Nigeria, Cameroon and Lagdo Dam

THIS week, a picture of the devastating effects of flooding across Nigeria was provided by the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq. According to her, as of October 16, no fewer than 2,504,095 Nigerians had been affected by floods across the country. A breakdown of the tragedy showed that 1,302,589 people were displaced and 2,407 people injured, while 603 people were killed. Again, 121,318 houses were partially damaged, 82,053 houses totally damaged, 108,392 farmlands partially damaged and 332,327 farmlands totally damaged. Farouq noted that her ministry was working earnestly towards the construction of “about two dams”, adding that the projects would be quite expensive and would take a long period of time to complete. She also noted that state governors had met with President Muhammadu Buhari, who she said had directed that all the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of the government should work with sub-national governments to curb the effects of the flood.

While governments at all levels are busy dragging their feet, nearly the entire country is being ravaged by floods. Already, businesses have been ruined and lives lost to flooding, orchestrated in large part by the release of water from the Lagdo Dam located in the Northern Province of Cameroon. The dam, which began operating in 1982, is located 50 km south of the city of Garoua on the Benue River. Its construction was intended to supply electricity to the northern part of the country and allow the irrigation of 15,000 hectares of crops downstream, but states in Nigeria’s North-East, namely Borno, Adamawa and Taraba are usually flooded whenever water is released from it. Nigerians would no doubt have been shocked by the report that  upon the completion of the Lagdo Dam, the Nigerian government was meant to embark on a similar project along the River Benue. The purpose was to contain the flood water released upstream from Lagdo Dam and prevent flooding and the attendant consequences. However, the dam, which was to be located in Dasin Village of Fufore Local Government Area of Adamawa State, was never built.

In 2012, the Director of Dams in the Ministry of Water Resources, Dr. Emmanuel Adanu, was reported to have made the following declaration: “It is now imperative for the Federal Government to build a bumper dam to cushion the effect of water released by Lagdo Dam. We are already taking steps to do the construction and we have started looking at how we can improve on the old design. The size of the dam we are looking at will take us 36 months to finish it but right now we know that the original feasibility study that was done in 1982 is a bit outdated. The Cameroonian government finished the construction of Lagdo Dam in 1982, but Nigeria is yet to develop its own dam. So anytime the Cameroonian government wants to release water from the dam, they always alert the Nigerian government so as to evacuate people to avert casualties. The proposed dam, when built, will be 1.4km long, 40 metres deep and contain 16 cubic litres of water. Aside from being used for flood control, the dam also has some economic benefits like its ability to irrigate 150,000 farmlands and hold 20,000 tons of fish annually.”

It is 10 years since Adanu’s pronouncement, yet what the Federal Government has continued to give Nigerians is mere promises. Among other devastating consequences, hectares of rice and other plantations have disappeared and thousands of farmers thrown into debt and agony, yet the calamity was preventable. It is regrettable that a country like Cameroon that is significantly less populated than Nigeria had greater foresight in staving off flooding. At the moment, Bayelsa State is literally under water, and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, is battling fuel scarcity created by the inability of trucks conveying fuel to navigate their way through the Confluence State, Kogi. Indeed, many vehicles have plunged into the surging flood, their owners eternally silenced. The Nigerian government, which failed to fulfill its own part of the bargain after Cameroon built its Lagdo Dam, is complicit in this tragedy. Nigeria, virtually the only country without constructing its own end of the ECOWAS road, has suffered from poor leadership for decades, and it is legitimate to ask what precisely is being done right in this country.

The question of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Nigeria and Cameroon meant to stave off the incessant destruction of lives and property is definitely another indication of the lack of foresight on the part of Nigeria’s political leadership. The leadership simply does not know how to run an effective government that prioritises the welfare of Nigerians. Just how can the Nigerian government compel another sovereign country to help save the lives and property of its own citizens when it hasn’t the slightest interest in their welfare and never puts them first? The release of water from the Lagdo Dam by Cameroon which has become the source of unimaginable destruction in Nigeria  is apparently meant to save the dam and ancillary properties in Cameroon. The point is for Nigeria to be able to manage, through the construction of its own dam, any outflow from the Lagdo Dam rather than seeking to control its operations from Nigeria.

The Federal Government must get a dam constructed in no time. This is a responsibility it should take seriously rather than relying on Cameroon to save Nigerians.

 

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