Our country’s annual tragedy of rampaging flooding is at its worst this year. It is estimated that more than 300 persons have been killed by the floods that are somewhat beyond control.
Out of Nigeria’s 36 states, 27 are battling with the floods. Even Abuja is under threat of the flood sweeping from Kogi State capital, Lokoja. Large numbers of families have been affected, and displaced persons keep increasing. Thousands of hectares of farmland have been destroyed. Hunger is a clear and present danger as the agriculture chain has been grossly disrupted.
The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) is at its wits end while the State Emergency Management Agencies (SEMA) can hardly cope with the onslaught of water. Nigeria is indeed facing a beyond-the-pale disaster. The spokesperson of NEMA, Manzo Ezekiel, has stressed that “this is the highest we ever had since 2012”.
It has now become a recurrent factor that Nigeria records flooding every year. This is almost always as a result of the non-implementation of environmental guidelines, lack of preventive infrastructure and the lacklustre attitude in tackling the flood menace over the years. It is as though the authorities would never take preemptive measures to address the flooding. They are always caught napping once the floods appear. It is always a blame game for the authorities who are quick to attribute the yearly flood to “water overflowing from some local rivers, unusual rainfalls and the release of excess water from Lagdo Dam in neighbouring Cameroon’s northern region.”
The issue of the release of water from Lagdo Dam in Cameroon is a twice-told story that needs to be tackled now at the highest diplomatic level between Nigeria and Cameroon. It flies in the face of reason that Cameroon officialdom acts as they are unaware of the havoc wreaked on Nigeria by flooding waters coming from their dam. The heart-rending economic devastation and hardship must not continue. The Federal Government needs to take measures economically, politically, and diplomatically to check Cameroon’s obvious disregard for Nigerian lives, property and means of livelihood.
On the local front, the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency had predicted more floods in this year than last year due to “excessive rainfalls. NEMA has also alerted states of “serious consequences” in the weeks and months ahead. Two of the country’s dams have also started to overflow. According to NEMA’s Mustapha Habib Ahmed, “I want to advise all the governments of the frontline states to move away communities at risk of inundation, identify safe higher grounds for evacuation of persons and preposition adequate stockpiles of food and non-food items.”
The reports available show that in Jigawa State in the Northwest, floods killed more than 20 people in the past week, as revealed by Yusuf Sani Babura, head of the Jigawa State Emergency Management Agency. Beyond that, Jigawa has recorded 91 deaths from flooding this year, more than any state in the country. Babura stated sadly: “We are facing devastating floods beyond our control. We have tried our best and we couldn’t stop it.”
In Anambra State, NEMA has just confirmed the death of one Ginikanwa Izuoba in the Enugu-Otu, Aguleri flood. The Acting State Coordinator of the agency in Anambra, Mr. Thickman Tanimu said that Izuoba died when her house collapsed due to the impact of the flood.
Tanimu has further revealed that at least 651,053 persons in six local government areas of Anambra State have so far been displaced by flooding. From NEMA’s record on Anambra, Ogbaru has the highest number of victims with 286,000 persons. Anambra West and East Local Government Areas (LGAs) follow with 237,000 and 103,000 victims, respectively. Awka North LGA has 10,345 victims, while Ayamelum has 9,240 flood cases with 5,468 displaced persons.
NEMA, accompanied by officials of the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), have visited Umueze-Anam, Mkpunando, Umunteze, Igbedo, Inoma Ifite-Ogwari in Anambra East, and Anyamelum LGAs. Prof. Charles Chukwuma Soludo has equally visited all the affected areas and constituted a task force comprising the Deputy Governor, Commissioners for Local Government, Health, Power and Water Resources to immediately engage the displaced people and ensure that the essential items and services they required are provided.
Tanimu of NEMA reports thus: The assessment team observed that the flood has submerged houses, farmlands, schools, health centres, police stations, churches and other critical infrastructure. We did the assessment tour with a boat because the access roads to the communities have been submerged by flood water.
Tanimu had some words of commendation for Anambra SEMA “for taking some proactive measures to mitigate the impact of the disaster. Some of the measures undertaken included the identification of 13 Internally Displaced People’s (IDP) camps, recruitment of camp managers and support staff, and activation of health workers to work with the people in the camps. The camps so far activated are the Ifite-Ogwari and Igbakwu Health Centres.
In the words of Tanimu, “the assessment tour is the first step the Federal Government has to take. We have reported our findings to the management of the agency and based on that, they can now deploy relief materials as appropriate. We once again advise villagers to move to the holding camps to avert further loss of lives.”
There is a clear emergency in the land. Schools in the riverine communities have been shut. There is the urgent need to supply clothing, diapers, beddings, sanitary materials, sundry food items, and other relief materials to salvage a very bad situation that the states cannot tackle alone.
Since each of the affected states cannot tackle the flooding menace on their own, the Federal Government should step in and treat the matter as a national emergency. Since the Lagdo Dam in Cameroon is a major factor in the flooding, the government should officially communicate the level of economic and social devastation caused by the flood to the Cameroonian government.
The Nigerian government should call for a bilateral committee with Cameroon to holistically address the indiscretion of recklessly unleashing water on Nigerians every year. This is not the first time that Nigeria has suffered consequences of a natural disaster coming from Cameroon. Back in time, on August 21, 1986, Lake Nyos in Northwest Cameroon erupted triggering the release of tons of carbon dioxide which suffocated and killed 1,746 people and putting the lives of persons living in Nigeria’s frontline states in grave danger.
On December 20, 2005, the same Lake Nyos endangered some 300,000 lives yet again. But a degassing system has since been installed at the lake to reduce the concentration of carbon dioxide in the water. In September 2012, there were fears that Lake Nyos Dam may collapse and lead to the ruination of many Nigerian states through excessive flooding.
Just the same way the murderous gas from Lake Nyos was reined in, its not impossible that the devastating body of water dumped on Nigerians by Cameroon can be checked by a bilateral panel of flooding from both countries. The two countries must necessarily come together to address the issue of over flooding Lagdo Dam once and for all.
Nigeria can no longer afford to act like the big African brother and continue to die in silence while her neighbour’s asset destroy’s her people and their means of livelihood in this difficult time.
–Sir Paul Nwosu is Anambra State Commissioner for Information