Nigerians are no strangers to flooding. Some parts of the country suffer flooding almost every year. However, the recent flooding in the country has become an overwhelming disaster. Many states did not adequately prepare to protect their citizens despite several warnings.
So far, more than 600 people have died in the worst flooding experienced in the country in a decade. Some 1.3 million people have been displaced while more than 200,000 homes have been completely destroyed. The government blamed it on unusually heavy rains and climate change.
Since the flooding began in April, large swathes of farmland have been destroyed, while food and fuel supplies have been disrupted in many parts of the country. There are also concerns about increased spread of water-borne diseases such as cholera. The Nigeria Meteorological Agency warned that the flooding could continue until the end of November in some states in the southern part of the country, including Anambra, Delta, Rivers, Cross River and Bayelsa.
While many parts of Nigeria are prone to yearly floods, flooding in certain areas has been more severe than the last major floods in 2012. For instance, residents of Aeroplane Road in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State and Bomadi Local Government Area of Delta recently raise the alarm over floating corpses from submerged cemeteries in their areas. The residents lamented that floating corpses had become commonplace anytime it floods in the areas.
In Rivers State, the Nigeria LNG Limited (NLNG) was forced to declare a force majeure because of widespread flooding that disrupted the supply of gas from its production facilities on Bonny Island. The declaration could worsen Nigeria’s cash crunch, as the company’s ability to export gas to the international market could be temporarily impaired.
Experts have identified several causes for the increasing incidents of flooding being experienced in the country. Some of the causes include poor spatial planning; poor solid waste management whereby drainage systems are used as dump sites, blocking the flow of water; changes in rainfall patterns in the country with rainstorms lasting several days becoming more regular and poor development of water infrastructure such as dams and reservoirs.
It is time the Federal and State governments took decisive actions to reduce flooding and minimise its effect on the citizens. The proposed actions must address infrastructural deficits and adopt an ecosystem-driven solution.
The infrastructural solutions should include the construction of dams and reservoirs to hold excess water, riverbank protection, construction of levees and spillways, appropriate drainage systems and storm water management regimes, and dredging of some of the major rivers in the country.
Reforestation in important river catchments, planting native vegetation on flood plains that have been claimed for cropping, and creating riparian buffers through vegetation are some of the ecosystem-based solutions the Federal and State governments may consider implementing.
The country will also need to educate the citizens of coastal areas on the importance of keeping canals and drainages clean and free, to allow the free flow of water. Erecting structures on flood plains must be avoided at all costs. Awareness raising, education and disaster risk communication and messaging need to be strengthened to minimise the effects of flooding on Nigerians.
The importance of strengthening regulatory, governance and institutional capacity in the area of spatial planning, regional cooperation on transboundary water resources management, emergency response time, flood prediction, and enforcement of environmental and spatial planning laws cannot be overemphasized.
The Nigerian Hydrological Services Agency, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency and the National Emergency Management Agency are all important institutions that must be adequately funded to perform their statutory duties to avert flooding in the country.
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