The Rains are here again in the upland western Atlantic belt like Lagos. Soon, just in a space of few weeks now, the early rains of the year will veer towards the inland coastal areas, towards the Niger Delta areas ,on the mouth of the Atlantic ocean.The lower heavens was so generous last year with an overdose of rainfall and it did more than cool the temperature of the lower Niger Delta compatriots who already are used to humid weather most periods of the year. So the impact of last year’s rainy season in states like Delta, Bayelsa,Anambra, Ebonyi, Imo and Cross River –to mention these most profound case studies of rain-made disasters is fresh in memory, as it does not seem that most of the hundreds of internally displaced persons in those states have fully recovered from the rain’s havoc of July to November in those places last year. It was not only in the Niger Delta areas, but to some states in the middle belt and nearby such as Taraba, Jos, Kano, Kebbi, Nasarawa, to mention the ones this Reporter knows.
Unfortunately, one of the major reasons why Nigeria continues to totter at the bottom of global development ranking year-on year- is because of our inability to see things as they are.Here, truth is a scarce commodity, but crooked falsification is a way of life. We mystify simple processes in order to create room for excuses when things go awry, after we might have ‘cut our own share’Every discourse on our development matters are interpreted and misinterpreted from the prism of tribe, religion, social class, political party, business interest or social club. No altruistic narrative on how to get things done the right way for public good is distilled from the cacophony of voices. No discourse on the institutional environmental tragedy called Niger Delta is attended to with a clear-headed broadmindedness, without such discourse not receiving a “counter-balance” argument from other non Niger Delta indigenes who believe the region is Nigeria’s Olive twist—even if such a disputant has all his life never stepped his foot near that place. All that they know about Niger Delta from radio, TV and newspaper is that it is the place where Nigeria drills and exports crude oil. Which is why it must baffle everyone, whether Nigerian or foreigner why the latest flood disasters in those places enumerated had to be allowed to take place in the first place, and had to warrant the physical presence and inspection by Vice President Osibanjo before the world got to realize the level of environmental emergencies we have in those places.
Cumulatively the flood disasters of late last year in the Niger Delta rendered an estimated 2000 residents homeless in those worst hit areas. Amid deaths, food shortages, weeklong blackouts and shu-down public water supply systems, high-rise flood water that covered more than sixty- percent above ground level, knocked down homes and public places, swept-off medical facilities amid threatening malaria, pneumonia and related frozen-temperature bites—then consequential epidemics, shut public schools, abridged seminal time-tables and tutorials—to which flood victims in these areas have been subjected to in the past several months—and some of them still suffer the pangs, is it not ironical—if not a deliberate conspiracy of the most unconscionable kind that Nigeria’s politically colonized media still shut their eyes from these places as if the loss of even one life in flood attack is not horrible enough in a region where Nigeria had depended since 1950—and still depends on for her treasury. The Nigerian journalists are adept at giving minute by minute update on crude exports from terminals, production levels, shut-ins and shut-outs, then militants’ murmurings and threats—but shamelessly and criminally falter on monitoring with similar zeal the ravages of torrential downpour such as the one we are still contending with in those states since October last year.These kinds of disasters in the Niger Delta areas flippantly get—first newsbreak. And that’s all. No other follow-up about how the people are coping unless when one government big man comes around in one of the slum areas, after the harm has been done to “commission” or “provide” one water borehole or latrine—as if that is a humanitarian largesse for the people, the owners of the crude oil farms and oil fields.
But instead, Nigerian media devote pages and airtime narrating to us about the plane crash in Indonesia and elsewhere. The numerous Notice-Me NGOs littering Lagos and looking for where to dispense with their humanitarian largesse hardly thought about Niger Delta states, especially in the Eastern part of the country. This same antipathy and wickedness is the reason why the sundry oil firms—both multinationals and locals were in Lagos declaring a Q3 N10 billion after tax profit, just in a space of three months. Other oil firms that have displayed this shameless arrogant insensitivity and conqueror mentality towards the plight of these flood-ravaged communities include NOAC/Agip, FAMFA Oil, Yinka Folawiyo petroleum, Conoil, and in fact virtually all the local oil firms that have been lifting oil from the bowels of Niger Delta. In fact there is no big man in Nigeria today that can claim that his billions did not come –one way or the other from oil and gas related web of businesses—formal or informal, visible ad invisible, local or foreign, onshore or off-shore, opaque or transparent.
Therefore, it beggars’ belief, and smacks of insolent recrudescence and ingratitude the humanitarian emergencies of the sorts eye-witnesses of the flood disasters in the Niger Delta last year—has testified was the worst of its kind in the history of Nigeria’s flood disasters.
And this brings us to the question of the value Nigeria has been deriving from her litany of MDAs and other institutions in charge of our environments such as the FERMA,NEMA,NDDCC, Ministry of Environment (states and Federal), that of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and the oversight of the MPs at both chambers of the NASS.It even raises the more fundamental question about what the environmental management institutions—both at the state and Federal level have doing over the years, while flood continues to ravage ad sweep away our communities, destroying lands, creating mighty craters here and there and rendering the physical landscape prone to horrifying landslides and earthquakes.
Every state has a Ministry of Environment or something related to that. If a government ministry in charge of environment does not reckon with flooding in a coastal belt as Niger Delta, its management, prevention and sustainable containment blue-print, then it says something about the human resource deficiencies of its personnel. What was it supposed to be doing?, watching the weather and waiting for the rains to fall before knowing what to do?.And when it is realized that sustainable environment is among the eighteen cardinal principles of the UN-mandated Sustainable Development Agenda (SDA),you begin to get irritated at our leaders’ expertise at grandstanding and rhapsodizing on critical subjects as SDA they care little to understand its fine details, much more committed to.
Nwokoro writes from Lagos