Warnings by the Nigeria Meteorological Agency [NiMET] that heavy rains this year could cause flooding in parts of the country came to pass last week when Jibia town in Katsina State experienced very severe flooding. Forty-nine lives, mostly of women and children, were lost in the flood which followed many hours of heavy downpour in several communities of Jibia Local Government Area. Another twenty persons were still missing.
The four-hour rainfall, which lasted from 11pm on Sunday to 3am on Monday morning, destroyed over 500 houses, electrical installations and washed away roads. Thousands of residents were also rendered homeless while many animals were killed. The most affected areas were Unguwar Kwa-kwa, Unguwar Mai Kwari, Tudun Takari and Dan Tudu. Jibia town is right on the border with Niger Republic, and Executive Secretary of the Katsina State Emergency Management Agency Dr Aminu Waziri said 24 corpses were washed away to neighbouring villages of Mada Runfa and Kuntumi in Niger Republic and had to be repatriated for burial. Twenty-five people were buried last Tuesday and Waziri said many bodies were being dug out from under collapsed structures.
State authorities resettled the victims in makeshift camps in schools and also supplied food items and medicines to the flood victims. Katsina State Governor Aminu Masari, who visited the affected communities, shed tears when he saw the scale of the disaster. He said he had never seen anything like it in his life. Masari also said, “The water level was above 10 feet high and it is purely a natural disaster as the government had constructed drainages that were emptying into Jibia river. The water from the river moved in a reverse order and came back to the town and caused the flooding. I saw a young groom of three days old who lost his bride and is still searching for her.” Vice President Yemi Osinbajo later visited Jibia and offered federal assistance through the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA.
Governor Masari’s remarks gave an insight into the nature of the disaster. He said water rolled back from the main Jibia river back into the communities and submerged them. This means the water was a lot, the river channel was either too small or was blocked, and that some of the affected communities were inhabiting low-lying areas, probably river valleys. Masari said the government had built drainage channels; either these were not enough, or they were blocked by human activity, as so often happens when people turn drainage channels into garbage dumps. The lesson we must learn from this episode is that local and state authorities must step up the building and clearing of drainage channels, stop people from building houses inside slopes leading to rivers and lakes, and also stop people from turning drainage channels into garbage dumps.
That severe flooding should occur in a far northern location such as Jibia should get people and authorities in places with heavier rainfall to sit up and listen. NiMET has already said that much heavier rain will fall in late July and August this year, so we must prepare to evacuate people from dangerously low-lying areas. Meanwhile, we urge NEMA and the state SEMA to render all help necessary to the flood victims until they can return home and rebuild their lives.