Nigeria is having its worst floods in a decade. The first was in 2012, leading the federal government to set up a standing presidential task force to manage a repeat. Now that it has happened again, with more devastating consequences, no word has been heard from the committee.
Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouq, minister of humanitarian affairs, while giving updates October 24 about the latest floods, said 3,219,780 persons were reportedly hit by the floods. 600 plus had been killed, 181,600 houses “partially damaged and another 123,807 totally damaged”. She said, in addition, 176,852 hectares of farmlands were partly destroyed and another 392,399 hectares totally ruined in 21 of the country’s 36 states and the federal capital territory (FCT). The states are Abia, Adamawa, Anambra, Bayelsa, Ekiti and Enugu. The rest are Imo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Kwara, Lagos, Nasarawa, Niger, Ogun, Ondo, Oyo, Sokoto, Taraba and Yobe.
The magnitude of the disaster has drawn international attention to Nigeria, helped by extensive media coverage that put government officials on the spot. Because the floods have come at a time of electioneering, opposition politicians are not passing up the opportunity to lambast the sitting government. One promised to build the billion naira buffer dam that the Nigerian government allegedly promised in the 1970s when neighbouring Cameroun was constructing its own Lado dam to absorb excess water from the later. Cameroun completed its own in 1980 but the Nigerian one hasn’t even started.
The floods that have occurred between August and this month are believed to be the consequence of Cameroun’s decision to release water from Lado dam. As it did, the excess water came rushing down from the uplands, washing away communities and farmlands in its course. The Nigerian government has denied it was notified by the Camerounian government that it would open the gates of Lado.
Whether or not that was the case, we must admit the federal government did alert communities living on flood planes about the impending danger. Its disaster management and meteorological agencies, as early as June warned states that are prone to flooding when the rains are at their heaviest to move people out of the way of flood waters. But the affected states chose to ignore the early warnings. Now, everybody is blaming the federal government, whereas everybody is to blame.
Now that disaster has come upon us, let the blame game stop. Just as we all share the blame because we failed to do the needful, let us too share the task of damage control. Governments at all levels must do their part to rehabilitate the wounded and the homeless. Today’s victims will do well to heed early warnings from appropriate quarters.