Moses Beckley, Director General of the Nigeria Hydrological Service Agency (NIHSA), recently warned of imminent flooding in 35 states, with Anambra, Benue, Ogun, Osun, Niger, Imo and the Niger Delta states listed as especially endangered. Even if the annual flood alerts have become all too familiar, this warning must be taken seriously. The failure to tackle the problem of flooding headlong and our poor attitude to the environment have made the country prone to these annual floods.
Whereas, access to the ocean and the lagoon should have enabled some coastal states like Lagos deal with flooding, the truth is that year in, year out, we are never adequately prepared. Hence, we are always caught napping when the rains come. In fact, beyond Lagos and the coastal states, most parts of the country, as the predictable alert of the NIHSA has shown, are prone to flooding and environmental problems.
What any reasonable government and people should do, therefore, is to take this reality into reckoning and do the needful to tackle this challenge. There is flooding that arises from natural occurrences such as sudden rise in sea levels and tidal waves. What government ought to do in such a case is to provide adequate channelisation of such waters through drainages and canals, back into the lagoons and estuaries, which Lagos and the coastal states have easy access to. But, the absence of this infrastructure makes the citizenry and the government to anticipate every rainy season with trepidation and fear. Where the canals exist, they are not cleared to provide channels for floods.
What happens every year is that the rains meet us unprepared, and when the inevitable floods follow, we resort to mostly fire-brigade measures and press the panic button. This should not be the case with better preparation and mastery of our terrain.
Our daily sanitation habits compound this problem. We must begin to change our attitude to waste and refuse disposal. Our surroundings and cities are an embarrassing mess of litter, most of it arising from the careless disposal of plastic containers and the like.
With regard to waste and careless disposal of litter, what should be done is to properly collect them and ensure that they are recycled for their second hand value. This is a waste-to-riches template which has served the advanced world very well in many ways. Apart from ensuring clean environments, it has helped to generate employment and add real value to these economies. Such solutions should be straightforward, but sadly, in our own case, that is hardly so. Some have blamed the lack of rigour in government thinking and the disposition to corruption as responsible, but whatever the case, this annual flooding of our communities amidst apparent hopelessness must stop.
It is this general lack of discipline too that does not allow the agencies responsible for checking infractions that interfere with our environment such as building on drainages and canals to be checked and the laws pertaining to them enforced. The bigger tragedy is that those who should know better and even well placed in society are the ones who are mostly responsible for these infringements in the first place.
To correct the anomaly, those in authority must muster the will to deal with these infractions wherever they arise, not minding whoever is involved. That would send the right message that we, as a people and government, are now ready to deal with the problem of flooding that confronts us every year.
We urge the Federal Government, the states which have been identified as vulnerable to severe flooding and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to heed the NIHSA alert and map out strategies to control the predicted flooding as well as secure those who might be affected by it.