Deep Thoughts with Othman
In our lackadaisical manner as a developing nation, we ignore almost every imminent disaster until it happens, then our leaders begin to shed crocodile’s tears and before you pronounce “Jack”, an investigation panel would have been put in place, if the disaster is big enough.
In most cases, the hidden aim of the panel is to avoid asking embarrassing questions on preventable incidence. By the time, the panel report is submitted, if ever done, the euphoria of the incident would have gone, the victims of the disaster; the dead were buried, the injured and properties’ losers would have accepted their fate as part of their destiny, and the nation will move on waiting for another circle of disaster to occur.
These disasters range from plane crashes, road mishaps, and fire incidents to banditry activities. Sometimes, the bandits/insurgents are bold enough to announce their visit to communities, little or nothing will be done until they come. Can we break this recurrence circle of calamity? A perennial flood disaster is one of such calamitous occurrences with devastating unquantifiable losses of lives and properties.
In 2018, the National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS) of ABU Zaria conducted a study to evaluate the impact of the 2018 wet season flood on five major crops in nine selected states.
The states were Adamawa, Bayelsa, Delta, Ebonyi, Jigawa, Kebbi, Kogi, Niger, and Rivers. The result indicated that the flood in nine states submerged and destroyed rice worth N54 billions, cassava worth N144 billions, maize worth N46 billions, sorghum worth N4 billions, and yam worth N347 billions. These were in addition to the losses of lives, properties, houses, roads, and unquantifiable man-hours to millions of hapless and resource-poor citizens. Nine states only, what of the rest of the nation? The story was similar almost every year especially in 2019 when rainfall cession delayed by more than three weeks in the northern part of the country.
In 2020, the losses were unprecedented, according to the Premium Times (online paper) of September 30th, forty deaths and destruction of over 100,000 hectares of rice caused by the flood were recorded in Hadejia and environs in Jigawa state. In the same year, NAERLS reported the submergence of over 450,000 hectares of rice plantation; another 50,000 hectares of crops including millet, sorghum, maize, and sugarcane were affected in Kebbi and Jigawa States.
Kebbi State is one of the major rice-growing states and based on the report from the state that about 25% of the rice planted in 2020 was lost to flooding. This year, 2021, the Nigerian Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) already made a public presentation of the 2021 Annual Flood Outlook (AFO).
AFO reviewed the 2020 prediction and reported that 36 states of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), 349 Local Government Areas (LGAs) within the 36 states were affected by flood and over 2,353,647 people were displaced and recorded 69 deaths of people in 2020.
The 2021 AFO flood predictions indicated that parts of 121 LGAs in 27 states and the FCT fall within the highly probable flood risk areas, while parts of 302 LGAs in all the 36 states of the Federation including the FCT fall within the moderately probable flood risk areas. The parts of the remaining 351 LGAs fall within the low probable flood risk areas.
Similarly, NiMet had also presented 2021 seasonal climate predictions that cover rainfall and drought predictions among others across the nation. Rainfall is the major cause of both urban and river floods. Flood is categorized into river flooding, coastal flooding as well as flash and urban flooding occasioned by poor drainages, blocked drainages, and poor adherence to town planning regulations.
The major causes of the floods in Nigeria are well known, They include inadequate drainage channels, silted dams, and waterways, invasion of aquatic weeds, typha grass overgrowing on river channels and riverbeds, as well as illegal diversion, encroachment of waterways for building and conversion to farmland. Coastal areas are worst affected by river floods, as Nigeria is located downstream of River Niger.
The river passes through some countries and drains an average flow of 5,589 m3/s into the Atlantic Ocean through the country. This River with a length of 4,180 Km and a drainage basin area of 2.1 million Km2 is the third largest river in Africa and has six major perennial rivers as tributaries crisscrossing the length and breadth of Nigeria. Despite flood early warning and the knowledge of flood causes, we still watch as the numbers of flood occurrences, magnitudes, affected areas, and adverse socio-economic consequences increase annually. Why is it so?
Several intricacies and factors governing policy formulation and implementation are making the question of “why is it so” difficult to answer. First, Federal government agencies; NIHSA, NiMet, NAERLS, states government agencies, etc responsible for Early Warning (EW) information and communication are not synergizing to face a flood, the challenges head-on.
They seem to be working individually. Is there a government strategy, which brings FMARD, FMWR, FMA, and state ministries of Agriculture to address flood occurrences and mitigation? To the best of my knowledge, as a nation, we have been given lip service to the issue of flood prevention and mitigation. Being a professor of extension, irrigation, and water management, I am one of the key stakeholders of water resource management in this country. Thus, it pains me a great deal when I see preventable losses due to flood continues to occur annually.
Addressing causes and prevention of floods should include a comprehensive and holistic approach, which should involve state governments, local governments, and communities. So far, there is nothing in place to indicate this holistic approach is being prepared. This is a clarion call to prevent the occurrences of flood and mitigate their effects.
Prof Othman writes from NAERLS, ABU Zaria and can be reached via email: email@example.com.