The well-publicised advice to Nigerians living in flood-prone areas to relocate as heavy rains are expected in the months ahead is alarming, to say the least. It is worrying because the country has passed this disastrous road before and apparently nothing significant was learnt from, or done to check, the menace. That was in 2012 when excess water was released from the Lagdo Dam in Cameroon. The result was flooding in many states across the country leading to the loss of lives and property, including crops on farmlands.
In the wake of that environmental disaster, the immediate past Federal Government had empanelled an Aliko Dangote-led task force to which billions of Naira was donated by corporate and public authorities to provide succour. Almost three years after, we are back to the flooding again and its attendant headache and heartache.
Few weeks ago, the National Environmental Management Agency (NEMA) warned of imminent flooding in some states in the North due to the release of excess water from the Lagdo Dam in Cameroon. From Lagos to Benue, Kogi and Anambra and Bauchi, governors have been alerting their citizens to the pending disaster.
Indeed, Governor Bindo Jibrilla of Adamawa State confirmed to journalists while touring riverine communities in the war-ravaged state that the Cameroonian authorities had contacted him over the possibility of release of water from Lagdo Dam. The release of water is expected to continue till November. Moreover, Nigerian researchers in a study published in Asian Journal of Business and Management Sciences have given reasons for the threat to health posed by climate change and its attendant flooding. “Climate change or global warming cause sea level to rise and the consequences result in flooding from heavy rainfalls induced by precipitation, also from climate change… four diseases – cholera, meningitis, malaria and pneumonia – were implicated s the major health risks exacerbated by climate change,” the researchers concluded.
Meanwhile, many states across the country are groaning under the impact of flooding from rainfall and the accompanying loss of lives and property. Without exception, the cause or source of flooding is the same. The cause is poor environmental sanitation. The source is poor governmental enforcement of applicable laws on the environment generally. In the first instance, many Nigerians, particularly those living in urban areas are yet to adopt the habit of proper waste disposal; refuse and leftovers are dumped indiscriminately on any convenient space or location; lands are acquired fraudulently and built upon without proper survey and documentation thereby leading to the erection of structures that encroach on drainage channels. In the second instance, many state governments do not obey their own master plans. Contracts for road construction are awarded without provision for drainage and other channels for water. In some cases, environmental assessment impact is hardly carried out, nor do the rules on it enforced before buildings and constructions go up in many states across the country. Many of the contractors handling such projects are not even registered, not to talk of making them to comply with extant regulations. The result is blocked drains, poor landscape, clogged canals, inefficient waste disposal system, continuous flouting of applicable environmental laws by landlords who seize the opportunity of the non-enforcement. This leads to the tale of woes by those who lose their houses, farm produce, lives and property to perennial flooding.
In providing solution, we call on the governments and their relevant agencies to adopt an immediate and long-term approach to this life-threatening menace. The relevant agencies should embark on climate change awareness campaign at the grassroots, including environmental education to modify behavior on waste disposal practices. Public authorities in charge of the environment should enforce existing laws on environmental sanitation and habitation. Before any building or construction is undertaken in any state, be it road or house, the owner or company must be made to have a proper provision for or respect for the existing drainage system. It is a shame and disrespect for taxpayers for a government to award contracts for the construction of roads or the building of estates without provision for good drainage systems. The collateral damage of such affront to the public good is the lamentable loss of lives and property as well as displacement of persons.
Moreover, the urban planning authorities in the states should monitor, enforce and enlighten residents on relevant rules on the environment to ensure compliance. All governments in the country should as a matter of urgency take the enlightenment on climate change and environmental education to the secondary schools. While adults need continuous reorientation to modify their behavior, the children need to be taught the implications early in life so as to inculcate them like a habit and sense of moral responsibility latter in life. Besides, children are often better propagators of new knowledge through their parents to the larger society. Lastly, all relevant agencies should collaborate and sustain an interface between them and the larger society with a view to charting a common front against the flooding menace.