By Tersoo Zamber
Flooding is a natural disaster due to heavy rains. Its magnitude varies with human activities such as blockage of drainages, building structures on water ways and general obstruction of free flow of flood waters. It is fast becoming an annual phenomenon that the country must experience flooding in vulnerable states of the federation.

This is due to the excess water usually from heavy rains and the occasional release of water from the Lagdo dam in Cameroun that flows into the country. Relevant agencies such as the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency, Nigeria Meteorological Agency and the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA have made it an annual routine to alert the public of impending floods, with attendant consequences. This year was not an exception.

Unfortunately, the floods have occurred in many states including Benue, Niger, Enugu, Bayelsa, Kebbi, and Lagos, destroying property worth billions of naira and rendering people homeless. Preliminary reports from NEMA show one life has been lost in the incident in Suleja, Niger state. It is sad to note that part of the problem is the negligence on the part of some Nigerians to observe basic environmental practices such as clearing of drainages for free flow of water.

In Suleja for instance, preliminary reports indicate that structures erected on water way is responsible for flood devastation in the area. It must be noted that last year, similar predictions of floods were made but the impact was not as devastating as the current disaster.

Perhaps, more proactive measures were taken to reduce the effects which may have been ignored this time around. However, in disaster management, there is need for sustainability in mitigation efforts especially as disasters are inevitable. Government interventions at such occasions are indeed, commendable. The approval by the federal government for the release of 1.6 billion naira to victims of the floods in 16 states is one of such commendable interventions. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo's directive that the funds should be released to the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, the coordinating agency for emergency management in the country may be a conscious attempt to avoid a repeat of the 2012 bitter experience. In that year, the federal government directly released 17.6 billion naira to states, with the least getting 250 million naira only for some of them to give a paltry N250 to actual victims of the flooding while in some states nothing was heard of how the funds were utilized.

The federal government must therefore, monitor to ensure that the purpose for the release of the 1.6 billion naira is strictly adhered to. But, it must be realized that the continuous release of such monies to cure a preventable emergency is not in the best interest of the nation. When people do not build on water ways and block drainages, there would be free flow of water during downpours and the effects of flooding would be minimized. As such, these funds from the
Ecological Fund would be channeled to construction of dams and drainages.

Similarly, the government must ensure the construction of these facilities in prone areas, and must not wait for disaster to strike before humanitarian intervention. There is an urgent need for a proactive approach to mitigate the effects of the incessant flood disaster in parts of the country. One of which is the construction of a buffer dam along the banks of River Benue as agreed in 1981, to collect overflowing water from river Benue and whenever the Lagdo dam in Cameroun releases water. Apart from mitigating the negative effects of the Lagdo Dam, the proposed dam was to generate three hundred Megawatts of electricity and irrigate about one hundred and fifty thousand hectares of farmland, capable of producing over eight hundred thousand tons of crops. It was also estimated to create employment opportunities for forty thousand families, and open irrigational route of the Benue River down to the Niger Delta. The completion and impoundment of water at the Lagdo Dam in Cameroun was carried out within schedule in 1982. Unfortunately, in spite of the laudable prospects of the buffer dam, it is yet to be constructed more than three decades after.

This apparent official inaction has placed the lives and livelihoods of millions of Nigerians inhabiting the Benue valley in jeopardy. While the government considers the construction of the buffer dam and other flood mitigation Infrastructure, it behooves Nigerians to cultivate the habit of evacuating drainages and avoid blockage of same to reduce the impact of the flooding. Therefore, sensitization on the ravaging floods by relevant agencies should be intensified especially where vulnerability is high. Government must also ensure effective town planning to check flooding.

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