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Editorial

This Flooding Demands A State Of Emergency

 

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The wrath of nature raging across the country calls to mind an assertion made last year by the Minister of Water Resources and Rural Development, Engr Suleiman Adamu to wit: “No power on earth can prevent hydro pressure; no power can stop water. The power of water is stronger than an atomic bomb”. Nigeria is currently grappling with the worst flooding in a decade, with those hitherto emotionally divested or passing interest in flooding issues now realizing that this force of nature takes no prisoners. Two days ago, the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority explained that the return of long queues in fuel stations in the Federal Capital Territory is the result of the submerging of the major artery into Abuja by the unprecedented flooding in Kogi State.

Before those outside the FCT continue playing the Ostrich, the point must be made that the attendant famine from this flooding will spare no one. At a time thousands of farmers have been pushed off their land owing to widespread insecurity, this flooding will in no small measure worsen the starvation in the country. Olam Nigeria Limited recently highlighted this after the submerging of the company’s 4400-hectares farmland in Nasarawa State. It has warned that the price of rice will go up in the country by December as massive flooding from River Benue damaged its crops and infrastructure. The agribusiness firm added that the flooding affected the company’s $20 million investment and about 25 percent of Nigeria’s rice needs.

Following the opening of the Kainji dam in Niger State, floodwaters from the River Niger overflowed onto the Lokoja-Abuja expressway since Monday, submerging surrounding houses and farmsteads as well as forcing motorists to spend days in the same spot waiting for the waters to recede. The Federal Road Safety Corps, in an advisory issued by its acting corps marshal Dauda Biu, said “there are two flash points where the flood is critical. Kabawa road linking Natacojunction in Lokoja-to-Lokoja town as well as Ganaja village which links Lokoja town to Ajaokuta road.” Unfortunately, the menace of deplorable highways in the country is about to get worse as this flooding that has submerged the asphalt-paved roads will make them fail in no time, while the government is still bearing the burden of the bond and loans used in funding the construction of the expressway.

Heavy weather has been made over the fuel scarcity in Abuja caused by the Lokoja situation. Be that as it may, the food supply chain from the North to the South, and vis-a-vis has also been disrupted by the scourge. In fact, not only disrupted the supply chain but has destroyed the produce in transit as most of them are perishables. It is estimated that flooding and other factors will cut maize output in Nigeria by 12 per cent year on year, and rice by 21 per cent. That poses a serious food security challenge as inflation hit a 17-year high in August – this was led by food inflation at 23.12 per cent up from 20.30 per cent a year before, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics.

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With the standstill in Lokoja, transport companies, independent commercial drivers, and logistics companies are losing revenues daily, as long as the flooding continues to affect interstate travel. Yet, this flooding which is the worst in decades has affected people in 27 states of the federation. The Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) stated in September 2022 that the Lagdo Dam in Cameroon has started releasing extra water from its reservoir. This water will cascade into Nigeria through the River Benue and will impact communities in Benue, Kogi, Nasarawa, Kebbi, Niger, Taraba, and Adamawa. There has also been coastal flooding in States like Rivers, Cross River, Bayelsa, Delta, Lagos and Ondo states. Even Anambra and Enugu were not spared due to the tributaries of River Niger. This whole turn of events has thrown up severe humanitarian crises across the country, which makes Naija News wonder what is keeping the federal government from declaring a state of emergency on the flooding disaster.

According to a statement by NEMA in late September, at least 300 people had been killed, 500 injured and 100,000 displaced since the rains began in February, with 29 states affected. The current disaster is already projected to be worse than the 2012 floods which affected 30 states, killed 363 people and displaced no fewer than 2.1 million Nigerians. It is quite unfortunate that the authorities have failed to find a lasting solution or ways to mitigate the impact of what is clearly a perennial problem. It is even more woeful that despite the dire need Nigeria has for water during the dry season, nothing significant has been done to conserve this much-needed resource.

Naija News cannot but question the utility of the so-called ministry of water resources and the various river basin development authorities if they can’t help Nigeria maximize water resources and minimize flooding hazards. Since these are bureaucracies funded by taxpayers, how productive are their workers, and who checks their KPIs? Enough of Nigeria playing out Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem; ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ which has the line: “water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink”. Nigerians will have more than a drop of overflowing water to drink if dams are built in flood-prone areas for hydropower generation. Citizens can also drink from the abundant waters if the government enables a switch to climate-smart agriculture. Considering how draught is at the heart of farmers-herders clashes, the abundant water from flooding should be harnessed so that herdsmen wouldn’t need to leave their base in search of pastures during the dry season.

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In the main, this newspaper insists on the declaration of a state of emergency to address the current humanitarian crisis and other effects of the rampaging floods. Given that the ramifications of the impact are multifaceted, declaring a state of emergency will make for a multidimensional approach to tackling the menace and bringing succour to the affected victims. Rather than playing possum, President Muhammadu Buhari must show empathy by first getting on a helicopter to have a bird’s eye view of the situation and get about pragmatic leadership immediately.

It is unacceptable for the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) not to be delivering relief materials already. It should stop waiting for the water to recede and do more to evacuate those cut up in the flood, even if it has to do this in collaboration with the Air Force. As a long-term solution to flooding, the federal government must get serious about dredging the two main rivers in the country. Apart from the economic benefits from this, such dredging will go a long way in stopping Rivers Niger and Benue from overflowing their banks during the rainy season.

Governments at the state and local levels also have their work cut out for them and must get cracking. They can at least ensure that those displaced do not suffer the double whammy of water-borne disease. Those already infected must be isolated and given adequate medical attention. There must be sanitary hygiene for these displaced people. If citizens can’t feel the impact of government in their moment of distress, then of what use is that government to them? Some of these people live in flood planes because it’s their ancestral home or they have nowhere else to go. If people live around rivers and the sea elsewhere, Nigerians residing in riverine areas should be enabled to retain their homesteads without having to lose all they have to periodic flooding.

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Naija News also calls for proper town planning, arrest of indiscriminate dumping of waste and deforestation, while demanding functional urban drainage systems. That the respective state emergency agencies must be alive to the responsibilities cannot be overemphasized.

If the power of flooding is indeed the equivalent of an atomic bomb force, then the sort that has now besieged parts of the country must be tackled with a sense of urgency and emergency. President Buhari must lead the way in this by doing what is necessary to keep Nigeria and Nigerians afloat from the flooding. Meanwhile, our hearts go out to all those affected by this force of nature and expect them to have their lives back in the shortest time possible.