OPINION: Flood: Averting Disaster in Kwara State. By Abdulrosheed Okiki

Date: 2019-08-22

The federal government agency responsible for issuing flood alerts in Nigeria, the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA), recently issued an alert warning Nigerians of imminent increased flooding in September. 

This was disclosed by the Director-General of NIHSA, Clement Nze, during a press briefing in Abuja.

The agency had in June, this year given similar warning that state governments should adhere strictly to the flood warnings contained in the 2019 Annual Flood Outlook as the country gradually moves into the rainy season.

Clement Nze emphasised the need for adequate flood prevention, mitigation and preparedness by states and the Federal Government.

He also urged Nigerians to heed flood warnings raised in the 2019 AFO and identified non-adherence to flood early warnings as the major problem inhibiting prevention, mitigation and preparedness against flood disasters in Nigeria.

In its recently published 2019 AFO report, NIHSA stated that some parts of the eight hydrological areas across the country, within nine sub-basins comprising Sokoto, Niger, Adamawa, Benue, Anambra, Imo, Edo, Delta, Rivers, Bayelsa, Cross River, Lagos, Ogun, Osun, Oyo and Yobe states are highly probable flood risk areas in 2019, covering about 74 Local Government Areas ( lgas) .

The report also predicted that flood incidents would be less probable in about 279 LGAs. In fact, this is not an indication that areas not highlighted are also free from flooding except measures are taken to avert the looming danger. 

NIHSA had on several occasions accused state governments of failing to heed its previous warnings on floods released earlier this year as it urged state governments to pull down structures built on flood plains.

It, however, worrisome that despite several warnings and predictions, Nigeria still faced flooding in recent years, with hundreds killed, property destroyed, farmlands submerged and thousands displaced as a result of avoidable and unforeseen disasters. 

Already, a heavy rainfall that lasted over three hours, rendered over 1,000 residents of Odota area in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, homeless in July.

In 2018, about 200 houses were submerged and many people were rendered homeless following, the flooding incident that occurred at Aduralere, Isale Koko, Akerebiata and other communities along the banks of Asa River in Ilorin. Also last year, communities like Lanwa, Fangan, Jebba, Elebu and Budo-Ode in the Moro Local Government Area of Kwara State were reportedly devastated by flood from the River Niger.

In 2017, over 450 farms under the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) anchor borrowers’ scheme were submerged by flood in Edu Local Government Area. 

The farms were situated on the 3, 200 hectares federal government’s Tada-Shonga irrigation land for rice cultivation in Shonga.

Also, about 2000 hectares of farmlands were destroyed by flood across the three districts of Patigi, Ladegi-Patigi and Seponde district, which cultivated rice farm near River Niger. A cemetery and primary school at Gbarugi Woloje were reportedly hit by a flood that year.

These and many have become  recurring disasters in the state and rendering many residents homeless, hundreds of houses submerged and several hectares of farmlands washed away.

Sadly, those who were affected by the infamous flooding of 2012 which ravaged different parts of the country still have bitter stories to tell. Many are yet to overcome the emotional pains and emotional difficulties they passed through during the period. 

To avert this, the Kwara State Government on Sunday appealed to residents of the state to heed the recent flood alerts which predicted heavy flooding in parts of Nigeria following the steady rise in water levels in River Niger.

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry Environment and Forestry, Amosa Isiaka Al-Amin, told newsmen in Ilorin, the state capital, that Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq had directed that proper enlightenment be done and other preventive steps are taken to ensure Kwarans do not fall victims of flooding. 

“Kwara State falls within this axis and this administration felt compelled to officially alert the people to this development and to appeal to Kwarans to cooperate with the state government on the various measures to mitigate the effects of what is often a combination of natural phenomenon, human activities and failure to heed warnings,” Al-Amin told newsmen.

“Identified communities in Edu local government areas such as Iyeluwa, Belle Gbako, Liptata, Edogi, Chewuru are specifically advised to relocate to safer places for a while. Communities in Jebba and Bacita are also urged to take this very seriously for safety reasons.

“ Farming along riverine areas should be discouraged for now. Resettlement centres located at Godiwaji in Patigi constructed by the Federal Government could be a safer place during this period.

“ Residents of communities in Kwara Central like Isale Koko, Dumon, and Abata Sunkere, among others, are advised to heed this warning. Government urges residents of the state to avoid dumping of wastes into river channels or drainages to allow for easy flow of water, while illegal structures along waterways should be demolished.”

The government said flood incidents are often due to high rainfall intensity and rainstorm, blockage of drainage system, poor urban planning resulting in erection of structures within the flood plains and waterways, river flooding, as well as coastal flooding.

He said while nobody could be blamed for the natural phenomena that might cause flooding, people have a responsibility to avoid actions such as blockage of waterways and indiscriminate dumping of wastes often worsen flooding and lead to loss of lives and properties and humanitarian crisis.

Interestingly, the government has also gone ahead to launch media campaigns on various media outfits to warn, appeal and put riverine communities in Kwara Central and Kwara North on red alert and encourage them to relocate to safer locations in order to avert loss of lives, farmlands, and property to flooding and render many homeless. 

Thus, the State Town Planning and Development Authority should be alive to its responsibilities, step up its game and ensure strict compliance with environmental regulations as well as mapping of flood risks areas across the state. 

The State government must also sustain its media advocacy on the prevention of flood in the state, develop the political will to act against erring residents to environmental regulations and embarking on aggressive desilting  of blocked drainages and rivers for easy flow of water. 

It is also important for the Kwara State Government to partner members of the National Assembly and the Federal Government for the continuation of Asa River channelisation, rebuild failing bridges along federal roads and other roads in the state. 

They should also work in unison see to the completion of dyke construction along the banks of River Niger in Kwara State and other erosion control projects to permanently secure rice farms, against flooding in future.

The federal government’s internally displaced persons camp in Patigi could be an alternative safe abode for some residents of flood plains communities in the area if the edifice is made habitable and secure. The State Government could complement this by providing residents in flood-prone areas temporary accommodations equipped with health, water and other amenities in parts of the state to encourage them to leave. 

Bye and large, the government should as a matter of urgency set up local emergency agencies across the state with the support of the locals to immediately address any emerging disaster in various communities. 

To be forewarned, they say, is to before armed. It should not be a case of a disaster foretold but ignored. This is not the time to insist on not leaving your ancestral homes as safety is paramount in everything one does. A stitch in time saves nine!

Abdulrosheed Okiki is a Journalist and Environmental Enthusiast based in Ilorin, Kwara State. @okikitweets



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