Last year, devastating floods damaged many cities across 33 states. According to official records, the natural disaster killed 665 people, displaced nearly two million people, and destroyed goods worth more than $6.68 billion. BERTRAM NWANNEKANMA, ANN GODWIN, JULIUS OSAHON, IBRAHIM OBANSA, and MONDAY OSAYANDE report that little has changed in the flood-prone areas a year later and at the start of a more severe downpour this year. Despite administrative promises and capital votes for relief, trips to the red zones revealed exhausted survivors who were still counting their losses and were mainly unaware of another rainfall approaching.
Early in 2022, Chukwudi Onyechefule put N1 million in his chicken business. It was his most significant ‘break’ in chicken farming. Things were looking great for the Yenagoa farmer, who was expecting to count millions by Christmas 2022.
His 1,000-bird investment had fully matured by June. He was certain that the god of fortune had smiled on him. Then, in the last quarter, it began to rain. It didn’t stop at Bayelsa. After nine days of torrential rain, it became clear that it was not just seasonal rain but something more dangerous. Days later, and just in front of his eyes, the threatening flood wiped away more than half of his chickens. When the storm passed and the dismal Christmas arrived, Onyechefule had only 50 chickens to sell to a distressed neighborhood.
“The birds that are still alive are few,” he sighed. “They were sold for N3,000 to N5,000 to a community that doesn’t even have money to spend.” “Without the flooding disaster, each of the chickens would have sold for between N10,000 and N12, 000,” Onyechefule said.He noted that the effects of the 2022 flooding in Yenagoa were severe, but little has changed in terms of mitigation measures for future recurrence.
Unfortunately, his sentiment is shared by residents of Yenagoa, including Swali, Opolo, Tombia, Akenfa, and Agudama, as well as citizens of the other 32 states ravaged beyond measure by the 2022 flood of fury. Residents who talked with The Guardian stated that, in addition to economic losses, they are suffering from health issues such as diarrhoea, malaria, cough, and measles.
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Despite state government assurances, findings across communities revealed that little has changed in terms of survivors’ fortunes. The most concerning aspect is how the communities will cope with another forecast of high rains in 2023.
Bayelsa: No word yet on the N77.9b flood management vote.
Although the 2022 flood disaster and its accompanying hazards were intended to serve as a wake-up call for emergency responders, development agencies, and partners to work tirelessly to avoid a repeat, there appears to be no genuine attempt to avert the threat.
Apart from sensitizing citizens to the Nigeria Meteorological Agency’s (NiMET) annual early warning signals, the states, as main casualties, are in the absence of any concrete flood resistance strategy.
According to Federal Government figures, the 2022 floods killed over 665 individuals and injured 3,181 others. Nigeria lost $6.68 billion in total, with countless lives and assets lost in around 33 states, and many impacted areas are still recovering from the terrible incident’s effects.
According to findings on the effects of the 2022 floods on the population of Yenagoa, the capital of Bayelsa State, over 71 to 77 percent of residents were affected by building collapse, household belongings lost, livestock destroyed, and other factors.
Residents told The Guardian that the state administration made promises after last year’s disaster, but that no assistance had yet arrived.
To address the disaster and build various infrastructure, the state government allotted N77.92 billion (20% of the proposed N385.2 billion total budget for the fiscal year 2023).
While presenting the 2023 budget, titled “Budget of Sustainable Growth and Reconstruction,” Governor Douye Diri stated that the measures would address the state’s difficulties, “especially the flood that has devastated almost all of the communities in the state.” He added that the government would prioritize construction, rebuilding flood-damaged communities.
However, as of the latest examination, the drainage systems of the capital, Yenagoa, were already full of rubbish, with little work by the authorities to empty them.
Some inhabitants in Azikoro village, Yenagoa, have also asked the relevant agencies to clean up the canals that discharge water into Azikoro village from the state’s graveyard region.
“Last year’s flood really affected us so much here,” said one of the residents, Lemmy Egede, “and up until now we haven’t seen any palliative.” We were severely impacted, but the government was nowhere to be found. There was an occasion when three bodies floated out of the graveyard and remained for days.”
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Mama Blessing, another neighbor, said she drove one of the bodies back to the graveyard. “Government didn’t give us anything then or now,” she remarked. We have been left to our fate. We have no government. Previously, all waterways in the city were cleared yearly before the rainy season, reducing flooding; however, this is no longer the case.
“Most of the drainages were not cleared before the flooding began, with the exception of some excavators seen around some canals, such as the one they dropped around the Okaka Air Force Road, which was eventually vandalized.”
When The Guardian inquired about the newly established Directorate on Flood and Erosion Control, a member of the Committee stated that they had yet to begin work since “there is no mobilization yet.”
Kogi: Roads are in poor condition, and victims are still unaccounted for.
In Kogi State, nine Local Councils and their 514 communities will be amalgamated in 2022. There were 471,000 people displaced, and 92 health institutions were partially or entirely destroyed across the councils. The overall cost of the flood-related losses, according to Governor Yahaya Bello, is more than N100 billion.
However, the surviving are still calculating their losses months later. Communities in Lokoja, Ajaokuta, Ofu, Idah, Ibaji, Igalamela, Adavi, and Bassa have been hit the hardest.
Idris Ozovehe Muraina, Chairperson of Kogi NGO’s Network (KONGONET), stated the flood affected over 500,000 people and destroyed nine LGAs.
“According to our estimates, the flood affected over 500,000 people.” During the two-month flood, we decided to pay them a visit in their various IDP camps.
“We will continue to call on relevant government agencies and other private organizations to put in place the necessary measures to prevent future occurrences.”
The Chief of Adankolo Community, David Aibe Aghaiyi II, challenged the government with finding a permanent solution for the afflicted people.
He believes that once the residents have been relocated, their current residence should be razed to prevent them from returning to the same neighborhood after the flood.
Ajofe John Egwemi, the Eje of Ibaji, stated that the roads are still in poor condition months after the 2022 flood. “We are suffering because our voices are not loud enough,” he explained. Please assist us in persuading the Federal Government to dredge the Rivers Niger and Benue and allow dams to be built on the two major rivers. Smaller countries have dams, and we face daily threats from Cameroon regarding water release. For God’s sake, let us build our own dams. “The flooding menace and threats will be finally put to rest if we can build at least two dams, one each on Niger and Benue, with well-coordinated dredging,” he stated.
However, Commissioner for Environment Victor Adewale Omofaiye stated that while dredging the rivers is beneficial, the work is beyond the scope of the state government.
Delta: Interventions are only available on radio sets.
In Delta State, where 21 people perished and 38,000 people are tented in Internally Displaced Persons’ (IDP) camps, little action is being taken to prevent citizens from suffering again, particularly in flood-prone communities.
The flood that covered River Niger has drained completely, according to the Guardian, with the riverbank completely empty allowing residents to go about their daily business.
People were seen excavating and removing sand for business purposes in Asaba’s Otuogwu district, where the bank spilled and residences were inundated. Frederick Egbunokonye, Igwe of Abala kingdom in Ndokwa East council of the state, stated, “What we are doing differently now is that many of the farmers are taking precautionary measures to ensure a bumper harvest of farm produce this year.”
He claimed that many of the farmers planted their crops early enough to avoid being ruined by the rain. The king, on the other hand, voiced concern over the early sowing of crops, claiming that many of them died before harvest due to a lack of rain. He claimed that the government was uncaring about their condition, adding that “we only hear on the radio that they will do something, but nothing has been done yet.”
Rivers: 2022 relief supplies are only coming
Residents in Rivers State, particularly in the Orashi regions, are still trying to find their way following the flood calamity. The 2022 flood, which was determined to be worse than the 2012 floods, affected five main Local Councils and over 200 settlements, destroying farmlands, crops, cattle, and residences at an unknown cost. According to the 2022 Flood report, 600 Nigerians were killed and 1.4 million people were displaced.
Checks indicated that no major efforts to alleviate flood projections, such as evacuation and draining water channels to allow unrestricted flow across the ocean, had been implemented.
Some buildings along the waterways remain intact, despite the absence of further dams to mitigate the effects of water released from the ocean. While no flood reports have been issued in any section of the state, there is no established strategy or plan to minimize the approaching disaster as forecasted by NiMET.
While some concerned residents have begun paying for and securing makeshift accommodations in the upland areas, the majority of flood victims in the affected councils of Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni (Onelga), Ahoada West, Ahoada East, Abual Odual, and Emohua have yet to recover and resettle.
For example, Better Gift Richard, a 36-year-old farmer and mother of six in Onelga who The Guardian met on her farm in Ogbogu village, said: “It is not possible to quantify or cost what I lost last year.” I had 18 farms but only harvested six, while the other 12 were destroyed.
“I planted cassava, cucumber, and Okra on all 18 farms, and we usually get up to 10 bags of garri, plus corn and Okra, but we lost everything, including cassava stems.” That is why we are facing farming challenges this year because much of our farm output was damaged by the water.
Chimezie Obuzor, president of the Rivers West Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, told The Guardian that they lost about N12 million in church property and papers in last year’s flood. He led the reporter around the two-story church building in Abarikpo, Ahoada East Local Council, where the entire first floor had been drowned and hundreds of computers, office furniture, tables, and documents had been destroyed by the water.
“Last year’s flood was a real disaster,” he continued, “and you can see (pointing to the wall) the level of the water right now.” The water flooded the entire downstairs and damaged most of the property, including gadgets, furniture, and computers; the flood also ruined office papers. Last year’s flood was more severe than the one in 2012, and we lost approximately N12 million in property.”
However, Vincent Job, Chairman of the Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Council, stated that they were not paying lip service to the implications of climate change. According to him, the council has begun rebuilding relief camps, purchasing foams and beds, and stocking food items in preparation for the crisis.
The federal government, for its part, is still providing relief items intended for the 2022 flooding rather than stepping up efforts to mitigate the effects of a repetition.
Just last month, the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs handed over palliatives to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) for distribution to flood victims in the state devastated by the 2022 floods. Residents claimed they were not shocked by the late intervention, describing it as the government’s stock in trade for assisting those in desperate need!
Lagos: The never-ending wait for a return on investment
In Lagos State, where flooding has become a yearly ritual, the state government, through the Office of Drainage Services and Water Resources (ODS & WR), is carrying out statewide collector drain construction and repairs, secondary and tertiary drain construction, and collector drain lining as part of measures to reduce flooding in the state.
According to a government source, the state is currently promoting ‘community participatory flood management,’ because flooding losses are assessed in terms of man-hours, life and property, and community displacement.
According to the official, this entails raising public awareness about the need to jointly avoid putting rubbish in drains, which has been identified as a key cause of floods, particularly within the city.
Tunji Bello, former Commissioner for the Environment, stated at a briefing on Seasonal Climate Predictions and their Socioeconomic Implications for Lagos that the 1936.2mm amount of rainfall predicted for 2023 was greater than the state’s long-term average of 1721.48mm experienced in the last ten years. He stated that NiMET has forecasted an average to slightly above normal rainfall volume and an elongated season length for Lagos State.
As a result, the state increased its preparedness for weather and flood-related issues by deploying a network of weather stations and river gauge stations to monitor the weather across the state as well as incoming rainfall storm water from neighboring states such as Ogun, Oyo, and Osun, which could result in rising water levels.
He went on to note that the Ministry is continuing to invest in all-year drainage maintenance for effective flood control, as well as a sustainable solid waste management system, and that this year would be no exception.
Nurudeen Shodeinde, Permanent Secretary, Ministry Office of Drainage Services, also stated that the Ministry will implement Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS), which will make use of nature, using man-made features such as soak-aways, ponds, and gently sloping channels (Swales) to attenuate and treat urban runoff.
He claims that the densely developed and totally paved ground surface that is prevalent in Lagos has disrupted the state’s regular hydrological cycle, resulting in increased surface runoff and flood incidents. He asked Lagosians to continue to support the government’s efforts by periodically clearing the drains in their frontage, and he cautioned motorists to avoid driving through floodwaters, which might result in car submersion and loss of life.
Dr Newton Jibunoh, an environmental campaigner, commented on the flood threat, saying that Lagos would continue to flood unless the government returns to the channelisation plan implemented in the 1960s and 1970s and begins to solve the issue.
According to Jibunoh, a recent study says that the problem may be remedied if canals were created at appropriate locations to enable the evacuation of Lagos lagoon, the’major cause’ of the problem, into the sea and lessen the level of its turbulent waters.
Mustapha Ahmed, Director-General of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), stated that the 2022 flood calamity was unique in Nigerian history, and that 2023 will be no different. Ahmed urged that the seasonal climate forecasts and annual flood outlooks issued by NiMet and the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) be implemented.
Clement Nze, Director-General of NIHSA, stated that catastrophic flooding is expected in 178 Local Councils throughout 32 states and the FCT in 2023. He urged that action be made as soon as possible to avert any disasters. “This time, we came out early with this prediction, and we expect relevant actors, governments, and individuals to get to work,” Nze said.
“We anticipate that actions, particularly at the sub-national level, will be taken early enough to mitigate the impact of flooding in the country,” he added.
In addition, during the presentation of the 2023 Climate-related Disaster Preparedness and Mitigation Strategies in Abuja, NEMA’s DG warned that Bayelsa, Lagos, Rivers, and Delta states will be more vulnerable to floods in 2023.
“According to this year’s forecast, there is a high risk of coastal flooding due to the expected rise in sea level and tidal surge, which may have a negative impact on agriculture, human settlements, and transportation in Bayelsa, Delta, Lagos, and Rivers states.”
“Flash and urban floods are also expected in many cities and towns due to poor drainage systems and a failure to comply with town planning and environmental regulations,” Ahmed warned.
He stated that if proper preparations are not performed, floods in 2023 could be similar or worse than those in 2022, and he urged immediate action to reduce or avert potential calamities.
“At NEMA, we believe that early warning must be accompanied by immediate action.” As a result, we have drafted letters and attached this document (predictions) for distribution to all 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), with specific mention of Local Councils at danger and actions that competent authorities are required to take. “We have also created flood risk maps of high-risk areas and posted them on our official website and social media platforms for public access,” he said.