As the Federal Government of Nigeria gets reminded, once again, of the need to blow up the River Niger to expand its capacity to hold in more gallons of water through dredging, there is need to think of after effects of such an act on coastal communities and lives of locals.
Flooding, apart from drought, is a worldwide phenomena. If left unmanaged, takes a devastating toll on people. Upward thinking governments and countries heed meteorological warnings, evacuating citizens from flood or disaster prone areas to dry ground or safe shelters before disaster strikes to cut down human carnage to stem the outbreak of disease. In Nigeria, such warnings are taken as pure information dissemination. Government and citizens only take action after it happens. The dilemma of the common man is used for political innuendoes and glib talk.
With present debates on factors that caused the overflow of the River Niger, Igberetvnews.com points to the release of water from the Lagdo Dam by the Cameroon government, holding it responsible for the death of over 300 people.
It said, “Communities in Benue, Adamawa, Taraba, Anambra, Rivers, Bayelsa, Nasarawa and other states have also been devastated by the flooding that has destroyed many homes and lives in Kogi state.”
Pointing at bilateral relationship and how the dam came into being, it reminded, “In 1977, construction of the Lagdo Dam, located in Northern Cameroon began and was completed in 1982. Initially, the Cameroonian and Nigerian Government’s had agreed to build two dams so that when excess water is released from the Cameronian dam, it will be contained by the Nigerian dam which would be two and a half times bigger and won’t result in flooding.
“However, the Nigerian Government agreed to construct the Dasin Hausa Dam in Adamawa State to lessen the impact of any potential flooding from the Lagdo dam in Cameroon. But regrettably, the Dasin Hausa dam has not been completed since 1982 and this has led to the yearly flooding in Nigeria.”
The Nigerian government and some people of note differed from inferred viewpoint, maintaining that what happened was not a sabotage but an effect of flooding, a resultant effect of climate change.
As of October 12, 2022, the Voice of America (VOA) noted that, “About 500 people have been killed and 1.4 million displaced from their homes in Nigeria’s worst floods in a decade after the start of the rainy season, according to the government. Poor infrastructure and heavy rain have caused the floods to affect vast swathes of Africa’s most populous country.”
With flagrant disregard for weather forecasts, one wonders how government hopes to maintain a dredged river Niger as to protect lives of the coastal/riverine dwellers where Hippopotamus, snakes and other deep water reptiles have been washed inland and presently struggle for space with humans. Aside from tales of those living in Banana Island, Lagos, who wake up to see pythons in their backyards periodically, residents of Otuoke in Bayelsa State now play host to and take down pythons through communal effort due to flooding while those in Nasarawa State battle venomous snakes and get rushed to hospitals which have no snake antigen (serum) at hand to treat them.
Despite persistent request, what if the dredging process flops if actualized, thus, opening such communities to more adverse situations? What backup plans are at hand to help the people since government’s might has not been fully explored despite rhetorics? Have other solutions being explored to know if the environment can withstand such flooding and erosion?
It is germane to seek full proof solutions first, instead of clamouring for the realization of a process only to realize that the process throws in more setbacks. It should not be the case of a Godsent who might not have been sent based on preset slurring of some men of the cloth who announce miracles riding inside bulletproof vehicles while followers hold tight to vials of consecrated oils and holy water as protection in the journey of life.
When the Lagos Lagoon perennially overflowed its bank years ago, displacing different states liaison offices and establishments, it took the effort and goodwill of the state government which haven struck a deal with experts put a strong barricade designed for coastal and beach protection in place which pushed back the water. Thus, a scenic view was created from existing rubble. This was after a series of trials and failed push back attempts.
Coming to the Edo State experience, on September 25, 2012, Vanguard newspaper, at “www.vanguardngr.com” reported, “No fewer than seven communities in Etsako-Central Local Government Area of Edo State were, weekend, submerged as the River Niger over- flowed its bank, displacing the inhabitants and destroying crops and livestock. The affected communities are Udaba, Ekperi, Usugbenu, Anegbete, Imiegba and Agenebode. Meanwhile, the state governor, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, has released N100 million for the provision of relief materials to victims of the flood.
“Oshiomhole assured that the state government would liaise with the Federal Government to find a long-term solution to the flood to avoid a re-occurrence. The governor, who visited the displaced persons and the flooded communities, said the natural disaster caused by the overflowing of the River Niger had led to loss of property worth billions of naira in the state.”
History repeated itself but, on a larger scale on October 3, 2022, despite warnings from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). ThisDay newspaper at www.thisdaylive.com reported, “No fewer than 12 communities mostly in Etsako Central local government area of Edo State have been submerged by flood as a result of torrential rain in the last few days that has resulted in the River Niger overflowing its banks.”
Interestingly, on an aside note, i was at Ekperi/Udaba axis in 2012, accompanying an organization that came for first aid intervention to cushion the after effects of the flood on the people and to teach them how to maintain good hygiene. I listened as females who bantered in the local dialect made small talk of how “chief” a man said to have been placed in charge of the redistribution of relief materials was found to have under declared and diverted bundles of zinc, rice and other goods to personal use and cronies.
To get connected with the distribution flow, they alleged that females had to put the guys at the helms of affairs in good mood in order to get adequate supply of toiletries and drugs even when such were meant to be free. They were willing to speak up but refused to be recorded. They feared for their lives. They encouraged me to,”Tell our story with your own voice,” assuring me I had their support. My life also matters, or doesn’t it? Females sha!
Unlike in prior overflow, the lawmakers representing the people get ridiculed for failing to draw attention to the plight of their people even when their properties also got submerged in the flood. The federal government gets called out on the need to dredge the river Niger. Charity, sadly, begins at home. During the ten years interval between the overflowing of the river bank, what has the home state put in place to halt erosion or stop the overflow of the river Niger since 2012?
If Edo State has a master plan in place, is it adhered to in terms of flood control? Are the drainage systems working, how often and who desilts gutters and canals? Is the storm water project still working? Has the campaign to stop littering the waterways with nylons and other water proof materials and plastics paid off? What about not littering the drainage system with debris? How many trees and shrubs have been reintroduced to the environment to help break the effects of storms/flooding? What measures were put in place in the provision of a shelter known as the Internal Displaced People’s (IDP) camp to make it work which the flood victims refused to embrace totally despite assurances?
Has there been any discussion on relocating the people to higher grounds? Was there attempts to put the flood under control which failed? Were water channels (alluviums) put in place to divert the flood water into other areas? Was there any attempt to build water reservoirs, a dam, or ocean walls or barrier islands? yet, we want the river dredged based on a said research? A barrage of questions pop up in the head which need answers. Excuse the perceived incivility at seeking answers.
Agreed, if the river is dredged, it opens the area up to large sea going vessels, there would be increased commerce, income and trading activities, it provides alternative source of transportation and could even bring in tourists and sightseers, but, all these would only work when there is a backup plan to deal with the reptilian populace, combating associated rise in criminal activities as well as being able to manage whatever situations that likely come up with the dredging.
Looking at the American experience according to “www.erh.noaa.gov/er/cae/svrwx/flood.htm” In a flood prevention act, the United States government offered to buy flood-prone properties in order to prevent repeated post-flood disasters in 1993 throughout the Midwest. Several communities accepted this proposal and the government, in partnership with the state, bought 25,000 properties which were converted into wetlands. These wetlands act like a sponge in storms, and in 1995, when the floods returned, the government did not need to allocate resources in those areas.