NEED FOR URGENT NATIONAL FLOOD AND NATURAL DISASTER MANAGEMENT RESPONSE ROUNDTABLE
By Chibueze Francis Onah (Principal partner FRANCONA consulting)
As we approach yet another raining season, I would wish to humbly draw the attention of the federal government especially the federal ministry of environment in collaboration with her sister agency in the disaster management and other relevant agencies both public and private who’s mandate spans across minimizing avoidable damages occasioned by the absence of a National disaster response to flood in Nigeria to as a matter of environmental importance organize a national flood and natural disaster management roundtable.
The roundtable if organized will provide an opportunity where all the stakeholders will come together and develop a national flood disaster management framework which will match the scope of the challenge created by flood to human lives and economy yearly.
It is crucial that Nigeria takes urgent measures to cope with the usual trend of flooding in the country. This will require building local disaster management capacity; forging collaborations with international partners; establishing early warning and rapid response systems; improving flood data gathering and modeling; and modernizing urban planning.
Nearly a quarter of a million Nigerian households are imperiled by annual floods. Every year, flooding claims lives, displaces thousands of people and destroys billions of naira in properties. This is due to the interaction of intensifying rainfall patterns in Nigeria, dearth of proper drainage channels and blocked waterways across the country. Flash floods, as increasingly being experienced in Nigeria, is one of the effects of the inexorable phenomenon of climate change.
Perennial flooding currently affects 34 out of the 36 states of the federation. In the past five years, it has caused about 641 deaths since 2014. The trend is expected to worsen by the year if mechanisms are not enforced to contain it.
The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) last year (2019) warned that the floods will continue to grow in scale and cause more casualties except the government initiates proactive measures to anticipate and contain the disasters.
State governments and NGOs provide temporary palliatives in the aftermath of each flooding. These interventions are characteristically reactionary. They are made after the fact and after the losses and are almost always insufficient. This is basically due to the fact that there is no national framework in place to guide flooding management in Nigeria.
Therefore, the proposed national flood and natural disaster management response roundtable if organized will create opportunity for the following objectives to be realized:
- Avail stakeholders the opportunity to review the extant laws and policies around flood / disasters management and highlight the gaps.
- Serve as a platform to unite key stakeholders in both national / sub national town planning agencies and their emergency management response counterpart in Nigeria to generate ideas that will undergird the mainstreaming of international best practices on flood and disaster management control.
- Provide opportunity to increase collaboration and synergy among agencies of government and other private sector stakeholders within the national disaster management environment.
- Develop a national flood disaster management framework that will inform strategic proactive measures to minimize the effects of natural disasters on the Nigerian economy.
With the Nigerian population expanding rapidly and currently estimated at over 200 million, without a deliberate enforceable mechanism in place by the national / sub-national town planning authorities for clear administrative directive and proper/adequate town planning, flooding can only grow more disastrous.
People erect permanent structures on waterways, thereby narrowing the surface areas for water to flow. Others dump refuse in the drainage system. Few cities and villages have adequate drainages. In addition, weak enforcement of regulation by town planning authorities has a strong force-multiplier effect on the dynamics of the entire picture.
The Niger State Emergency Management Agency (NSEMA), had earlier last year (2019) highlighted that the three main electricity generating dams in Nigeria (located at Kainji and Jebba on the Niger River and the Shiroro dam on the Kaduna River) usually swell beyond capacity during the heavy rains such that officials in charge of those dams are forced to release excessive water downstream. Also, the uncompleted Zungeru dam project that is partly funded by the Chinese government in Niger state is now affecting areas once considered free from flooding.
We need to act now before rainfall intensifies.