• As flood devastates communities in states • Rice farms washed away, villages submerged, 32 drowned • States rise to mitigate disaster
Olakunle Olafioye (Lagos), Judex Okoro (Calabar), Bamigbola Gbolagunte (Akure), Olanrewaju Lawal (Birnin Kebbi) and Obinna Odogwu (Awka)
The return of the rains after the August drought has not been without concerns for Nigerians across the country. In the last few weeks, several lives have been lost while countless homes and farmlands have been submerged as the nation again battles with flooding with its perennial challenges.
But while the country cannot feign ignorance of the coming of the deluge, environmental infractions on the part of many Nigerians and the inaction of some state governments have continued to expose Nigerians to the dangers of flooding.
In July and the early part of August, the country witnessed unprecedented flooding incidents during which many lives and property were lost. This was later followed by a period of dry spell, otherwise known as August Break, which lasted up to the third week of August. However, since the beginning of the last week of August Nigerians have witnessed the return of rains in most parts of the country.
This, expectedly, has been accompanied by increasing saturation and wetness of the soil, a development experts attribute to flash floods occasioned by rainfall of high intensity and long durations.
During one of its recent updates, the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency, NIHSA, had raised the alarm over the likelihood of flooding incidents in at least 10 states contiguous to the River Niger.
Director General/Chief Executive Officer of the agency, Clement Onyeaso Nze, in a statement listed the 10 states to include Kebbi, Niger, Kwara, Nasarawa, Kogi, Anambra, Delta, Edo, Rivers and Bayelsa, where flooding incidents may be experienced based on the information received by NIHSA from the regional Niger Basin Authority (NBA) with headquarters in Niamey, on Sunday, August 23.
The statement read in part: “The River Niger Basin, which covers nine countries of Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroun, Chad, Cote D’Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Niger and Nigeria, has Nigeria at the lowest portion of the Basin. This means that once the upper catchment of the Basin gets flooded, Nigeria should be prepared to experience flooding incident.
“This current development portends some level of concern for Nigeria as there could be likelihood of river flooding in the states contiguous to River Niger, namely: Kebbi, Niger, Kwara, Nasarawa, Kogi, Anambra, Delta, Edo, Rivers and Bayelsa.”
It stated that NIHSA had continued to monitor the developments on River Benue sub-basin and had maintained close contact with the Cameroonian authorities with regards to flood scenarios in the upper catchment of the sub-basin.
“The Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) wishes to use this medium to advise state and local governments, stakeholders, multi-national companies and public-spirited individuals and philanthropists that all hands should be on the deck to save the country from the consequences of flood pandemic in the year 2020. The country still has many days of rainfall in the course of the year. More floods are therefore still expected in the months of August, September and October this year,” the statement read.
In spite of the alarm, findings by Sunday Sun revealed that neither the governments nor the citizens are giving deserving attention to the agency’s call in some of the states.
In Lagos State, for instance, Sunday Sun investigations revealed that environmental infractions by residents who dump refuse and erect structures on waterways pose major obstacles to the state government’s efforts at addressing flooding in the state.
Information gathered from Ministry of Environment and Water Resources in the state indicates that the state government is, however, working assiduously to address the issue of flooding in the state. So far, more than 200 secondary channels and 46 primary channels have been cleared in a bid to mitigate the effects of flooding.
“This is in addition to the gigantic efforts of our Emergency Flood Abatement Gangs (EFAG) deployed round the state to undertake manual quick fix efforts to free manholes or clogged up drains,” the ministry said.
Sunday Sun also gathered that one of the new measures put in place to combat flash flooding is the provision of pumping stations with a pilot one being planned for Ilubirin in Lagos Island. The pumping stations, it was revealed, will ensure quick pumping out of water from flooded areas and reduce the risk of damage to property.
In addition to this, the state government has consistently enjoined residents of the state to collaborate with the government by cleaning the drainage in their frontages and desisting from indiscriminate dumping of refuse in unauthorized places.
In Kebbi State, flood has wreaked havoc in many villages and submerged farmlands in about 15 local government areas of the state. About 32 people lost their lives in the disaster while more than 450,000 hectares of rice farms were washed away.
Initially, the prediction by NIHSA had shown that 11 LGAs in the state were prune to flood. These local government areas included Argungu, Birnin Kebbi, Bunza, Suru, Koko-Besse, Dandi, Yauri, Shanga, Bagudo,Ngaski and Maiyama. They are the council areas closer to Rima and Niger rivers and the other rivers in Niger Republic.
The flooding also caused a canoe to capsize at Tungar-Gegero village in Jega Local Government Area of Kebbi State. This was attributed to the overflowing of the river in the community due to flood water, resulting in the death of eight people, including women and children who drowned when the canoe capsized.
A family of six – father, mother and children – were wiped out in Arewa Council Area. Many bridges caved in as the flood washed away the supporting structure, leaving the villages and communities cut off from the state capital.
Confirming the casualties, Chairman of Kebbi State Emergency Management Agency, Alhaji Sani Dododo, said: “We recorded one death in Yauri, among other places. The numbers may increase, since we are experiencing rainfall on daily bases.”
Some rice farmers, who received loans under the CBN Anchor Borrowers Programme, have also appealed to the Federal Government to defer the repayment. Village Head of Tungar Rahi, Alhaji Rabiu Hakimi, who spoke on behalf of the farmers said: “We are appealing to the governor to intervene, so that repayment of the loans we took under the Anchor Borrowers Programme will be suspended until next year. We have incurred huge losses of our crops and even houses due to the rampaging floods.”
Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, who has been inspecting the level of damage across the state alongside his cabinet members, promised to mobilise resources to alleviate the sufferings of the farmers, as well as the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who have lost their property and crops to the flood.
He directed that the victims be evacuated and accommodated in schools and other suitable government buildings. In all the camps, the government offered the affected people financial support in addition to provision of mattresses, cooking utensils, foodstuff, drinking water, healthcare services, clothing and other requirements.
Bagudu, while commiserating with the farmers, assured them that he would intervene with the relevant authorities on their behalf, to secure the extension of the repayment period of the loans they took to cultivate rice, saying, “I will talk to the authorities concerned and see what can be done because of the situation you are facing.”
In the wake of the predictions by NIHSA and Nigeria Metereological Authority (NIMET), the Cross River State government took proactive steps and embarked on massive sensitisation in local communities across the state to avert the looming danger.
As Sunday Sun learnt from the Director General of the Cross River State Emergency Management Agency, Princewill Ayim, 254 communities in 14 local government areas in the state are situated in the state’s Highly Probable Flood Risk axis.
Despite the predicted flooding, Ayim said that the state has not recorded any casualty and attendant devastation from flooding. He, however, said NEWMAP, the state Ministry of Environment and World Bank are partnering by erecting structures to avert erosion and devastation in Atimbo, Nyangasang and in Ikot Nkebre on the outskirts of Calabar.
He said: “On hearing of the alert of the impending flood, the state government began proactive measures, including massive sensitisation in local communities about the flood. There are 254 communities in 14 local government areas which are listed as flood prone. The intensive efforts we put in to sensitise our people, desilting of gutters and clearing of pathways have helped to avert much flooding. Besides, we have set up local emergency committees. We have a toll free number, 112, where people call to alert us about emergencies.”
According to him, the agency is in constant touch with the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to know the next line of action in the event of flood.
Ayim pointed out that before the prediction, some riverine communities had been submerged by flood leading to loss of farmlands and other property worth millions of naira.
In Atimbo and Nyakassang communities not far from the Nigerian Navy barracks, as well as Ikot Nkebre in the outskirt of Calabar, three houses in erosion prone areas collapsed. There were, however, no casualties although household property were destroyed.
Long before the release of the prediction by NIHSA, Ondo State had been battling with flood and sea surge as some riverine towns in the southern part of the state had been taken over by flood.
Some of the communities affected by flooding in the state include Ayetoro, Mese and Iwoye all in Ilaje Local Government Area. Some of the communities in the area are also affected by sea surge, thereby forcing residents of the towns to relocate to other places.
Recently, residents of Mese, which has been completely washed away and Awoye, which is about to be submerged by the ocean, cried out to both the federal and state governments for assistance, but nothing has so far been done to assist the people of the area.
Ondo, being a state with many coastal towns, has always been on the list of states prone to flooding and nothing has been done by successive governments to ameliorate the suffering of the people.
Year in, year out, there are cases of flooding and sea surge in many parts of the state, yet the government has failed to provide lasting solution to the perennial problem, despite huge sums of money budgeted by the Federal Government for the control of flood through allocations to states from the Ecological Funds programme, aimed at assisting states deal with ecological and environmental problems.
As it is today, residents of Mese and Awoye, the two affected oil-rich communities have been rendered homeless following the surge from the Atlantic Ocean, which sacked the affected communities.
Chairman of Ugboland Central Working Committee (UCWC), Ogundere Adejugbe, who spoke with Sunday Sun lamented over the devastation caused to the communities by sea surge.
In response to the manifest neglect of communities affected by flooding by the Ondo State government, the people in the two communities have unanimously resolved not to participate in the October 10 governorship election holding in the state.
He said that if they participate in the election, the people of the communities would overwhelmingly vote against the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), which he accused of abandoning them since the inception of their administration in the state.
He recalled that similar incident occurred in the two communities last year, but the recent one was more devastating as it sacked all the residents of the towns.
The state governor, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu who had visited the affected communities promised to assist by ensuring proper channelization of the waterways. The governor had also set up a committee to look into the perennial flooding in the area with a view to finding a lasting solution to the problem.
Governor Akeredolu said that he had reported the situation to relevant agencies of the Federal Government and assured that the situation would soon be brought under control.
He said that the government has been meticulous in its service delivery and would not hesitate to give adequate attention to the needs of all and sundry in the state.
The River Niger, which separates Anambra State from Delta State, cuts an iconic picture at Onitsha bridgehead. Several communities in Anambra State are on its bank, thus making them prone to flooding whenever flooding occurs following the release of water from Kainji and Shiroro dams.
In preparation for this year’s anticipated flooding, the Anambra State government began creating holding centres where residents from communities that would be affected by flooding would soon be moved to for safety.
Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, Don Adinuba, told Sunday Sun that the state government has made adequate preparation to mitigate whatever impact the flooding would make whenever it gets to the state.
Adinuba said: “Following reports by the Nigerian Hydrological Service that communities and states on the banks of the River Niger and River Benue will be affected by sustained heavy rains expected in the month of September in West African countries through which the River Niger runs its course, the Anambra State government has advised people in flood-prone communities to start getting ready to vacate these places and move to safer areas.
“The communities in Anambra West, Anambra East, Onitsha South, Onitsha North, Ogbaru, Ihiala, Ayamelum, and Awka North local government areas will be affected in particular. As it has done in recent years, the Anambra State government is providing holding centres where the affected people will stay until the floods recede. The Anambra State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) has been given a list of the designated centres, which it will announce shortly.
“These centres will be provided with clean water, mattresses, bed sheets, blankets, mosquito nets, buckets and all necessary sanitary facilities. They will also be given drugs, and medical personnel like doctors, nurses and pharmacists will be available to attend to them promptly. Water ambulances will, in addition, be made available.
“Security agents drawn from the Nigeria Police Force, Nigerian Navy, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps and Anambra State Vigilante Group will ensure excellent security, 24/7.”
The government directed the chairmen of the transition committees of the relevant LGAs to contact the Anambra SEMA for briefing on the implementation of the measures to mitigate the impact of the anticipated flood.
It enjoined the people to rise to the challenge like members of one united family and urged civil society organizations to demonstrate their well-known solidarity just as it called on philanthropists in the state to again exhibit the milk of human kindness in forthcoming emergency situation.
In Jigawa, flood has driven hundreds of residents away from their homes and killed 30 people in 18 local government areas of the state with several villages, towns and households submerged.
Hundreds of hectares of farmlands cultivated with rice, millet, legume, cowpea and sesame crops with expectations of good harvest have been completely lost to the rampaging flood in the affected areas.
Also, animals mostly sheep, goats and poultry were not spared by the flood while most of the mud houses collapsed as enormous amounts of moisture wetted and weakened them.
Some of the buildings collapsed while families were still trapped in them; some were killed in the process while several other survivors sustained severe injuries. All together about 100,000 houses were destroyed by the furious flood.
When he addressed newsmen, Jigawa State governor, Alhaji Muhammed Badaru Abubakar, said the exact number of casualties recorded in the flood disaster could not immediately be ascertained as fresh reports of deaths were still being received from various parts of the state hence the number was increasing every day.
“The last count we had, the death toll was between 25 and 29 persons. However, some are yet to be verified whether the death was as a result of flooding or other issues, but whatever it is even if it is one life that is lost from the flooding we must regard it as serious,” the governor said.
Badaru expressed his sympathy to families of the deceased and assured those who lost property in the flood disaster that the government would give them succour. He noted that not most of the deaths recorded were attributed to the flood.
“What we have seen lately is not the traditional flooding we used to experience every year, but we are still praying and hoping that the Hadejia River valley would not overflow its banks until the end of the rainy season,” he said.
The government has made a lot of efforts by ensuring the provision of embankments to control the flow of Hadejia River for the last five months.
Five more people were reported killed in another massive flood that ravaged Miga Local Government Area. The council Chairman, Alhaji Muhammed Abubakar Agufa, told journalists who visited the area that the residents lost several farmlands as crops were washed away along with hundreds of houses. Alhaji Muhammed said residents defied sleep trying to salvage the remaining part of the town. He said all able-bodied men in the town were mobilised to be on guard at every night in the hinterland, to protect the town from the rampaging water by building embankments with the sponsorship of the Jigawa State Emergency Management Authority (SEMA) and other well-meaning individuals.
He attributed the flooding to the blockage of River Hadejia by typha grass after days of continued rainfall.
Sunday Sun investigation revealed that other structures such as the local government secretariat, the Divisional Police headquarters, the 20-room corps-members lodge as well as the primary care centre in the council were all submerged by the flood.
In the aftermath of the flood, local government officials, including the council chairman, have been operating from the official residence of the chairman while the police resorted to using shade provided by trees as their temporary operational base while waiting for the flood to subside.
Some of the residents who spoke with Sunday Sun acknowledged that they had received some foodstuff like garri, groundnut cake and sugar, to sustain them for the time being.