Flood: Any solution to this environment bug?

The prediction of the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMET) on flood is in the fore with flashes of reality. VICTOR OGUNYINKA writes on the challenges facing the nation in the fight against minimising risk and if there would ever be a permanent solution to the annual ‘unfriendly’ visitor.

In March 2016, the Director General, Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMET), Dr Anthony Anuforom, revealed, in the agency’s annual Seasonal Rainfall Prediction in Abuja that there is going to be late on set, early cessation and lower than normal rainfall in many parts of the country in 2016, and the late on set of rainfalls will hit the northern parts seriously.

Dr Anuforom further revealed that the length of the rainy season in 2016 will be expected to range from 110-275 days, increasing from the far north to the Niger Delta. “It’s predicted to be above normal in and around Sokoto, Zamfara, Niger, Bauchi, Oyo, Ogun and Lagos states.”

Flood has been a perennial menace to the Nigerian states and the damages that come along leave economically and geographical calamities to affected areas.

In 2012, Nigeria experienced one of the harshest episodes of flood in 2012. It began in early July and killed about 363 in four months; leaving over two million displaced across 30 out of the 36 states. The estimated loss of the disaster ran into over two trillion naira during the period, according to Wikipedia.

About seven days ago, a heavy downpour at Hayin Gwarmai village in Bebeji Local Government Area of Kano State, claimed three lives and crops in millions of naira were flooded away. Not forgetting a similar occurrence in June at Abakaliki, where vehicles, houses, farmlands were submerged costing millions of naira.

The major challenge facing flood disaster is no doubt the human factor.

It is a common practice in Nigeria for people to indiscriminately dump refuse in prohibited areas, which has led to episodes of disaster annually.

But sometimes, the only legal means available to empty the bin is the illegal channels; in a system where there is no designated outlets to dump refuse, dumping refuse indiscriminately in open canals, drainages, rivers become everybody’s affair.

While speaking to residents along Oke-Ado area of Ibadan about where they dump their refuse, on the average, they revealed that they throw their waste bags in the open canal along Oke-Ado-Dugbe road, Ibadan.

Another resident at Boluwaji, Lagos-Ibadan expressway, stated that he drops his waste bags in the middle of the road because that is the only option available.

It is a well established fact that flood is first, a natural disaster before any other thing and that is why even developed countries of the world with well channelled drainage systems and canals still suffer immensely when it occurs.

With the prediction projecting more rainfalls in some part of the north and southwest, the implication is that there is likely going to be overflows in the basins, rivers and ocean, the geographical location of Lagos, Ogun and Oyo states around these water bodies make them prone to flood.

Recently, while the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) organised a workshop for stakeholders in Ibadan comprising of the southwest states (Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo and Ekiti), Edo and Delta states from the south-south, on Emergency Preparedness Response before, during and after a disaster.

The stakeholders in attendance identified poor coordination, political obstacles, relief agency syndrome, fireman approach among others as hindrances to smooth response during emergencies.

In all, the need for sensitisation and enlightenment of dwellers in prone areas has been seen as a major factor in preventing the risks that come with emergency.

Deputy Director, disaster risk reduction, National Emergency Maintenance Agency (NEMA), Mr Iyiola Akande, explained that one of the gaps missing “is that most states in Nigeria still don’t have a concrete management act, which is accented to by the governor of a state, having passed through the state House of Assembly; NEMA is not folding its hands because when there is peace at the state level, there is automatically going to be peace at the federal.”

Mr Akande revealed that for NEMA, there is a paradigm shift in which the agency is moving from emergency response to reduction.

While discussing with the State Director, National Orientation Agency (NOA), Ogun State, Mr Sola Babalola, on the challenges of convincing dwellers in prone areas on the imminent dangers of flood, he identified the primary orientation of dwellers as a major challenge, stating that such community has idealised, the belief and myth of their region and are always reluctant to welcome something new.

“In Yewa North, Obafemi-Owode and Ado-Odo Ota local government areas are more prone to indiscriminate dumping of refuse, it would have an effect on the drainages, which could predispose to flooding.

“The challenge we are having is the primary orientation of the people. So, we are saddled with the responsibility of redirecting their orientation to a more civilised one. You know there will be resistance and a lot of persuasion too because you must be able to convince them sufficiently.”

The Deputy DG, NEMA added that “One can use windows of opportunity to prevent more people from getting affected when another flood happens by recalling their memories to previous disasters and the damages it caused to individuals they know, community they belong and the nation at large.”

Also, the Oyo State Director, National Orientation Agency, Mrs Dolapo Dosunmu, hinted that “One important thing about social change is that you have to keep talking to people and attitudinal change is one that dies quite hard, so, we have to make it a sustained awareness, which we have been doing in all our local governments, encouraging the people to live a life of cleanliness, starting with avoidance of refuse dump in drainages and other waterways.

“Though it is very difficult for us as a people to have 100 per cent adherence to pleas on dumping refuse at the riverbanks, but gradually, as they continue to hear about it, they know they have a decision to make whether they want to runaway to safety or not. Refuse dumping has been a major challenge in Oyo State for some years now and it is not abating yet.”

When asked if the Oyo State has done enough in enlightening the public about flood and if there is a makeshift location for people in prone areas if flood eventually happens. Mrs Dosunmmu stated that though there is no camp in place in the southwest of the country, she expressed that even if there was one and people are asked to relocate to prevent risk just before a disaster, “they will be confused and reluctant to move.

“Nevertheless, if there is an emergency now and we have to relocate people, we have so much space that people can be relocated to.

“Some of these people might be expecting to get incentives before relocating, but you will agree with me that trying to move them to a safer place is enough incentive because if government decides to keep quiet what do you think would be the outcome of a disaster?”