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Rains: Mass Flooding Imminent As States Ignore NiMet, NHSA Warnings

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*Sokoto, Niger, Benue, To Be Most Affected

Lukmon Akintola, Lagos; Nicholas Uwerunonye, Abuja; Atabor Julius, Lokoja; and Idongesit Ashameri, Uyo

The raining season connotes different things to diverse set of people.

For farmers, it brings good news, as it is considered a time to commence planting.

While it is a positive season for them, it can also spell bad news when the rain becomes too much.

For another set of people, it is the period when they get to enjoy cold weather as opposed to the sunny one they have had to endure for several months.

For yet another group, it is a period of trial and tribulation, all because they reside in the coastal area. For these people, the rainy season is their doom.

Their situation is better described in the words of the Chairman of the Lagos State House of Assembly’s Committee on Physical Planning and Urban Development, Setonji David when he advised that residents should consider their safety and that of others when they are building.

In his words, “It is not safe to build without approval. Building in water-logged areas is suicidal; building on waterways or close to a canal is bad.”

In the past, flooding was notable in places dominated by the poor, where there were hardly drainages, but today, the story is different, as many would easily remember the sad experience and pitiable sight of posh and elitist Victoria Island and Lekki all in Lagos State, which were almost totally submerged by flood in 2017.

Asides climate change, and an rise in sea level, a major factor which has been identified and blamed for flood in Nigeria remains inadequate drainage systems and in some cases, its total absence.

This has been attributed to encroachment, construction of structures on drainages and gutters.

In 2014, the Lagos State government revealed that 51 per cent of wetland areas in the state, including mangrove swamps along the coast and freshwater swamps had been encroached upon indiscriminately due to urbanisation.

In 2017, the situation was no different, as several states including Lagos State, Ogun State, Adamawa State, Edo State, Delta State and several others suffered severe loss of lives and properties. The situation was so bad that residents of neighbouring states prayed the rains wouldn’t affect them, but alas it eventually did, worsening the situation.

Lives were lost once again, as properties worth millions of Naira went down the drain.

With the 2018 raining season commencing, there have been questions regarding the readiness of Nigerians for the season bearing in mind past experiences associated with flooding.

Releasing its 2018 flood outlook in 35 states, The Nigeria Hydrological Agency (NHSA), warned of flooding in some states.

The agency projected that Sokoto, Niger, Benue, Anambra, Niger, Delta, Anambra, Ogun, Osun, Cross-River and Yobe states would have high risk of river flooding. It also indicated that Lagos, Bayelsa, Rivers, Delta and Ondo states may likely experience coastal flooding.

Places where flash and urban flood are expected includes Port Harcourt, Sokoto, Lagos, Ibadan, Kaduna, Yola, Abuja, Maiduguri, Makurdi, Calabar, Jos, Owerri, Oshogho and Ilorin.

Others are Awka, Abakaliki, Birnin-Kebbi, Kano, Yonogoa, Abeokuta, Ado-Ekiti, Lokoja, Lafia, Nsuka and Gombe. Also included are Suleja, Karu, Nyanya, Abaji, Onitsha, Sapele, Hadejia and other major cities with poor drainage.

Interestingly, this prediction is against that of The Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet), which predicted normal onset and cessation of rainfall in many parts of Nigeria in its 2018 Seasonal Rainfall Prediction (SRP).

According to NiMet’s Director-General, Prof. Sani Mashi, “Generally, the forecast indicates a normal-to-earlier than normal onset, normal cessation and normal rainfall amounts in many parts of the country.

“Also, dry spells during the rainy season may be more frequent and severe (10-18 days) in some parts of the extreme North.

“The ‘little dry season’ (or August break) in parts of the South is expected to be pronounced. It is necessary to state that the expected, normal rainfall in parts of the country does not rule out the possibility of isolated flash floods due to high intensity rainfall at the peak of the season, especially in places that are naturally prone to flooding.

“It is also important to note that in every season, dry spells occur and in certain cases, it leads to crop losses. In this regard, I wish to urge our farmers and other stakeholders to get in touch with NiMet to access Meteorological information and updates within the growing season,” he said.

A random visit by our correspondents in selected states including Adamawa, Sokoto, Plateau, Benue states and other strategic locations in Nigeria yielded similar results. While there were efforts to ensure that drainage systems are kept clean and free, the effectiveness of their efforts will be put to test next month when the rains come in full force.

Although the Akwa Ibom State government, during the dry season, intervened in some internal roads within Uyo capital city with side drains as a measure to tackle flooding in the state, in addition to the multi-million naira pipe-jacking system by the immediate past administration in the state, much is still left to be done to reduce heavy flooding of the capital city to its barest minimum.

While over 100 residents, sacked by last year’s flood along Urua Ekpa road, Uyo, are yet to return to their homes, other landlords in hitherto safe zones of same area recently abandoned their homes to flood following last month’s rain.

Apart from Urua Ekpa road, which has gained notoriety for issues of flooding, even the seat of government is not spared the menace of flooding as Wellington Bassey way, the gateway to Akwa Ibom State government house, Uyo, usually swallows up vehicles whenever it rains.

In addition to the IBB way, which is said to be beyond the ability of the state government to tackle, and recently rumoured to have enjoyed the intervention of the World Bank, though nothing has been done so far on this, the flood situation along Abak and Aka roads brings to question the functionality of the recent interventions by both the state government and NDDC.

For drainages so far done in the state, the sad incident of two months ago, involving the seven year old Jeremiah Alphonsus who was swallowed up by a drainage at Akwa Efak Street, off Nsikak Eduok avenue, while trying to pick up his pair of slippers which ran into the dangerous part of the drainage, leading to his death and threat to life of the guardian who immediately jumped into the gutter to rescue the drowning boy, places a huge responsibility on the part of government to ensure that gutters and drainage in the state are properly covered and proper signage installed in such places to alert residents and other members of the public

Kogi State, with the two most important rivers in the country, that is, the confluence of Rivers Niger and Benue, and few other tributaries has been prone to yearly flooding due to heavy rainfall that often over flows its banks.

Although, the entire state is likely to be flooded during peak of the rainfall, nine riverine Local Government Areas are always most vulnerable. These LGAs include, Lokoja, Kogi, Ajaokuta, Omala and Idah. Others are Ibaji, Igalamela, Ofu and Bassa Local Government Areas. The sad episode of the flooding in 2012 in which property worth millions of Naira were destroyed and thousands of households displaced and motorists plying across the state to other parts of the country were cut off forcing them to use alternative routes to the North and South of the country.

In order to mitigate the effect of the expected flooding in the state successive administrations in the state have put in place mechanism to ensure that its effect on the lives and property of the people are minimised.

To lend credence to addressing the early warning signals, the officials of Disaster Risk Management team, in the office of the Vice President, has recently carried out on the spot assessment to flood sites in riverine Local Government Areas of Kogi State.

Speaking to Daily INDEPENDENT at Ibaji LGA, the team leader, Dr Oluwafemi Oke-Osanyintolu, Senior Technical Adviser on Disaster Risk Management, Office of the Vice President, said they were satisfied with  the spot assessment of the flood sites.

“We have done a holistic assessment in areas that are the worst hit by flood; we are satisfied with our assessments because Kogi government and other stakeholders are doing their best,” he said.

In Lagos State, with poor disposal of waste considered part of the causes of flooding, the state government suffered heavy criticism for months when it appeared the issues of the waste couldn’t be handled by the company saddled with ensuring Lagos State is free from waste.

Knowing the consequences of a blocked drainage, environmentalists such as Kingsley Adegboye and Mr. Desmond Mejekodunmi, a director at the Nigerian Foundation Conservation, (NCF), an NGO on environment, have advised the Lagos State government to urgently intervene to prevent flooding such as that of 2017.

Assuring citizens and residents of Lagos State that the load of waste in Lagos State would soon be a thing of the past, the Commissioner for Environment, Babatunde Durosinmi-Etti, stated that the issue would be addressed before the rain arrived.

“Very soon, Lagos will be very clean. We are working hard in partnership with all stakeholders to ensure we address the challenges. Both the government and the residents will jointly address the challenges and with Visionscape and the Private Sector Participation (PSP), operators working together, and the cooperation of the people, the challenges would soon be over.

“We know that our population is increasing as available statistics indicate that 85 people enter Lagos every hour and very few of them go back, and as more people come in, the waste generated in the state is also increasing, but we are working to put the right infrastructure and equipment in place to address waste management.

“However, one thing I can assure the people is that we are working and in another one month before the raining season, it will be over. We know that the raining season is fast approaching and we are also preparing but I like to assure that soon, the challenges will be surmounted,” Durosinmi-Etti said.

Indeed, the waste in Lagos State has reduced tremendously and drainages around Lekki have witnessed greater improvement from before, as men are seen daily trying to keep them clean and devoid of dirt.

Saturday INDEPENDENT visited dirt prone areas such as Ajah, Awoyaya and Lakowe all along the Lagos-Epe Express Road and the locations were looking almost perfectly clean except for occasional dirt recently generated. Unlike before when it was dominated by dirt, the situation appeared under control just as the state had promised.

Other places such as Obalende, Ikeja, Epe also visited by our correspondent also proved better than they used to be.

For the greater good of the state, the Lagos State Parks and Gardens Agency (LASPARK), has also been up and about, as they have been spotted in several parts of the state pruning overgrown trees.

Explaining the relevance of their action as significant in the raining season, the General Manager of the Agency, Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola said that the move is important in order to avert windstorm disaster associated with the rainy season.

“Pruning overgrown trees in different parts of the state will help prevent loss of lives and properties.”

While these efforts are indeed necessary, it will take some time to confirm how effective they will be.

There are those who have called for a total makeover to the way issues of flooding and waste management are handled.

Creating awareness by educating the masses on the implications of improper disposing of waste has been emphasised, while there are those who have called for an enforcement of the environmental laws.

In Lagos State, such laws have been instrumental to the stoppage of the construction of illegal structures in strategic areas including Osborne foreshore, Ikoyi area of Lagos State. The law has also rendered the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LSBCA), more effective, as they seemed to have stepped up monitoring of building to ensure standards are met.

Also, the Federal Capital Territory Administration, FCDA, Abuja says it is determined to periodically raise flood alerts and sustained orientation as measure of preventing loss of lives. The authority made this disclosure recently to Daily INDEPENDENT after recent flooding incidents in Abuja.

This disclosure was made by Mr Christian Ohaa, FCT Perm Sec, on behalf of the minister of the FCT, Mohammed Bello. He also said that the administration would continue to carryout clearance of drainages especially in satellite settlements to allow for free flow of floodwaters.

Some flooding incidents were reported in Abuja recently, which lead to death of some people. “Most of the flood disaster happens because people build on and occupy water’s right of way. We will have to clear some of this to prevent future flooding,” Ohaa said.

He gave example of the recent flooding in Lokogoma Estate. After the flooding, a lot of effort was required for a temporary access road.

“20 to 30 per cent of property in Lokogoma was already sitting on right of ways, meaning that such structures would eventually have to go to make way for full scale works in line with the provision of the Abuja Master Plan.

“We have already called in Gilmor Contractors to come and assess the condition of the road and come out with the best palliative we can have. And I am sure you will all be happy when we are done,” he added.

Speaking on the importance of planning for the raining season, Minister of State (Aviation), Senator Hadi Sirika, expressed disappointment that the 2017 predictions NiMet released about the likelihood of flooding several months earlier was neglected and adequate preparations were not made for the floods that inflicted heavy devastation across the country when it came later in the year. He urged all stakeholders to take necessary precautions to reduce the negative impacts of possible flooding, especially on agriculture, water resources and environment sector.

As the 2018 raining season commences, the preparedness of the states, which suffered heavily last year will be put to test once again and hopefully the consequences won’t be as alarming as 2017.

 

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