With some dams yet to be opened and the rains still falling, accompanied by flashes of lightning and thunder storms across the country, there is no telling which of the 36 states that will soon join others that are submerged by floods threatening the safety of lives and property.
Warning of more trouble ahead at the weekend, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Sadiya Umar Farouq, whose ministry put the number of the dead at 603 persons with 1.3 million displaced and 340,000 hectares of land affected, has said that more states are still at risk till the end of November.
She said, “We are calling on respective state governments, local government councils and communities to prepare for more flooding by evacuating people living on flood plains to high grounds.”
Residents of many communities across the affected states have already abandoned their homes and ancestral lands, with many taking refuge in makeshift camps and uncertain of what the future holds for them.
Until recently, the Chief Meteorologist at the Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NIMET), Mr Abayomi Oyegoke, in his assessment of the issue, told THEWILL on Friday that the occurrence is natural, except that “this year’s flooding appears to be more severe.”
Oyegoke said, “The government and the people need to take the necessary steps after experts have given the forecast so that what we are experiencing can be curbed.”
Short of blaming the inaction of government and the citizenry for the depth of the current disaster, Oyegoke noted that if early warnings by experts had been heeded, the situation would have been different and better handled.
The Director-General of NIMET, Prof Mansur Bako Matazu, could not agree less. At a Hydro-meteorological meeting held in Abuja, he said the agency had been issuing warnings since February and given monthly updates about flooding due to heavy rainfall, opening of dams and other water holding facilities.
In fact, the agency forecasted that 32 states across the country would be severely hit. Rain water would collect in reservoirs and dams and later be released.
Apart from the rains and release of water from dams, lack of infrastructure, in the form of uncompleted dams in the country, especially the Dasin Hausa Dam in Adamawa State, which could solve flooding in the Benue basin and commitment to agreement are major culprits.
This is the view of the Minister of Water Resources, Alhaji Adamu Suleiman, who rejected trending reports that the release of water from Lagbo Dam in Cameroon was to blame for the flooding disaster in the southern states of Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta and Edo.
Suleiman noted that although the dam contributed one per cent to the problem, compared to 20 per cent from trans-water inflows from River Niger and Benue into the country, the Cameroun authorities always failed to inform their Nigerian counterparts about the annual release of water in clear violation of the MoU signed in 2016. As at the time of going to press at the weekend, things were going from bad to worse.
CRIES FROM AFFECTED STATES
Reports from THEWILL correspondents in some states tell the extent of the humanitarian disaster ravaging the country.
The saying that water has no enemy turns out to be the opposite, following the flooding that ravaged communities across the globe which occurred between the months of August, September and October 2022.
It is no longer news that this year’s flooding worldwide had devastating effects on victims, ranging from submerging of houses and destruction of valuable property, farms and crops worth billions of naira during the natural disaster.
In fact, observers of the sad incident expressed the opinion that this year’s flooding was worse than that of 2012, in terms of magnitude and level of destruction.
In Kogi State, nine local government areas, namely Ibaji, Idah, Igalamela/Odolu, Bassa, Dekina, Lokoja, Kogi, Ajaokuta and Ofu were affected during the natural disaster while in Nigeria at large about ten states also were victims of the flooding.
The enumerated local governments were those along the river bank in Kogi East and Western Senatorial Districts.
According to reports, Kogi, Benue, Bayelsa, Delta, Rivers and Niger were among the worst hit by the flooding. Our correspondents visited some of the flood victims in these states who narrated their ordeal and the negative impacts of the calamity, especially on the economy and the looming hunger that is likely to be experienced.
Omachonu Akoh from Ibaji Local Government Area, who spoke to THEWILL on behalf of other Council Areas in Kogi East, described this year’s flooding as unprecedented.
Omachonu hinted that Ibaji is the worst hit in Kogi as no fewer than 20 lives were lost, including houses that were submerged just as farm lands, crops and property worth billions of naira were washed away in the process.
“Most communities in Ibaji Local Government Area had to relocate to Idah, the traditional seat of the Igala Kingdom for safety.
“I also have my sympathy for other affected local government areas in Kogi East and I wish to call on both the federal and state governments, Non-Governmental Organisations and spirited individuals to come to our aid,” he said.
Speaking on behalf of flood victims in Kogi West, Abdulmalik Abubakar from Lokoja Local Government Area expressed the optimism that this year’s flooding will inflict poverty, hunger and disease on their lives.
He said that the disaster would also bring about a negative effect on the economy of Kogi, as well as socioeconomic activities in the affected communities across the state.
As flood water recedes, flood victims in Lokoja, Ughelli in Delta State and Makurdi in Benue are gradually returning to their original homes with the fear of how to be safe from reptiles that have taken over their residences.
Reptiles, particularly snakes, have reportedly taken over many homes in Lokoja, the capital of Kogi State, causing panic among residents who are returning home after a gradual receding of water.
Our correspondent reports that residents of Ajara Quarters in the Marine area of Lokoja, Adankolo, part of Army Barracks area, Gadumo and Ganaja areas, whose homes were flooded, have been battling with an influx of snakes in their homes.
A resident of Ajara Quarters, Abdulmaliki Usman, told THEWILL that he returned to his house due to receding floodwater, but there is no day they would not kill two to three snakes in their compound.
“We returned on Monday as the floodwater started withdrawing gradually in our area. Since then, we have killed up to 10 snakes, some in the compound and others in the rooms. We are now living in fear. But we thank God that we have not recorded any incident of snake bite,” he said.
Equally, travellers plying the Ganaja-Lokoja road were reported to have encountered a big snake in their boat shortly after taking off to cross to the other side of the town on Thursday.
A snake was said to have been sighted by a passenger in the boat, a few metres from the shore, causing passengers to jump into the water.
“We were lucky that the place was not deep. The snake was later killed by the boat owner with his paddle,” a passenger, Joseph Benjamin said.
In the same vein, a family in the Army Barracks area was reported to have killed a big snake in their room on Wednesday.
It was reported that the snake was sighted under a chair by a little girl and quickly brought it to the notice of her parents, who later killed it.
In flooded communities in Daudu and Wadata communities in Guma and Makurdi Local Government Areas of the state, the story is the same. Many people are displaced due to flooding. 12 out of the 23 local government areas of the state are affected. Here, many farmers who had been lamenting the lack of sustained farming activities due to the unceasing herder/farmer conflict are reeling from the devastating effects of the flood, which has washed away many farmlands in the state.
In Bayelsa, the Commissioner for Environment and chairman of the state’s Task Force on Flood Mitigation and Management, Mr Iselema Gbaranbiri, put the number of displaced persons at 700,000, adding that virtually all the communities and streets in Yenagoa Local Government Area have also been submerged or partially flooded.
He said that communities in five other local government areas of Sagbama, Ekeremor, Ogbia, Kolokuma/Opokuma and Southern Ijaw were equally seriously affected by the flood.
Speaking on Friday during a tour of Otuoke, ex-President Goodluck Jonathan’s community, Governor Duoye Diri said, “It is like we are under attack, but we will continue to distribute relief materials to our communities, several of which have been submerged.”
In Rivers, the Ahoada area of the state is mainly affected and the state government has set up a task force to assist the people. In Asaba, the Delta State capital, the Director-General of the State Bureau of Orientation, Mr Eugene Uzum, said the flood in the state had totally or partially submerged no fewer than 300 communities and villages.
In the Ughelli-Patani end of the East Road, the flood has overwhelmed one part of it as trucks conveying relief materials to affected communities in Delta State have been trapped. On Friday, the Kano State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) confirmed that 23 persons lost their lives to flooding and windstorms in 25 local government areas of the state.
Executive Secretary of the agency, Dr Saleh Jili, said the disaster also displaced 20,399 persons, left 100 others injured, destroyed 15,000 farmlands and property worth over N2.1 billion in the affected communities from April to date.
The story of persons daily losing their ancestral homes and sources of livelihood is the same across other affected states including Adamawa, Taraba, Bauchi, Yobe, Edo, Ogun, Ekiti, Plateau, Kaduna, Kano and Niger.
SOLUTION AND HELP
Abayomi, who agrees with the Minister of Water Resources, Adamu, in his view that rainfall is a natural aspect to the problem, saying, “We will continue to have floods on the Rivers Niger and Benue Basins,” called for the building of dams not only to control flooding, but also for “hydropower generation as well.”
A coalition of international NGOs, including ActionAid Nigeria, CARE, Plan International Nigeria and Christian Aid, said at the weekend, that “with 31 states so far affected by the flooding, it is time governments at all levels explore suitable ways to curb the perennial flooding many states are experiencing during the rainy season.”
The coalition called on various governments to prioritise issues of Climate Change, integration of flood risk management, increased funding on agro-ecology, adapt community surveillance, flood protection and mitigation, river dredging and avoid blocking waterways. Nodal States like Kogi and Benue, they pleaded, should be equipped with elevated bridges and smart buffer dams to contain water spills from Ladgo Dam in Cameroon.
Meanwhile, the international community has reacted. Alarmed by the extent of damage the flooding is causing to lives and property, the international community has rallied support to boost relief efforts by the Nigerian government which has started the distribution of 12,000 metric tonnes of food and other items to affected areas, starting with Jigawa and Anambra states.
The spokesman of the United Nations, Stephane Dujarric, said last week that the body was concerned that the flooding would worsen the food insecurity and malnutrition in the country following prediction by FAO cereal production would decline by 3.4 per cent and cost of agriculture production would increase. He said the UN has provided emergency shelter kits, and are working to create local water drains, sandbags, and walling around shelters to mitigate the impacts of the flooding.
On its part, the United States has pledged $1million in humanitarian aid for the people affected by unprecedented flooding in Nigeria.
According to the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, the aid which will come through the U.S. Agency for International Development, would be used to provide emergency shelter assistance, relief commodities, and hygiene kits to promote safe and healthy practices amid the ongoing cholera outbreak, and multipurpose cash assistance for people impacted by the devastating floods.
“In the end, the citizens of the country must listen to early warnings by experts because flooding cannot stop, but it can be curbed when necessary actions are taken ahead of time,” said meteorologist Oyegoke.
The British monarch, King Charles III, on Friday wrote an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari to express how “deeply saddened” he was over the lives lost due to the flood and to say that the UK “stands in solidarity with Nigeria as you recover from these truly terrible events.”
*** Written by Amos Esele with Joseph Amedu, Amoz Owei and David Doifie