The recent alert by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) that 102 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in 28 states in the country are at the risk of flooding this year should be given adequate attention by the relevant authorities. The warning by NEMA was contained in its plan for the 2020 flood preparedness, mitigation and response.
According to NEMA, 275 local government areas across the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory fall within the moderately probable flood risk areas, while the remaining 397 local government areas fall within the low probable flood risk areas. States likely to be affected are Borno, Yobe, Gombe, Adamawa, Taraba, Bauchi, Plateau, Nasarawa, Benue, Niger, Kogi, Enugu and Anambra. The rest include Imo, Abia, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Edo, Ekiti, Osun, Kwara, Zamfara, Sokoto, Lagos, Ondo, Bayelsa, Kaduna, Oyo, Ogun, Abia, Kano, Kebbi and the FCT.
The warning by NEMA came on the heels of an earlier one in the 2020 Annual Flood Outlook released in May by the Nigeria Hydrological Survey Agency (NIHSA). The alert by HIHSA presents probable flood scenarios for this year and to disseminate information to all, especially in flood-prone areas and further reduce resultant effects. The Nigerian Metrological Services (NIMET) had earlier predicted intense rainfall in some parts of the country.
The impending flood should not be treated with levity. Flooding occurs in Nigeria annually with devastating impacts on the poor and vulnerable populations who live along the river banks. States mostly affected are those lying along the River Niger and River Benue basins. These areas are bound to experience flash floods whenever it rains for hours. Each time flooding occurs, it impacts on various sectors, including agriculture, water resources, health, transport, infrastructure and entire livelihood of people living in the affected communities.
It requires drastic measures to prevent this occurrence or mitigate its impacts. Warnings on impending floods are usually released to governors of the potential states by relevant agencies every year. They also come with advice on how to manage the situation. For this year, the agency informed all state governors, indicating the councils that may be affected by the flood and recommend proactive mitigation measures to be taken. One of such directives is clearing the drains and advising residents against dumping refuse into the drainage system.
It is sad that despite these annual alerts, people flout the mitigating suggestions and maintain unhealthy lifestyle that result to flooding and the attendant consequences. The current NEMA alert is timely and presents an opportunity for residents in the identified states to do the needful.
We commend the proactive measures being taken by some states to minimise the impacts of flood this year. Lagos State has appealed to the residents to avoid throwing refuse into the drains. It has also warned residents living in flood-prone areas to vacate their premises. Other states are issuing similar directives to their citizens. These are commendable measures.
However, the authorities need to do more. Those to be evacuated should be encouraged to do so. Aside de-silting of the drains to ensure free flow of water, excavated refuse should be properly disposed to avoid blocking the roads and falling back into the canals. Constructions along the flood paths should be discouraged. Those that flout the orders should be apprehended and diligently prosecuted.
It is good that NEMA has listed programmes aimed at carrying Nigerians along in a bid to prepare for the 2020 flood season. These include public enlightenment campaign using the radio, TV jingles, social media and so on, targeting vulnerable communities to undertake mitigation actions and prepare for evacuation to safer ground. The agency has also given assurance of stocking relief materials, food and non-food items that will be needed in providing succour to people that may be affected. It also indicated that it has constituted a committee to lead the national preparedness, mitigation and response to 2020 flood.
We enjoin the affected state governments to cooperate with NEMA and ensure minimal impacts of flooding this year. Disasters induced by flooding can be averted if the citizens keep the drains clean.