Stronger measures needed to fight floods

Stronger measures needed to fight floods
Stronger measures needed to fight floods

WHEN the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Farouq, recently declared that Bayelsa was not among the 10 states most affected by the 2022 floods, stakeholders, especially the people of Niger Delta and environmentalists, have backed off. His insistence that Jigawa in the northwest is the worst flood-affected state immediately reignited the divisive controversy. This is symptomatic of the tendency of Nigerian leaders to become politicized and to respond late and ineffectively to national challenges. With 33 states affected by the floods, the government’s priority should be to mobilize all necessary resources to come to the aid of all victims and affected communities.

Farouq’s statement was a reaction to an earlier cry from Edwin Clark, a leader in the Niger Delta, that floods had devastated the region and needed urgent attention. As in many other states, there have been reports of severe flooding in Bayelsa, the capital, Yenagoa, cut off from neighboring states and thousands displaced. Worried, the United Nations has lamented the loss of assets, lives and livelihoods to the floods, describing it as a “crisis of major proportion that deserves attention”.

The United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Mathias Schmale, compared the case of Bayelsa to the situation in Pakistan where the floods killed 1,700 people, displaced 7.9 million people, destroyed 372,823 buildings and affected 33 million people. people.

But Bayelsa is not the only troubled state. Ranging from bad to severe, 33 Nigerian states have been flooded this year: a third of Anambra was submerged; in Jigawa, 91 people died; in Niger State, even the dead became victims when 1,500 corpses were swept away from a cemetery in the community of Mariga. Latest reports estimated that 603 people were killed in the floods across the country, 1.4 million others displaced, more than 200,000 homes completely or partially destroyed, and the combined affected areas measured approximately 570,000 hectares.

The story of the ministry reported by the BBC said that in Bayelsa, 257,913 people were affected and 219,417 displaced, while 58 died and 81 were injured; 26,509 houses were also damaged and 703 farms flooded. In Jigawa, 166,076 people were affected, 68,883 displaced, 91 people died and 148 injured, 3,849 farms were destroyed and 1,564 houses partially damaged. While Jigawa suffered more from the number of casualties and farms, Bayelsa was more physically affected; there, people still travel by canoe. Both are in distress. The argument was therefore useless.

Instead, there should be a national emergency response, devoid of politics, and incorporating regional and state-specific aspects to respond to local particularities. This requires effective collaboration between the three levels of government, communities and aid agencies.

Experts say that littoral states like Lagos, Rivers, Bayelsa and other estuarine states in the Niger Delta region are more prone to flooding with dire consequences. Similarly, Kogi, part of which lies at the confluence of the Niger and Benue rivers, is also perpetually vulnerable to flooding. With their fragile soils, the driest northern states also suffer when unusually heavy rains like this year’s occur, causing flooding that washes away farms, buildings and movable property.

All affected states deserve urgent attention; Farouq’s duty is to mobilize and coordinate national relief efforts, working closely with all stakeholders. When she finally made it to Bayelsa, Governor Duoye Diri rightly reminded leaders to always get to disaster scenes quickly to allow them to accurately assess the situation and respond accordingly.

But the disregard for the fate of the citizens is one of the many negatives of the president, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retired). Regime officials are following in his footsteps and, like him, are also prone to sectionalism and administrative confusion.

Generally, he and his aides bungled the federal flood response. Despite their sad record, Nigerians and the global community were nonetheless surprised to see Buhari and Farouq in Egypt for the COP 27 (global climate) summit when there was a severe flood crisis at home that required their attention.

This attitude stands in stark contrast to the timely response and empathy shown by other world leaders whose countries have been affected by the floods. At least 27 countries had experienced flooding by October 2022, UNICEF said.

After flash floods killed 40 people in June, Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited the affected sites to offer condolences to the victims and coordinate relief efforts. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese rushed to Victoria and New South Wales in October and November respectively to join supporters and emergency responders after floods devastated parts of the two states in succession. United States President Joe Biden broke off domestic and foreign commitments in September to visit flood-stricken towns in his country’s northeast.

Buhari rarely shows such leadership, frequently flying out for even minor foreign engagements or remaining in Abuja while his aides recycle lukewarm statements when disaster strikes Nigerian communities.

Nigerian governments; federal, states and LGs, should take their responsibilities more seriously. Public service is about serving people, empathizing with them, and supporting them through bereavement. They must implement measures to enable displaced victims to return to their homes and livelihoods as soon as possible.

Caused in various ways by climate change, heavy rainfall, swollen rivers and overflowing water reservoirs, flooding is unavoidable in some parts of the world. Responsible governments and leaders are preparing for it. Persistent warnings from the Nigerian Meteorological Agency have not prompted effective proactive action by national and subnational governments in Nigeria, unlike other climates. Prone to flooding due to its geography, Indonesia has adaptable flood control measures focusing on physical infrastructure such as reservoirs, water pumps, polders and canal maintenance.

Nigeria should do the same. The World Economic Forum, as part of the Climate Action Platform program, reported that despite early warnings about rainfall and awareness of the impending release of excess water from the nearby Lagdo dam in Cameroon in September , Nigeria has failed over the years to build a buffer dam, while states never make adequate defensive preparations.

As food shortages are expected to worsen and poverty and insecurity ravage the country, Buhari must activate national flood contingency plans. State governments should also deploy emergency relief plans and deal with floods and other natural disasters.

. strong measures are necessary for fight against the floods

. Stronger measures needed fight floods

NEXT 10 personality traits Dean Winchester shares with Mary Winchester