FLOODING: A RECURRENT MENACE WITHOUT A CONCRETE PANACEA

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Every nations of the world whether regarded as first or third world countries are confronted with arrays of problems, ranging from social, economic, natural, moral and what a view. Many individuals have had to pay with their sacred life especially because they lack the coping strategies or because of weak infrastructural base to help in such demanding conditions. Others are eventually subjected to life trauma because their livelihood grows wings before their very eyes having nothing to hold on to after such unforgettable experience.

Flooding can be said to fall under a “mixed category”. It is term mixed because the conditions that enhance or retard flood scenario can either be natural or what others referred to as nature at work and it could also be artificial (anthropogenic) or what is generally regarded as man-made as a result of the activities of man.

From time immemorial, right from the bible days, excess water (flood) has constituted a menace that every human being never wanted to have a share of. We were told by the Christian book of life (the Bible), that when God was angry with humanity in the days of Noah, he used water as a way of punishment to wipe out that generation. Since that historical event till present, water has continued to be either a blessing or a curse. When it is “down poured” in the right proportion, the rain can be scored or adjudged by man as a blessing as it did not only help man to grow his crops but also provides a means of livelihood for those engaged in fishing and the Fadama crop growers when the floodplain is suitable for cultivation much after the flood recedes. Individual’s however, begins to have divergent perspective about water when it is down-poured in excess invariably resulting to flooding and what is supposed be seemingly a blessing becomes a fury, a cause for concerns, thus rendering the Expensive Shit album, released in 1975, by late Afro-Beat King, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, that water had no enemy somewhat invalid.

Flooding has constituted a nightmare especially to those living at river banks or at coastal areas. Unlike other natural disaster which takes fortune to combat like earthquake and tsunami as it is presently taking away the happiness of the Indonesian where it has claimed over 2,085 lives at the time of writing this article – October, 2018. Flood however, is predictable, and efforts have consistently being made by relevant agencies across board to ensure that they dish out necessary information to concerned stakeholders – coastal dwellers, government and non-governmental agencies among others. However, it seemed flood has defiled all efforts put in place by relevant stakeholders as observations continue to show that it is gaining an edge that is, having an upper hand. Nigeria has had its own share of flooding experiences just like other countries across globe such as India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, China, among others and Nigeria is among the fifteen countries in the world which accounts for 80% to flood vulnerability.

In the year 2012, flood took a new outlook and different dimension and it brought to Nigeria and its inhabitants lessons they would not forget in a hurry. Lives were lost, properties worth millions of naira destroyed and many livelihoods were swept off. Ever since this period, the menace of flood has been consistent with varying degrees of destruction and has continued with its ravaging “sword” ready to slay the undiscerning minds and cause irreparable damage. The 2018 flooding episode almost had similar scale of severity upon Nigerians but for the timely intervention by the Federal government who declared it a state of emergency.

The question that curious minds are quick to ask, is whether flood is a rocket science and while has it defiled all efforts, despite reasonable research and concerted efforts. The writer aligns his sentiment with those along this line of reasoning. Across length and breath, spanning north, south, east and west, unpalatable stories and scenes are seen by all and sundry and the cries of the devastated are heard even by the deaf.

The solution(s) to these perennial muddle from analysts’ perspectives seem more reactive rather than proactive. Nigeria have been widely acknowledged as a people who create “reactive solutions” – solving problems after the damaging effects rather than articulating comprehensive  proactive measures or advancing “proactive solution” to forestall or avert the “known evil”.

Nigeria is endowed with two major rivers – the Niger and Benue with several tributaries from diverse water bodies; the Niger is regarded as the third-longest river in Africa, exceeded only by the Nile and the Congo. This understanding portends that the Niger harbors vast amount of water as a basin (if it overflows flood is inevitable), and it should therefore be a ringing bell to any serious government that truly cares about the welfare of its citizen. The Minister of Water Resource, Suleiman Adamu, gave a better outlook about this scenario. He explained that: “going by the 2018 predictions, water levels on the River Niger and Benue among other major river systems would rise and remain high during the rainy season. He raised concern that some dams in the country are getting silted up, with the storage capacity also reducing. He said this would cause a lot of the water to be spilled through the waterways”. The words of the Minister are not just instructive but reveal a simple and an effective solution to some of the evils that flood can pose. From the Minister’s submission that some dams are getting silted up, again one would be    desirous to ask, when a dam is silted, what is the right thing to do?

A former Nigerian leader, President Musa Yar’adua would have delivered this mandate when he flagged –off the dredging of the Niger during his administration, years after his demise, many still regarded him as a missed messiah in Nigeria’s historical annals. Many have argued including highly placed academia and experts from various segments that flooding is a necessary evil and therefore cannot be prevented, and so we have to annually live with this necessary evil. But even when one is to consent with this line of reasoning, does it also mean that as a nation we must sit and fold our hands until we are being consumed by this necessary evil?

In societies where issues are put in right perspective,  peoples’ welfare are given topmost priority, months before disaster sets in, infrastructural facilities – physical, economic, social etc are put in place (as a shock absorber) to reduce the risk even if it cannot be averted, this is in view to enhancing the peoples’ coping strategies. Going by this arrangement, the havoc that such disaster is expected to wreck upon its citizen is drastically curtailed. Can’t we then have similar arrangement in our clime, where instead of disbursing millions of naira (where callous millionaires are made) to cater for flood victims by setting up internally displaced camps (IDPs camps) across schools, churches and mosques taking care of their feedings, security, sanitation and health, thus, rendering people refugee in their own land.

Does it take a national budget to dredge the Niger which holds enormous water capacity such that when it swells up and overflows its boundary, disaster is bound to happen. Can’t we build up the initiative of emptying the dams during the dry season for irrigation purposes (which is another way of ensuring food production throughout the year) with the expectation that the rains would soon be on its way. These are questions that beg for answers.

Although, many have advocated adjustments in lifestyle as a way of curbing the menace of flood such as avoiding indiscriminate dumping of refuse on water channels such as gutters and drainages’, not building on water channels or close to water bodies, moving upland or into the hinterlands, etc are some of the reasons advanced by this school of thought. While one considers their argument to be relevant, one can strongly contest that these are not enough reasons to intensify the fury of flood, if from the foregoing; robust preparations are put in place. It is widely acknowledged that human beings are the most inordinate set of animals to control, such that even when warnings are issued from NIMET and other government agencies for people to relocate from vulnerable terrain, the question they ask is: where should I evacuate to? Knowing the caliber of people being led should therefore inspire the government of the need to continually think out of the box in solving the problems of its people, and flood is such an in-submissive warrior until it is tamed from the root.

While one appreciate frantic efforts by the government of the day, one can only demand that investment should be channeled at the appropriate sectors including ministry of environment, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), etc at the right time to ensure that the fury of flood, if not completely averted, “its slaying sword” would be turned blunt and many especially the “poor amongst us” are not left at the mercy of nature.

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