2022 Flood Disaster in Nigeria; A Ripple Effect Of Bad Implementation Of Government Policies.

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By Akintayo Balogun Esq.

 The point of emphasis is that if the major rivers across the Nigerian States are properly dredged and maintained and the banks are well laid to reduce erosion and inflow of foreign objects, the river space will have more capacity to accumulate more water and reduce, if not eradicate the level of flooding in Nigeria.

 

 

Nigeria in the 2022 rainy season, suffered a surge in the overflow of water, causing massive flooding across the country. Many parts of Nigeria, particularly cities and towns along the borders of the River Niger and River Benue and even some inland communities have suffered an unabating flood crisis due to the magnificent rise in water level. This is apart from the heavy rains that cause flash floods in areas that have no proximity to any river.
At the beginning of the year 2022 and also in September 2022, there was an ecological report that there would be massive rains which would lead to a rise in water levels and flooding in several communities, particularly communities along the banks of the two major rivers in Nigeria. Unfortunately, this warning was never yielded to neither did the government take any decisive steps to avert the crisis. Over the years, Nigeria has experienced intermittent flooding but the situation in recent years, and 2022 in particular, seems to be more critical as more inland towns that hitherto had no case of flooding are being affected by the situation. For several weeks, the Lokoja-Abuja expressway was totally covered and commuters either had to wait for the water to subside or to look for alternative routes through other States of the Federation.


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There have also been incidences of flash floods in several areas in the country, which are caused by heavy downpours. These flash floods normally last just a few hours or a few days after a particularly heavy rain. The effects are usually devastating because they cause instant havoc not contemplated by victims.

The resultant effect of this flood has been the destruction of many farmlands close to the river banks which might lead to food shortages and a rise in the price of food commodities in the coming months. The fuel crisis experienced in many parts of northern Nigeria is allegedly caused by the inability of fuel tankers to move freely across the country. This year as never experienced before, some Nigerian courts were flooded in Bayelsa State and the Nigerian Law school in Bayelsa was also affected.

 

Causes of the flood disaster

Over the years, the flood situation has been on the increase compared to what it was a few decades ago. This is a result of human activities that have led to climate changes, causing more rain and change in the riverbeds. The list is inexhaustive but some of these human activities could be itemized thus:

 

  1. Erosion forms one of the biggest problems in flooding. Many of the high grounds that we used to have some decades ago have been washed into the rivers, thereby increasing the riverbeds from what it was some 30 years ago to what it is now. Rivers Benue and Niger have lost their depths over the years due to the inflow of sand washed from higher grounds.

 

  1. The bad or total absence of a drainage system and building on waterways in many parts of the country has worsened the situation. For example, in areas where buildings were erected without any plan, and everyone builds as he pleases, consideration is usually not given to the construction of a proper drainage system.

 

  1. Abysmal town planning structure or distortion of the master plan (if any) in many of the cities in Nigeria. Anyone can build as he deems fit without recourse to allowance or the creation of space for drainage. Houses are built on waterways in many cases. As a usual occurrence, many houses in the Federal Capital Territory were pulled down by the FCT Administration as it is reported that many of them had been built on waterways or without any building plan or approval. This same crisis occurs in many States of the federation. Houses built on waterways are usually affected by flash floods and the disaster is usually massive because it happens within the twinkling of an eye.
  2. Dumping of refuse into the drainage. Many of the cities in Nigeria have pathetic waste disposal mechanisms. Again, in a city like the Federal Capital Territory, particularly the satellite towns, waste disposal is being carried out by unprofessional characters who collect the waste from their customers after being paid and immediately dump the waste into the nearest available flowing stream in the justification that it will be washed away. I have also witnessed severally where people dispose of their refuse into gutters and canals when it is raining without bothering to know where this refuse is piled.
  3. Lack of foresight. Despite the repeated warnings of the likelihood of a flood in the year, little to nothing was done to mitigate the effect of the flood or to move people out of areas that are prone to flooding whether by the government or by the people concerned.
    Absence of government policies to guide against or mitigate the effect of the floods.

 

The Politics of dredging of the River Niger and River Benue.

Dredging could be defined as the clearing of the bed of a river, or other areas of water by scooping out sand, mud, weeds, and other substance that occupies the bed of the river to either create more depth for the river or to allow for more space to contain more water within its borders. Dredging of the two major rivers in Nigeria has been identified in many quarters as a possible solution to the flooding crisis in Nigeria. It is believed that after clearing the riverbeds and properly laying the banks, the river space would have more space to accommodate more water during the rainy seasons and deeper depths to allow bigger vessels to ply the entire length of the rivers which would reduce the burden placed on the already dilapidated roads in Nigeria. Unfortunately, over the years, the implementation of the dredging exercise to an internationally acceptable standard has been haphazard and nearly non-effective. It is important to note that this project is enormous and same is capital intensive and cannot be achieved with the stroke of a magic wand. It would take several months if not years to achieve it due to the nature of the project and the various complexities involved. Dredging is not new to Nigeria. The table work of the project commenced while former President Olusegun Obasanjo was in office. He proposed dredging the river using the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), unfortunately, his proposal never saw the light of the day until his tenure ended. However, during the tenure of President Umaru Yar A’dua, the Federal Government signed a N34.8billion contract for the dredging of the lower River Niger. President Umaru Yar’ Adua conducted the ceremonial official commencement of the dredging project at the Lokoja Dockyard station of the Nigerian Inland Water Ways Authority (NIWA). He launched the dredging of the lower River Niger and the construction of seven additional seaports across the country. The ports were to be located at Agenebode in Edo State, Idah and Lokoja in Kogi State, Yenagoa in Bayelsa State, Baro in Niger, Aguata in Anambra, and Ogbabe in Delta State. The contract sum was later reviewed upwards when the Federal Executive Council on 2nd November 2011, during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan approved an additional N8.5billion due to fluctuations in the prices of labour, diesel, etc., and constant siltation of the river channels, thereby putting the entire project cost at N43.3billion. The entire project was said to have a three-year completion plan, which meant that the dredging and maintenance works are supposed to be completed in 2012. Incidentally, in August 2014, the administration of former President Jonathan declared that his administration had duly completed the dredging of 527km lower  River Niger from Warri to Baro at the maiden edition of the International Conference and Exhibition organized by the NIWA in Lagos.

Only recently, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, made denigrating remarks about the contract awarded by the previous administration on the issue of dredging of the Niger. He had accused former President Goodluck Jonathan of wasting N34 billion on the dredging of the River Niger while President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration is spending only N100 million on the same job.

In my opinion, I can state authoritatively that with the level of flooding experienced this year in Nigeria, both administrations failed to effectively dredge the river to an appreciable state, satisfactory to the ecological and economical yearnings of the country. Do we have any inland seaports functioning in Nigeria? how many big ships have been able to find their way inland? In all the blames and counter blames, nothing meaningful or obvious has been done to mitigate the situation. It is reported that in some communities, they had never seen any presence or dredging activities, yet the project is said to be completed. There has been near zero implementation of the project alleged to have been completed in many communities along the riverbanks. We play politics with literally everything in Nigeria yet achieve nothing. Daily Trust online newspaper had reported that discordant tunes are still greeting the project years after its said alleged completion. Comrade Idris Miliki, the executive director, Conscience for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution (CHRCR), said the project looked political.  “It beats my imagination that after all these years of acclaimed dredging of River Niger, nothing serious seems to be happening there. They should tell us whether the dredging has become a white elephant project or not,” he said, adding that the entire project has been shrouded in mystery.

Additionally, there is almost no bank of the river that had been properly laid with concrete to avoid erosion and landslides. Where then was the entire N34billion buried and what was done?

 

These are some of the reasons we question the actions of the government. So much money is committed to projects and evidence is never or hardly seen.
The point of emphasis in this writeup is that if the rivers are properly dredged and maintained and the banks are well laid to reduce erosion and inflow of foreign objects, the river space will have more capacity to accumulate more water and reduce, if not eradicate the level of flooding in Nigeria. Another benefit of dredging the rivers is that bigger ships that could hitherto not go beyond the various seaports in the coastal cities of Nigeria can find their way into the inland cities of the country. Additionally, more goods and services could be transported vide the waterways. The pressure on Nigerian roads is enormous, and the availability of transportation vide the waterways can ease the burden placed on the roads. However, all these can only be possible if the government is deliberate, honest, and willing to save Nigeria from its troubles by implementing its project to the fullest.

 

Conclusion
Although it is certain that more activities on the waterways will lead to more pollution of the water and denigration of the natural biosphere of life in the river, which has been the concern of environmentalists, it is certain that the proper dredging and laying of the banks of the river will reduce the level of flooding in our communities.

The fight against flooding is not an all-one fight that ends. As long as it rains every year and water moves the earth, there is a need to constantly monitor the depth of the river to ensure that there is no room for the river to contain its excesses to avoid a recurrent disaster again.

The problem of flooding and many other natural disasters is not peculiar to Nigeria. Every country around the world with its own particular natural disaster. Even America in all its advancement and sophistication has not been able to find a solution to the hurricane crisis that hits the country every year. The peculiar problem happens all over the world in various degrees across the nations of the world. We have seen reports from Asian countries of natural disasters that were never contemplated.

However, the challenge of flooding in Nigeria can be reduced to the barest minimum if steps are taken in all sincerity, to keep the waters within its coastal lines, particularly by implementing the policies of the government and not playing politics with everything. We also call on the government and well-meaning Nigerians to come to the aid of displaced persons who have lost properties and shelter, due to this unfortunate situation.

 

Akintayo Balogun Esq., LL.B (Hons), BL, LL.M, is a legal practitioner in private practice and based in Abuja, FCT. A prolific writer, public affairs analyst and commentator on national issues.

akinson6@gmail.com.

 

 


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