms being affected by the flood. 10,000 acres of farmland belonging to Olam Nigeria, which produces 25% of Nigeria’s rice, have reportedly been inundated, creating a shortage that may cause prices to increase. According to Ade Adefeko, the company’s vice president for corporate and government relations, “We should expect an increase in rice prices in December. Of course, that goes without saying, because the entire crop has been lost.”

Forewarned but unprepared

The National Orientation Agency (NOA) and the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMET) had told Nigerians not to build on water channels or put trash in drains in order to avoid tragedies caused by floods.

According to the agencies, it has been anticipated that there would be a lot of flooding this year, and Nigerians should stop doing things that would make them more likely to flood, such as farming and building in flood-prone locations.

The Federal Government has entrusted NiMET with the duty of advising on all matters related to meteorology, including “projecting, preparing, and interpreting government policy in the field of meteorology; and issuing weather (and climate) forecasts for the safe operations of aircraft, ocean-going vessels, and oil rigs.”

However, the agency, through its Director General, re-intensified its warning early last month that states in the north-central and south-eastern parts of Nigeria should brace up for flooding. Even though the flood was caused by heavy rain, the NiMet DG said that the opening of dams and other water storage facilities could still affect the north-central and south-east states.

“You remember, we issued the forecast in February, and we followed up with the monthly updates that we were going to have above-normal rainfall in most parts of the country. So in terms of the rainfall-induced floods, we have seen the peak, but remember that we told you that this rainwater gets collected into the reservoirs and dams, and whenever they are filled, it gets filled.

“So on September 13, the Ladgo dam was released. Other dams were also released. So what we are witnessing now is riverine flooding. And from the information we are getting, we are going to see more flooding.

“And now the rains are concentrating in the north-central and southern states. So that will be a combination of short-duration, high-intensity rain with riverine flooding. We are going to see more of these floods in the north-central states, as we have seen in Kogi, and also in the southeastern and south-western states, as we are beginning to see in Anambra and some parts of the south-west.” The DG then revealed.

Affected states

Media reports revealed that out of the 19 African countries, Nigeria had the most flood victims. According to information from the UN OCHA, the World Food Programme, and Telimer Research, at least 3.5 million of the five million individuals in Africa who have been affected by the flood are Nigerians.

Many citizens were dissatisfied due to the fact that Nigeria lacked flood defences like the Dasin Hausa Dam, which should have been built 40 years ago and could have been able to mitigate the impact of the flood, which was revealed to have been primarily linked to the discharge of water from the Cameroonian Lagdo dam.

This year’s floods are worse than those in 2012. According to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), more than 603 people have died because of flooding caused by recent torrential rains that hit many Nigerian states other than Lagos State and caused a lot of damage over the past two months.

Farmlands and houses were submerged in states like Plateau, Benue, Ebonyi, Anambra, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Yobe, Borno, Taraba, Adamawa, Edo, Sokoto, Imo, Abia, Delta, Kogi, Niger, Gombe, Kano, Jigawa, Zamfara, Kebbi, and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The Director General of NEMA, Mr. Mustapha Ahmed, revealed that the 2022 floods hit 450 of the 774 local government areas of the country and the FCT, stating that the “2022 Annual Flood Outlook” forecasted that 233 local government areas in 32 states and the FCT would be at “sizeable risk.” It also said that “moderately probable flood risks” were present in 212 council areas in 35 states and the FCT.

Floods do not only displace individuals in the country or force people to leave their homes, but they also negatively impact human endeavors. Due to the increased flooding Nigeria has witnessed, numerous thousands of individuals are currently facing a housing crisis as a result of the destruction or damage. People who are currently affected need quick humanitarian help to stay alive. Aid like housing and livelihood support, such as seeds and farming equipment, and financial help, among other things, will be important for recovery once the flood waters go down.

The socioeconomic, health-related, ecological, and cultural effects are the most significant ones of the flood; Numerous socio-economic effects include the loss of life, psychological and emotional suffering, and the destruction of infrastructure, social amenities, and property worth billions of naira.

The destruction of crucial crops, including staple foods like cassava, rice, and plantains, has eliminated both vital food sources and significant sources of income. Flooding is projected to have “a devastating impact on food security.” In a country where 19.5 million people are facing severe food insecurity, over 569,000 hectares of farmland have been destroyed or damaged.

What is the way forward?

It is no longer news that, in the face of climate change, population growth, and an increase in socioeconomic activity, water-related dangers and threats have emerged as a major global issue. Each year, water-related hazards impact millions of people worldwide and result in billions of dollars’ worth of property damage.

In many regions of Africa, water-related hazards like floods and droughts are now a significant source of food shortages, hardship in livelihoods, health risks, and conflicts. By and large, the Federal Government of Nigeria must begin to secure water supplies, create a suitable water governance framework, maintain the management of transboundary basins, and control floods and droughts.

Nigeria’s Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, stated that “over the years, the management and distribution of water resources as well as mitigation of water-related hazards and disasters has been challenging for governments at all levels, globally… “Sometimes, this can be attributed to a lack of hydro-meteorological information during planning in the past, which has been exacerbated by the effects of climate change.”

Flooding disasters are always long-term events that require planning, which begins with the creation of policies. The bone of contention is to know the Federal Government of Nigeria’s plans for the river basins. At all costs, construction must be avoided on flood plains. To lessen the effects of floods in Nigeria, it is necessary to increase disaster risk communication, education, and awareness-raising efforts. Important organizations, including the Nigerian Hydrological Services Agency, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency, and the National Emergency Management Agency, all must upscale their capacity to prevent subsequent flooding in Nigeria.

The campaign against flooding needs to be non-stop. Nigerians need to be sensitised on how to treat waterways with respect. It is revealed that the environment won’t behave negatively if people don’t harm it; it is thus imperative that the government modify its stance on climate change in the future.

Also, Nigeria should commence building infrastructure along the River Benue and its tributaries that will be primarily used for flood management and secondarily for a hydroelectric generation. Because the River Benue’s tributaries have a significant potential for flooding and also have high discharge rates, it is necessary to construct numerous flood control dams and reservoirs along their length.

Flood control structures offer temporary upstream storage for flood waters so that downstream areas are shielded from flooding. When flooding is less likely to happen, the flood waters are slowly let out.

According to some experts at the inception of the flooding, if care is not taken, the deluge can potentially wipe out the entire nation. This is mainly because floods cannot grasp human language; sometimes, it is practically impossible to steer the water in the direction wanted. Wherever the water wants to flow, it will.

No restriction is as powerful as a flood because it will certainly flow. Many soil and water engineers in Nigeria indicated that the country is in serious peril, and there is a need for victims to start experiencing actual relief rights. Actual relief is far beyond condolence visitations and purchasing canoes, as some state governments have done. The real relief lies in taking real action.

It is important to develop a strategy that combines physical infrastructure improvements with ecosystem-based adaptation. Examples include building dams and reservoirs to store surplus water, protecting riverbanks, building levees and spillways, setting up effective drainage systems, and dredging some of Nigeria’s major rivers. Also, urban and settlement growth involving building on lower-lying, runoff-prone regions should be prohibited.

Lastly, Nigeria needs to improve its institutional, regulatory, and governance capabilities in the areas of spatial planning, transboundary water resource management cooperation, emergency response, flood prediction, and the enforcement of environmental law.

Educator, writer and legal researcher at Alafarika for Studies and Consultancy.

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