The country, in the months of August, September and early October, 2012, made worrisome world news headlines with unprecedented and devastating flood disasters that ravaged most parts of the country. So serious was the aftermath that the authorities closed the ever busy Okene-Lokoja-Abuja highway. Still trailing the calamity in all the nation’s six geopolitical zones are grief, trauma, devastation, deaths and unimaginable collateral losses. At the last count, over 5,000 farmlands had been washed away and dozens of communities submerged.
The development has tellingly pressed home the truth about the nation’s helplessness and unpreparedness when faced with nature- induced tragedies. Though the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET), in its 2012 Seasonal Rainfall Prediction, had warned that there would be violent thunderstorm during this year’s rainy season and that the intensity of extreme weather events in the coastal areas would cause flooding and erosion. When they eventually occurred, it was apparent that the nation never girded its loins to frontally confront the challenges.
While we acknowledge the fact that the nation has always grappled with the problem of flood, the 2012 experience, in both intensity and scale, is a pointer to the increasing exposure of the nation and Nigerians to the vagaries of climate change and the effects of self-inflicted abuse of the environment nationwide.
There is thus the compelling need for more proactive, preventive and intermediation measures than has been demonstrated so far whenever the nation picks its bits and pieces together from the present distressing development. Now seems the time for the authorities to develop new perspectives to the problem. If more developed nations that often suffer such natural occurrences have been able to commendably cope with them, the Federal Government must also been seen to be putting enough efforts to tame the known causes and ameliorate the effects on the citizenry when they occur, especially taking into cognizance the fact that natural disasters cannot be completely wished away.
Governments at all levels should see the magnitude of the recent flooding as a wakeup call to pay closer attention to the environment; and our thinking is that where to begin is for oil companies to put a stop, forthwith, to the embarrassing gas flaring going on in the Niger Delta region, which contributes in no small way to earth warming. The authorities have repeatedly set and prevaricated on deadlines for ending the flaring of associated gases. The latest December 31, 2012 deadline should be sacrosanct. We also believe that the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) would boost the nation’s drive to end gas flaring.
By the same token, forestation programmes; construction of floodways and man-made channels to divert flood-water; construction of levees, dikes, dams and artificial lakes and reservoirs to hold extra water during flooding should be given special attention. Some southern parts of the country, for instance, require terracing hillsides to slow down the flow of downhill flood.
Besides, there is the urgent need for the authorities to work on more sustainable integrated urban drainage systems to improve urban surface water drainage. It can no longer be disputed that a combination of natural factors and human negligence, as well as government’s laxity and ineptitude, combine to levy flood disasters on the nation. The government needs to intensify the dredging of rivers and streams, as well as the massive construction of bridges to ameliorate the situation. The various authorities must, in addition, begin to use flood maps to redirect investments and property development from highly vulnerable areas.
For their part, state governments, as a matter of utmost urgency, should remove all structures blocking waterways. Such costly pastimes as the dumping of all manners of refuse in drains and erecting shanties on flood-plains should also attract severe punishment from the relevant authorities. Town Planning officials should be compelled to be more serious with their jobs.
In essence, all tiers of government, parastatals, agencies and residents must persevere in proactive and precautionary measures to save the nation from worse agonies occasioned by flood in the future.