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Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Why Nigeria should possess capacity to deal with persistent flooding, by NEST

The Nigerian Environmental Study Action Team (NEST), in a statement issued on December 21, 2022, expresses concern over the persistent flooding in parts of the country, even as it underlines the need for serious remedial action by stakeholders. The statement, titled “The Persistent Flooding in Parts of Nigeria and the Imperative for Serious Action by Stakeholders“, was endorsed by the NEST team comprising Prof. Chinedum Nwajiuba, Prof. Tai Oluwagbemi, Prof. Emmanuel Nzegbule, Prof. Dan Gwary, Prof. Simbo Apata, Dr. Usman Dikku, Dr. Deborah Msheliza, Mr. Isaac Oloogunebi, and Dr. Gloria Ujo

Flood
Flooding in Nigeria

This year 2022, several parts of Nigeria have suffered severe flooding. In our collective memory as a country the flooding this year seems the worst we have experienced. What this experience teaches is that the situation with flooding in Nigeria has become persistent, and worsening in intensity, scope, and area.

The lesson also is that without serious actions, this flooding cannot just vanish. Our country must take urgent actions that are informed by scientific knowledge. This knowledge exists in Nigeria, and the resources required are not only available within Nigeria, if our priorities are re-ordered, but the necessary resources can be sourced locally and internationally.

The evidence of the persistence of flooding in Nigeria are available in the records. Only 10 years ago, Lagos the economic hub of Nigeria suffered severe flooding arising from extreme rainfall. The year after in 2013, Ibadan in Oyo State suffered from extreme rainfall events. What these teach is that virtually every year, parts of Nigeria suffer these. These happen across all ecological zones of Nigeria from the mangroves of the coast, through the rainforest, and the savannas. Not even the semi-Arid zones of Nigeria which experience increasing dryness and rising temperatures are spared occasional flash floods and intensive rainfall.

In previous studies by the Nigerian Environmental Study Action Team (NEST), especially the Building Nigeria’s Response to Climate Change (BNRCC), a project that covered all ecological zones, and most states of Nigeria, evidence is clear that the number of days of rain in Nigeria has reduced compared to historical records. The volume of rainfall in the semi-arid and savanna regions of Nigeria have also reduced, while the average annual temperature has risen. This was the case before the rise in insecurity and has implications for Nigeria’s food security, since these are also the most important food growing areas of Nigeria.

The Nigeria economy is under stress due to these, among other factors. In the rainforest areas, the number of days of rains also reduced but the aggregate rainfall volume may not have changed. What this reveal is the increased intensity of rainfall with implications for flooding and erosion. In the coastal areas, there is clear evidence of rising sea levels, with island communities under severe pressure. There is no doubt the phenomenon of climate change is ravaging Nigeria.

When added to the annual release of water from the Lagdo Dam in the Cameroons, areas around the Benue and Niger basins will continue to suffer unless something serious is done, and urgent actions are taken. What are therefore those serious and urgent actions that are required, and who should take them?

The national priorities now should include:

1.    A nationally accepted integrated plan to manage the waters of rivers Niger and Benue and their watershed. The Federal Government of Nigeria should provide the leadership on this.

2.    Urgent construction of the proposed water withholding Dam at Dasin Hausa in the Furore LGA of Adamawa State. Feasibility studies on this were conducted about 40 years ago, in 1982 but not much else was done in that direction. Now is time for urgent action. The Federal Government of Nigeria should implement this.

3.    Intensive and close liaison with the Cameroonian authorities and effective monitoring of the circumstance at the Lagdo Dam, to promptly alert communities in Nigeria ahead of the release of water from that dam. The relevant agencies in Nigeria on this include the Ministry of Water Resources, national security agencies, Inland Waterways Authority of Nigeria, among others. A coordinating Inter-ministerial and inter-agency platform on this should be constituted and activated.

4.    Finding use for the huge volume of water released from the Lagdo Dam within Nigeria. The water released from the Lagdo Dam in the Cameroons does not have to be a curse but could be an asset. Nigeria should consider redirecting this water to the Lake Chad, a matter that has been talked about without action for many years in Nigeria and her neighbouring countries. The technical feasibility of this should be undertaken, and urgent actions taken because it is possible. The Federal Government of Nigeria should drive this.

5.    Immediate commencement and implementation by state governments of all rules and laws concerning human settlements and housing developments. Indeed, urgent work on the building codes is required. Many states governments in Nigeria are not active on environmental challenges in the states. Environmental issues are in the concurrent legislative list. Too much focus is on the Federal Government while most states in Nigeria have been anonymous. This must stop. CSOs and NGOs should take state governments up on these.

6.    Strengthening of meteorological services, and early warning systems for events with environmental and social consequences. Scientific capacity exists on this.

7.    Urgent sensitisation of Local Governments and communities and changes made to the construction models for human settlements. Ministries of Local Governments in each state, as well agencies of the Federal Government, including the National Orientation Agency (NOA) should embark on this.

To be able to do these there are specified roles by each of the stakeholders on this subject including the Federal, States, and Local Governments, as well as communities, and civil society organisations and NGOs.

To fund this, Nigeria should consider a declaration of an emergency, and the concentration of financial resources including the ecological funds. This can be done for a determined number of years. The current atomization and dissipation of available funds for projects which though important but may not be as urgent as dealing with the challenge of the Niger and Benue Rivers over flooding, should be altered.

It is good that currently the Federal and State Governments are preparing their 2023 budgets. What is required is leadership at the very highest levels of Government and for both the National Security Council, the National Economic Council, as well as roles that may be necessary with the support of the National Assembly.

Nigeria should and indeed possesses the capacity to deal with this persistent annual flooding.

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