- Anxiety in Lagos, other states, as agency makes dire prediction
THE memories are heart-breaking, even as their sad relics still litter areas that fell to the devastating claws of the 2012 flooding.
Yet again, four years later, the gloomy indices are here again based on the recent prediction by the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency. The agency said states like Lagos, Ibadan, Rivers, Sokoto, Kaduna, Maiduguri, Benue and Yola are expected to be hit by flash floods. Also, rivers like Niger, Benue, Sokoto-Rima, Anambra, Imo, Cross River and Ogun-Osun are also expected to overflow their bounds. This is even as the federal government has been in talks with neighbouring Cameroun and Niger Republic to control the channelisation of water into Rivers Niger and Benue.
Lamenting the devastating effects of flooding on Nigeria, the Director General of the agency, Dr. Moses Beckley, who disclosed this alarming news while speaking at the unveiling of the 2016 annual flood outlook, stressed that Nigeria had, had its fair share of flooding over the years with its attendant consequences. He said it was important for state governments to put in place artificial reservoirs to check the flow of the flood, to avoid a replay of the 2012 flooding disaster.
However, this latest forecast, runs contrary to the one earlier made by Dr. Anthony Anuforom, Director General of the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet). He had said that the rainy season in Nigeria would witness “late on-set, early cessation and lower-than-normal rainfall in many parts of the country, especially in the northernmost parts.”
Even though the flood alert was meant to serve as an early warning to mitigate the risks of flooding and to guide government in taking necessary steps to reduce possible impact, it readily evoked graphic and painful memories of the 2012 flood that wreaked unquantifiable havoc.
Those that witnessed that disaster can still recall water, stretching farther than the eyes could see and how it flowed ferociously with a current that decimated everything in its path.
Later flooding over the years had not been fair on these same residents, living in low-lying areas with topography prone to flooding.
Already, Lagosians are jittery over the likely outcome, as they also appear haunted by past flooding experiences that have routinely turned into living nightmares for them.
Anytime the issue of likely flooding arises, Lagosians usually recoil in fear, as they might soon experience loss and displacement. The rainy season, aptly put, is every Lagosian’s albatross. One thing stands sure: The coming of the rains in Lagos is a harbinger of traumatic experiences.
Vincent, a resident of Shogunle, Oshodi, said he was yet to get over the ugly experience of the 2012 massive flooding. The father of four, who operates a restaurant, said he got really scared each time dark clouds gathered in the sky.
Recalling the trauma he went through while trying to salvage some of his property that floated in his two-bedroom apartment, he prayed for such disaster never to befall the state again.
“There is need for us and the state government to take this warning seriously. We must be prepared and be at alert because no one can tell the dimension it might take this time,” he said.
According to reports, the 2012 flooding started as a light shower. The water, which flowed in trickles, later swelled within 24 hours, causing a flood that swallowed everything in its path, forcing thousands to flee their homes. It also raised fears of a possible food crisis back then as farmlands were inundated.
According to reports from the Nigerian Red Cross (NRC), the flood submerged much of the states in the southwest, affecting some 350 communities and turning 120,000 people homeless. Worsening the flood was the release of water from the Lagdo Dam in the neighbouring Cameroon, which swelled the Benue and Niger Rivers and inundated tens of agrarian communities.
The Federal Government said the flood was the worst to hit the country in over 50 years. And the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) disclosed that between July and October of that year, an estimated 431 lives were lost, 1.3 million people displaced and 152,575 hectares of farmland destroyed, as major rivers like the Niger, the continent’s third longest, ballooned, bursting their banks. The agency had noted that 30 of the country’s 36 states were affected. Adamawa and Kogi states suffered the worst casualties, with an estimated18, 000 people injured.
During the 2012 crisis, many devastated Nigerians, especially those marooned in riverine areas, had to be ferried to safety by canoes – the only mode of transportation out of flooded plains. Those that could dare it waded through and stood knee deep in the swollen river water with their personal effects. As they shared their stories of utter despair to the world, they cut quite pathetic pictures.
Throughout the duration of that ugly flooding, sadness and anger hung thickly in the air; anger invoked by losses, perceived government neglect, and also against the flood for taking its natural course. As the internally displaced persons huddled in their makeshift camps scattered across the country, the authorities were at a loss on what to do.
Environmental experts have warned that such heart-rending scenarios might be replayed if the authorities do not heed the early warning signals. This is amid expectation by the National Hydrological Agency that relevant government agencies and policy makers will be well prepared to respond adequately to the incident of flooding in their area.
From investigations carried out by the reporter, Lagos State appears not ready to
cope with the outcome of heavy downpour this season, as major channels are almost filled to the brim with refuse. As Lagos continues to experience light showers, the streets are not only flooded but filled with overwhelming amount of debris. Investigations also revealed that Lagosians appear indifferent towards any likely flooding disaster as well. Already, they appeared to have resigned themselves to the mercy of the coming rains.
“The rain would always find its natural course,” a resident of Saheed Apesin Street, Ilasama, told the reporter in smattering English, while being challenged on why he was emptying refuse into the drain.
“Flood will always come. It is still rain that God will finally use to destroy this world. So, why are we scared of flood? For a long time now, LAWMA has not come to our area to park our refuse. So what do you want us to do? I am praying for the rain to come and clean our environment. Mosquitoes have taken over the whole place and everywhere smells.”
Reacting rather angrily to the forecast, Alhaji Olomitutu Alao, a landlord on Ajibulu Street, a place that has had its share of flooding disasters in Lagos, said in as much as the state government had carried out its constitutionally assigned duty of providing drainage, much still had to be done.
He stressed that the government should stop deceiving the public about being ready to deal with the issue of flood, as past experiences had proved otherwise.
His words: “Before this road that now connects the International Airport Road was built, we suffered in this area. We are still suffering. The simple truth is that we are not ready and the government itself is not ready, especially at this time that there is no money. How much drainage have they constructed since last year in preparation for the rainy season? Apart from constructing drainages, what is the state of all drainages in Lagos State? What we always see are boys evacuating sand or other objects from the gutters and still leaving them there. At the end of the day, the whole thing would find its way back into the gutter. Go and check most of the drainages in Lagos, especially backstreets of Lagos State and you will be surprised at the type of gutters you will find there.
“Most of these gutters are either not big or deep enough to accommodate the amount of water coming in or are blocked. Some newly constructed gutters are at the level of the road. It is expected that flooding would occur when heavy rain starts. It will definitely enter peoples’ homes. I think, with their interviews and public awareness, they only want to give the impression that they are working without actually addressing the real issue facing the public. Go to the streets and you will understand the meaning of what I am saying.”
To many other Lagos residents, solving the problem of flood goes beyond predictions. They called for more proactive steps. Most of them also maintained that the major cause of flooding does not lie with the dumping of garbage inside drainages, as it is widely believed, but in ensuring there is enough drainage to serve communities.
Reacting to the forecast, the General Manager, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Mr. Michael Akindele, said in as much as Lagos is a coastal state and vulnerable to flash flood, it was of utmost importance to the government to ensure that rain water was effectively discharged into relevant channels that have been dredged and cleaned, in anticipation of the rainy season.
He disclosed that his agency was focusing on a Disaster-Risk-Reduction (DRR) approach, part of which was to create awareness, educate, carry out advocacy and surveillance of coastal areas. He also assured that whatever challenges that come up would be treated as utmost important.
His words: “Also part of the state government’s emergency preparedness is ensuring that there is no encumbrance to the free flow of water. We are by this urging those that have structures on drainages and water channels to remove them or the state government might be compelled to do the needful, to protect overriding public safety. However, should anyone be affected despite these proactive measures, the state government has two functional relief camps at Agbowa in Ikorodu and Igando, Alimosho area. Another one is almost being completed at Lekki.”