Must these floods continue to wreak havoc?

OVER the past couple of months, as the rainy season has set in, floods have caused deaths and extensive damage to property in different parts of the country. In Kwara State, at least three people were reported dead and others missing when a bridge embankment collapsed in Oko-Erin, Ilorin, the state capital. In Eket Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, a heavy downpour which started in the small hours of Sunday June 14 led to the destruction of more than 100 homes and the displacement of more than 300 people. In Lagos State, where almost 90mm of rain fell between 18 and 19 June, several deaths and considerable damage to property were reported. Within the same period, flash floods also caused havoc in parts of Borno and Niger states.

To say that this is an annual ritual in Nigeria would be an understatement, and a betting man could easily make a fortune from hazarding that, during the rainy season in Nigeria, heavy rainfall will precipitate flooding, which in turn will lead to loss of precious lives and destruction of property worth hundreds of millions of Naira; that there will be a lot of anger and head-shaking, especially on social media, that government will promise to address the matter once and for all, and that eventually, nothing will be done. Yet, it’s rainy season 2020, and that is exactly where we are. After heavy downpour in Ikorodu on June 27 damaged more than 35 buildings and temporarily crippled commercial activities, several commentators took to social media to express their dismay, and the Director-General of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) casually warned residents to “desist from disposing refuse into drainages/canals as the aftermath is on the citizens” (sic).

This perfunctory response to a perennial menace captures the essence of governance in Nigeria. Although there are federal and state agencies charged with monitoring the weather and responding to ecological disasters, there is scant evidence that they approach their jobs with any degree of seriousness. For some reason, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET), charged with “the responsibility to advise the Federal Government on all aspects of meteorology, project, prepare and interpret government policy in the field of meteorology; and to issue weather (and climate forecasts) for the safe operations of aircraft, ocean-going vessels and oil rigs,” appears to have reduced its task to issuing warnings. Similarly, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) seems content to distribute mattresses, rice and roofing sheets to victims of adverse weather events, while various state governments have turned the Ecological Fund into slush money for political patronage.

That authorities at various levels need to change their approach to adverse weather events, particularly floods which continue to cause untold misery year after year, goes without saying. For instance, most of the havoc caused by flood can be eliminated with better town planning and rigorous adherence to the rules and regulations governing construction. There is really no excuse to continue to have life disrupted by something as predictable as rain.

We would hate to write this same editorial next year, lamenting the same problem. We would, really.



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