Flooding has remained a re-occurring menace that has continued to devastate the Nigerian environment, leading to huge losses of lives, livelihoods, property and damage to public infrastructure.
The impacts of floods in Nigeria include mortality, physical injuries, widespread infection and vector-borne diseases, social disorders, homelessness, food insecurity, economic losses (mainly through destruction of farmlands, social and urban infrastructure) and economic disruption (most notably in oil exploration in the Niger Delta, traffic congestion in many cities in Nigeria, disruption in telecommunication and power supply among others.
Causes of flooding vary from the most basic such as natural disasters caused by high rainfalls, poor/blocked drainages to the most complex, which include poor flood data to lack of institutional frameworks to address the menace.
A study conducted by Nkwunonwo et al, entitled, ‘Flooding and Flood Risk Reduction in Nigeria: Cardinal Gaps’, states that from 1985 to 2014, flooding in Nigeria has affected more than 11 million lives, with a total of 1100 deaths and property damage exceeding $17 billion.
The study stated that the menace had worsened recently due to a number of possible factors, including rapid population growth, urbanisation, poor urban planning and climate change, especially the increased frequency and intensity of rainfall.
It states that attempts to tackle the hazard appear to be limited by lack of flood data and other remote causes which are yet to be identified.
Available records indicate that floods have been recorded in almost all geopolitical zones in the country, particularly Lagos, Niger, Adamawa, Oyo, Kano and Jigawa States, possibly due to the influence of rivers Niger, Benue, Ogun and Hadejia.
It is argued that more robust and scientific approaches to flood risk reduction, including flood modelling and vulnerability assessment, are lacking. Kaduna State recorded a devastating flood menace, with several families displaced along Abubakar Kigo road in Kaduna North, Barnawa in Kaduna South, Karatudu, Narayi and Sabon Tasha in Chikun local government areas, among others. Regrettably, we recall the floods of 2017, which displaced over 100,000 people in Benue State.
In 2012, Nigeria had the worst of times in over 40 years as the floods, which began in early July 2012, killed 363 people and displaced over 2.1 million peopl. Records by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) revealed that 30 of Nigeria’s 36 states were affected by the floods termed the worst in 40 years. An estimated total of seven million people were affected, with the estimated damages and losses caused by the floods worth N2.6 trillion.
This menace remains a critical issue which, if not urgently tackled, will bring more devastating impacts on Nigeria’s environment, economy and socio political environment. As a means of addressing this menace, there is the need for Nigeria to seek proper flood data as the lack of it remains a major setback towards tackling flooding in Nigeria, particularly in the rural areas.
Attention had always solely rested on general knowledge of the causes, impacts and remedies of flooding, with the general view of the situation remaining lop-sided and sloppy. We are of the view that there is need for more scientific approaches such as flood modelling, which drives flood risk management in more developed countries.
There is an urgent need for knowledge-based decision using available information relating to flooding to draw conclusions on possible strategies to be adopted for tackling flooding. Also, there is an urgent need for flood risk communication aimed at creating awareness of flooding and its impacts for stakeholders and the general public.
Institutional framework that tackles flooding in Nigeria like government response procedures which include policies, regulations, guidelines and agencies engaged in planning and managing flood emergency conditions or in helping victims to cope with and recover speedily from extreme flooding events should be put in place. These requirements are fundamental to information relating to flood hazards and the consequences.
As a newspaper, we believe that even though flooding is a natural disaster, both government and individuals can do a lot to mitigate the devastation caused by flooding in Nigeria through better management of the environment. Governments at all levels must ensure that flood channels are created in areas prone to floods and that people are not allowed to block existing ones.