Nigerians living along river banks in Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina and Niger states were recently warned to relocate to safer places ahead of imminent terrestrial flooding which might occur, which the agency has designated as high-risk flood corridor between July and September 2019. Director General of the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency [NIHSA], Engr. Clement Nze, at a recent sensitisation workshop on 2019 flood prediction, prevention and mitigation in hydrological areas in Birnin Kebbi, sought urgent evacuation of people living in the affected states.
Nze listed several councils in Sokoto that are flood prone, while in Zamfara, BirninMagaji, Kiyawa, Bakura, Bungudu, Shinkafi, Gusau, Kaura Namoda and Maradun are probable flood-risk councils. He added that in Niger State, Agwara, Magama council areas, as well as Musawa and Katsina councils of Katsina State would experience floods.
Nze said, “We implore the states and stakeholders to relocate people living along waterways, as well as those having socio-economic activities on the flood plains. States and local governments are encouraged to embark on clearing their river channels, canals and drainages to allow for free flow of runoff waters, and construct buffer zones in their respective constituencies to collect runoff waters.” The NIHSA warning followed recent flooding experienced in parts of the North. Just this week, Okpoko community in Ogbaru local government area of Anambra State has been ravaged by flood, destroying 300 houses and rendering 2,000 residents homeless.
Flooding, which happens without warning, occurs naturally on flood plains which are prone to disaster and occurs when water in the river overflows its banks, or sometimes results from a constructed dam. Flooding has become phenomenal in recent times; it often affects and displaces more people than any other type of disaster. It also causes more damage to property and may have been worsened by the poor urban planning of these areas, rapid population growth, climate change, indiscriminate waste disposal and poor/blocked drainage systems.
The declaration has beamed a searchlight on Nigeria’s poor operational practices to reduce fatalities from extreme weather conditions. Government should find a means of measuring or checking water levels of rivers, streams and dams and should set up effective information or warning systems and centers for the population. It should also strictly enforce regulations banning building and residing in flood prone zones or areas and build and develop infrastructure which will prevent or limit floods and protect the population.
As a matter of urgency, government should also form, train and equip management and rescue teams or provide spill off water to lower the high water level. This will control the level of water in dams. Government should also arrange for and provide relief (food, water, clothing, shelter etc) while checking for related water – borne diseases and immunize residents or offer preventive and curative treatments if need be.
On their part, residents of affected communities should desilt drains, or construct drains where needed, remove or demolish all structures obstructing drainage, demolish badly damaged or destroyed structures and buildings that can obstruct free flow of water. Dearth of flood data revealing the peculiarities of each flagged state may limit the National Emergency Management Agency and other wellmeaning environmental agencies’ ability to respond effectively to flood emergencies.
Should flooding occur, other issues including health concerns should be addressed, as there are fears that flooding in these areas could expose victims to various water-borne diseases even as certain parts of the country are currently struggling to contain a cholera outbreak. There are also food insecurity concerns owing to the destruction of arable land.
No doubt there is urgent need for a collaborative effort of both government and stakeholders to support town planning, engineering and other professional agencies to combat flooding in Nigeria to avoid its long-range consequences. Going forward, state and local authorities should no longer permit people to erect houses and live in flood-prone areas, no matter the high demand for land.