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Friday, March 31, 2023

Rainy season: Niger, Kogi, Nasarawa move to forestall flooding

Director-General, Niger State Emergency Management Agency (NSEMA), Alhaji Ahmed Inga, has said that the agency has commenced meetings on how to mitigate floods as the rainy season draws closer.

Kogi flood
A flooded neighbourhood in Kogi

Inga, who said this in an interview in Minna, the state capital, on Tuesday, February 7, 2023, noted the agency has commenced meetings with flood control volunteers and also trained them on information sharing.

“That is how to access information and report back to the agency in emergency situations.

“We have started coordination meetings and we have been visiting our resettlement camps to see the level of damage and put them in good shapes in case of floods for relocation of people living downstream,” he said.

Inga said that the state government had commenced emergency and response plans, across all the emergency response units throughout the state ahead of 2023.

This, he said, was to forecast seasonal predictions by NiMet to see their level of preparedness and identify the gaps for government to come in.

Inga said the agency would soon embark on aggressive sensitisation on radio and television across the eight emirates, as well as meetings with village and ward heads.

Inga said that the move was to enlighten them to prepare their minds ahead and advised them to plant more trees rather than felling them.

He said the moves also included meetings with the managements of dams to take precautionary measures, by informing the agency as well sensitising people living up and downstream.

He said that government has embarked on the establishment of emergency resettlement centres in case there was flood.

Inga said the agency had written to the government for procurement of emergency relief materials in case of flood emergency.

Also speaking, the Niger Commissioner for Health and Hospital Management, Dr Muhammed Makusidi, said the state government had made budgetary provisions as part of preparedness in tackling diseases associated with heat period such as meningitis.

“COVID-19 taught us a lesson, we are much more prepared in terms of disease outbreak and there is a political will towards that as there has been budgetary provision.

“The most important thing is prevention. In terms of risk communication sharing, the public is being enlightened on what to do and what not to do.

“Especially during heat period to avoid overcrowded environments and not sleeping in an unventilated closed environment,” he said.

Makusidi said that the state emergency operation centre had been alerted in case of any form of outbreak across the 274 wards.

He said that surveillance was intensified as each surveillance officers in each local government area have been informed to be at alert.

The commissioner said that there has been routine immunisation against the outbreak of diseases, adding that the COVID-19 laboratory was ready to carry out all the tests.

Mr Yakubu Kwanta, Commissioner for Environment and Natural Resources in Nasarawa State, said government has reinstated its commitment to tackling environmental challenges, especially flooding and gully erosion across the state.

Kwanta said the ministry had set up machinery in motion to enlighten flood-prone communities to relocate to higher grounds to avoid the ugly experience of the past flood disasters.

He said that the government would make information on flooding available to the various communities in the state.

The commissioner said the menace of gully erosion caused by heavy rainfall and human activities, was prevalent in all the 13 Local Government Areas of the state.

“Erosion is caused by short term rainfall that usually falls with high intensity and velocity as well as excessive human activities,” he said.

Kwanta said gully erosion was already an ecological problem and federal and state governments, as well as development partners were working seriously toward addressing it.

He said that Gov. Abdullahi Sule has given the ministry the approval to take inventory of new gully erosion sites in the state with the view of tackling the menace.

“The state government had in 2016 granted permission to the ministry to participate in Nigeria Erosion Watershed Management Programme (NEWMAP), all in an effort to get assistance from partners toward tackling gully erosion,” he added.

Kwanta added that the effect of gully erosion was similar to that of flood, as it destroys houses and farmlands and lead to loss of lives and property whenever it occurs.

Kwanta said partners through NEWMAP, in collaboration with Federal and State Governments, were working toward addressing the menace of gully erosion in the state.

He said the government under NEWMAP had awarded contracts worth N1.5 billion for the control of gully erosion in Lafia, Nasarawa and Toto local government areas.

Dr Allu Umbugadu, a Lecturer in  the Department of Geology and Mining, Nasarawa State University, Keffi, said indiscriminate felling of tress as well as activities of miners were responsible for erosion.

The lecturer advised the people to desist from cutting trees and to cover holes after mining activities in order to protect the environment.

He urged government to enforce the existing laws to protect the environment and punish violators of the laws to serve as deterrent to others.

The Kogi State Commissioner for Health, Dr Zakari Usmam, said the state had put machinery in place to deal with the outbreak of heat-related diseases such as meningitis, cholera, measles, diphtheria and lassa fever, amongst others.

Usman spoke through the Ministry’s Director of Disease Control, Dr Austin Ojotule.

He said that the state has health facilities spread across the 21 Local Government Areas of the state that offers healthcare services to the residents.

The commissioner said the government was meeting stakeholders to discuss, on how to promptly respond to the  predicted flood and heat related diseases in the country.

“As it is right now, we are battling with six cases, especially Lassa fever in the state. But thanks be to God, the disease is under control in the state.

“The good thing is that we have not recorded any death yet, but seriously treating the affected persons as well as preventing further spread of the disease.

“Samples have been taken by our Disease Surveillance Officers in the affected LGAs and sent to us in the ministry for analysis.

“It will enabled us to effectively and efficiently control the spread of the disease,” he said.

Usman said apart from the PHCs in the LGAs, there are health tertiary institutions in Lokoja, Anyigba and zonal hospitals in each of the three Senatorial districts of the state to handle any case of such diseases.

He said, “For now Kogi has no cases of diphtheria, cholera, meningitis and measles, which are heat-related diseases.”

Usman said the ministry was conducting mass sensitisation for the people, on the need to watch out and to be conscious of their environment.

He advised the people to report any sign and symptom of those diseases to the nearest hospital for prompt action.

Mr Victor Adewale-Omofaiye, Commissioner for Environment, Kogi, said the ministry has commenced operational activities towards mitigating the effects of flood disaster in 21 Local Government Areas in the state.

He said the ministry was engaging stakeholders towards harnessing resources that could conveniently help in responding and tackling flood.

The commissioner said that the ministry has embarked on the removal of illegal structures, heaps of refuse and debris associated with flood from public places, water bodies and blocked drainages.

“Already, our ministry has received partnership support from the Hydro-Electric Power Producing Areas Development Commission (HYPPADEC), to provide flood intervention in some flood affected areas across some LGAs in the three senatorial districts.

“We have established ecological and flood assessment team to conduct assessment across the 21 LGAs to survey and monitor Environmental degradation and generate data on gully erosion, damaged drainages and affected infrastructure to be used to update Ministry’s data on flood disaster,” he said.

He said the ministry would continue to work in synergy with critical agencies on Inter-agency/Ministry collaborations to mitigate the impact of flooding.

“This is to ensure a more holistic and logical approach toward mitigating the effects of flood in the state,” he said.

The commissioner said mobile toilets would provide at IDPs camps, for proper collection and disposal of waste to maintain good Hygiene and prevent open defecation.

He said relief materials would also be provided to support feedings and empower flood victims for some months.

The commissioner said that he could not comment on the usage of the ecological fund because it was not under his control.

He advised the correspondent to direct such question to the Ministry of Finance, which controls the funds.

Several attempts made by our correspondent to get the commissioner for Finance, Mr Asiwaju Idris, to talk on the matter proved abortive.

A source from the ministry, who spoke on anonymity, said that the ecological funds domiciled at the ministry were hardly released to the environment ministry.

“It’s only the commissioner or the state governor that can tell you what the ecological funds being received are being used for,” he said.

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