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Rains, pains: Inside Nigeria’s recurring flood menace

In this report, Daily Trust examines the recurring menace of flooding in Nigeria, which always leaves victims in pain and anguish, as well as reports…

In this report, Daily Trust examines the recurring menace of flooding in Nigeria, which always leaves victims in pain and anguish, as well as reports experts’ views on how to mitigate the annual disaster.

In the latest round of devastating floods that ravaged Jigawa State (North West), 40 persons reportedly lost their lives while thousands of others were displaced and farmlands submerged.

According to reports, out of the 27 local government areas of the state, only five were not affected by the recent flooding.

Abdulmuminu Husaini from Karnaya, one of the surviving victims, who is currently taking shelter at a nearby primary school with his family, said he lost his entire farm produce, belongings and that of his family, as well as his home, to the flood.

Husaini said his son lost over N40,000 to the flood, while his farm produces, such as maize, millet, beans and others were also washed away.

Another victim, Yahaya Usaini, said his house collapsed and his farm was submerged.

“We were lucky to escape alive, but we lost everything. Many of us stay in this primary school or filling station with our families. We have taken it as our fate, and God will help us out in his grace,” he said.

A 70-year-old Ado Audu Karnaya has never witnessed such a disaster in his entire life. “I lost almost all my belongings, including my nine 9-bedroom mud house containing food grains such as millet, maize, beans, goats, chickens, as well as clothes,” he said.

The monumental flood disaster in Jigawa attracted the attention of President Muhammadu Buhari, who said it was a setback to agriculture. He assured the victims that government would not abandon them.

“This level of destruction as a result of a natural disaster is unprecedented and devastating. This destruction of farmlands is particularly worrisome because it comes at a time my government is vigorously pursuing efforts to boost local rice production and end the importation of the commodity.

“Since agriculture is the largest employer of labour and a major source of income for most Nigerians, the destruction of rice farms in Jigawa State is bad news, not only for the victims but also for the government’s policy of achieving food sufficiency and security in the country,” Buhari reportedly noted in a statement by Garba Shehu, his media aide. 

Taraba was also hit by flooding and people, mostly rice farmers, were highly affected.

The farmers said they suffered monumental losses from the flood, which destroyed thousands of hectares of rice farms across five local government areas of the state.

The majority of the affected farmers said they borrowed money from banks, rice dealers and the Anchor Borrowers scheme to invest in their farms, with high expectations of a bumper harvest.

Ibrahim Labaran, one of the victims, said he planted 100 bags of rice seed but lost everything to the flood, adding that he obtained N1 million to buy seed chemicals and for labour.

Labaran said he hoped for a good harvest to repay the loan and make a profit, but his hope was dashed as the floods came and swept everything on his farm away, leaving him in a state of hopelessness.

“My concern is how to repay the loan I took. l hope those who gave me the loan would give me a  grace of one year and also not charge me interest,” he said. 

Yarima Isa Mafindi, a large-scale farmer who owned thousands of hectares of land at Sheka, along the Upper Benue River area in Gassol Local Government Area, was not spared the devastating impact of the flooding.

He told Daily Trust that he planted over 500 bags of rice seeds but the farms were submerged.

Daily Trust Saturday reports that over the years, floods have ravaged several towns in Nigeria, destroying thousands of lives and billions of naira worth of property.

Many Nigerians would recall that in 2012, an estimated 1.3million people were reportedly displaced and about 400 killed.

With 30 of the country’s 36 states affected as of July 2012, according to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the authorities were said to have described it as the worst flooding in over 40 years.

In addition to other states, many parts of Delta and Bayelsa were submerged, affecting 350 communities and making 120,000 people homeless, according to authorities and the Nigerian Red Cross (NRC).

Flooding started in Plateau State in central Nigeria in July and spread through Borno, Cross River, Ebonyi, Nassarawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Katsina, and Kebbi states in August, hitting Taraba, Benue, Niger, Kaduna and Kano in September before affecting Delta and Bayelsa states in September and October 2012.

2022: Genesis, nemesis

In August this year, the director-general of the NEMA, Mr Mustapha Ahmed, said 233 local government areas in 32 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) had been predicted to experience flooding.

Ahmed, who made this known at a national consultative workshop on 2022 Flood Preparedness, Mitigation and Response, organised by the agency in Abuja, said the event was to collectively prepare and provide strategies to strengthen flood risk mitigation and effective response.

“This followed the 2022 Seasonal Climate Prediction released by the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) and the Annual Flood Outlook released by the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA).

“Efforts must be made to mitigate and respond effectively to flooding. We have sent advisory letters and maps showing predicted flood risk areas in various states to respective state governments,” he said.

Also speaking at the event, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiya Farouq, urged relevant stakeholders to take proactive measures in addressing floods and their associated impacts.

Farouq, who was represented by the deputy director, of Disaster Management in the ministry, Dr Abubakar Suleiman, said adequate information must be sent out to the public for effective preparation.

To forestall a disaster that flooding causes, the minister said there must be “intensification of public enlightenment campaigns, targeting vulnerable communities to undertake mitigation actions and prepare for evacuation to safe ground, identification of high grounds for possible internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps to shelter evacuated communities, de-silting river channels and canals and removal of all refuse weeds, water hyacinths and floats from water channel, drainage and on all avenues for river runoff so as to allow free flow of flood waters.”

Despite the predictions, Nigeria is said to be battling its worst floods in a decade, with more than 300 people killed in 2022, including at least 20 last week, even as authorities reportedly admitted that the situation is “beyond our control.”

Spreading across 27 out of 36 states and the FCT, the floods have affected half a million people, displacing 100,000, according to Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency, adding that more than 500 have been injured.

The disaster has also destroyed thousands of hectares of farmlands, worsening fears of a disruption of food supply in the country.

The recurring decimal of flooding in Nigeria is often attributed to the non-implementation of environmental guidelines and inadequate infrastructure, even as authorities have blamed the situation this year on water overflowing from some local rivers, unusual rainfalls and the release of excess water from the Lagdo dam in neighbouring Cameroon’s northern region.

Last week, Nigeria’s Disaster Management Agency alerted states of “serious consequences” in the coming weeks by more than a dozen states as two of the country’s dams have started to overflow.

“I want to advise all the governments of frontline states to move away communities at risk of inundation, identify safe higher grounds for evacuation of persons, and preposition adequate stockpiles of food and non-food items,” said NEMA’s head, Mustapha Habib Ahmed.

The floods have destroyed crops in many farmlands, mostly in the North, which produce much of what the country eats. This could further affect the food supply already disrupted by armed conflict in the region.

An affected area in Makurdi as of Monday

More victims recount ordeals in states

In Benue State (North Central), one of the victims of this year’s flooding, Benjamin Tyo, whose house in Gaadi Villa in Makurdi was overtaken by flood, said he was financially constrained to move out of the affected house to a safer location.

“As we speak, I, my wife and our four children are stranded. Although I was aware of the warning issued by the state government, I was, however, waiting for my salary at month’s end to enable me to move. I didn’t know the water would rise to this level, and I really don’t have anywhere to go,” he said.

Tyo said that for a permanent solution, the federal government should dredge River Benue.

Similarly, Agabdo Joseph Terwase, a resident of Gaadi, said this was the second major flooding he has experienced in the last 25 years.

“The first time was in 2012 in this same house, in which I have lived for 25 years. Sadly, the federal government hasn’t done anything about it despite several pleas to dredge River Benue to salvage the situation,” he said.

The Commissioner for Environment and Water Resources in the state, Dr Godwin Oyiwona, said the challenge was more natural than man-made. “This is because we have a river that cuts across Benue State with a large volume of water. It needs to be dredged. It is a natural body of water which flows from Upper Benue, heading towards Cameroon, he said.” 

In Niger State, 20 out of the 25 local government areas are said to have been hit by the recurring floods, with houses, farmlands, livestock and other valuables worth millions of naira destroyed, while hundreds of residents are displaced.

The director-general, Niger State Emergency Management Agency, Ahmed Ibrahim Inga, said 14 lives had also been lost to the floods in seven local government areas in the last few weeks.

He said, “The state is already experiencing the negative impact of the flooding, with houses, farmlands, bridges and linked roads washed away in some local government areas located at up and downstream of the four dams. These rendered many people homeless and affected the socio-economic activities of the communities. The affected local government areas include Lavun, Magama, Rafi, Kontagora, Gbako, Mokwa, Lapai, Katcha, Agaie Suleja, Shiroro, Mashegu, Agwara, Bida, Edati, Munya, Bosso, Chanchaga, Paikoro and Wushishi.”

In Kontagora Local Government Area, victims counted houses and animals worth millions of naira that were washed away when River Kontagora overflowed its banks due to persistent downpours.

One of the victims, Abdulrashid Suleiman, told our correspondent that his entire house was submerged while his belongings, including, refrigerators and livestock were washed into the river during one of the flood disasters. He added that two of his wives and children were taking refuge in his in-law’s houses.

Daily Trust Saturday also gathered that the recurring floods washed away over 500 corpses in Mariga town of Mariga Local Government Area. One of the residents, Mohammed Suleiman, told our correspondent that while about 200 corpses were recovered and buried, many others were swept to the river.

“Many corpses were swept away. However, we were able to recover some of them and buried,” he said.

In Kano, floods have ravaged many communities from the beginning of the rainy season till date. Several incidents of flood occurred, both in the city and villages, with thousands of people, farms and millions of wealth destroyed as a result.

According to the State Emergency Management Agency, the places worst affected include markets and some residential areas around the downstream areas of the state.

According to the SEMA through its executive secretary, Comrade Saleh Jili, the state recorded floods in 19 local government areas out of 44. He said an assessment of the losses was ongoing, but findings from 13 local government areas revealed that 23 people died, 106 injured and 12,919 houses destroyed. He also said 14,496 farmlands were destroyed in five local government areas.

Alhaji Abdulmumin Adamu Wudil, the chairman of rice farmers in Wudil Local Government Area and one of the biggest farmers in Kano, said the flood destroyed a total of 6,000 farmlands in the same axis.

He said, “The spillover of Tiga dam is what put us in this situation. We have been advising the authorities to be releasing the water regularly but they couldn’t. Last year, they didn’t release water and the situation escalated as a result. Look at what happened; we have lost our farms, houses and even some lives.”

Nasiru Kayya of Larabar Gadon Sarki in Warawa Local Government Area, where flood affected over 2000 farmlands said, “We don’t know where to start from. We were expecting a huge harvest but all our farms were destroyed. To get what to eat will be very difficult. I cultivated over five hectares of different crops, but I don’t know where to get one sack of food now.”

The story is not different in Kogi State, particularly for those who reside in Adavi, Lokoja, Kontokarfei, Ajaokuta, Bassa, Ofu, Omala, Igala-Mela/Odolu, Idah and Ibaji.

In Lokoja, the state capital, communities such as Adankolo, Gadumo, Kpata, parts of Kabawa and Ganaja, watched helplessly as their houses were submerged.

Access routes to Lokoja via Ganaja to the northern part of Nigeria were cut off, forcing motorists to divert to the Ajaokuta-Adogo-Okene highway.

The paramount ruler of Kontokarfei, Alhaji Abdulrazaq Isah Konto, described this year’s flooding as sad, saying all communities in riverine areas in his domain were completely submerged.

Jonson Omachonu, a resident of Onyedega, the headquarters of Ibaji Local Government Area, said the destruction was unquantifiable because it came during the period of harvest.

A community leader, Alhaji Umar Magida, said the situation had increased the prices of food crops as farms were washed away.

Magida also said, “Unfortunately, most of these farmers borrowed from banks, corporate organisations and friends to start up their farms. How will they now pay back the money?” 

To avoid major food crisis across the country, farmers in flood-prone states have called for urgent intervention by the authorities in the flood situation.

According to an official data, this year, floods have killed over 100 persons, destroyed hundreds of farmlands and displaced thousands of people, cutting off several roads across Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe and Jigawa states.

In Jigawa, farmers said 138,442.36 hectares of farmlands were ravaged, 1,554 communities displaced, while over 90 persons were killed across 22 local government areas of the state.

The Commissioner for Agriculture in the state, Alhaji Awwalu Danladi, said government had constituted an assessment committee that examined the extent of damage. He listed the affected areas as Dutse, Birnin Kudu, Kiyawa, Buji, Miga, Jahun, Gwaram, Ringim, Garki and Taura.

Others are Hadejia, Kirikasamma, Guri, Kafinhausa, Auyo, Malammadori, Kaugama, Kazaure, Babura, Roni, Gwiwa and Yankwashi.

In Bauchi State, no fewer than 13 persons lost their lives and thousands of hectares of farmlands were destroyed across 11 local government areas.

Dr Ibrahim Kabir, the director-general, Bauchi State Environmental Protection Agency (BASEPA), said flood killed three persons and destroyed 1,453 houses and thousands of hectares of farmlands in Zaki and Gamawa local government area alone.

Corroborating the above claim, the Director of Planning, Research, and Statistics, Bauchi State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Mr Adams Nayola, said 10 other persons lost their lives in eight local government areas of the state.

He said the flood also submerged thousands of hectares of farmlands and destroyed hundreds of houses in Jama’are, Giade, Misau, Dambam, Darazo, Kirfi, Itas-Gadau, Shira and Toro.

According to reports from the Yobe State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), floods ravaged 3,950 farmlands in 9 local government areas.

The acting director-general of the agency, Dr Ibrahim Jalo, said the figure could rise as the damage assessment exercise was still ongoing in the affected communities.

He listed Gujba, Gulani, Jakusko, Potiskum, Fika, Gashua, Geidam, Damaturu and Fune as some of the affected areas.

Reacting, Kabir Ibrahim, an architect and national president of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), warned that food chain would be adversely affected as a result of the floods.

The farmers’ leader is of the opinion that to mitigate the effect of flooding, the country needs to work on the issue of climate change, as well as tackle unnecessary felling of trees, carbon emissions and indiscriminate building of industries without proper environmental impact analysis.

He appealed to the government at all levels to support farmers begin dry season farming immediately to avoid major food crisis this year. 

How to combat flooding – Experts

Gloria Bulus, a climate reality leader and founder of the Bridge That Gap Initiative, a non-profit organisation based in Kaduna, said there was a link between this year’s flooding and climate change, stressing that Nigeria needed finance to tackle the impacts.

“This daily rain can only be a result of the changing climate, and that has increased flood levels in most states.

“What is happening now is an abnormality, that is why we are experiencing flooding in places that were not flooded before,” she said.

While advising the government to compensate communities affected by the flooding, she said, “There has to be some sort of social protection for them. We have social protection policy in Nigeria; some states have social protection policy as well, at least with respect to health and livelihood. They must be given the support to enable them recover.

 “Without climate financing we will not be able to put mitigation strategies in place. So, it is important that this finance be made available to governments at the national, state and local government levels.”

Also speaking on the situation, the dean, Faculty of Environmental Sciences, Nasarawa State University, Keffi, Professor Nasiru Idris said, “Research has shown that when you have heavy downpour that lasts for more than six hours, it will definitely lead to flooding.  Siltation of rivers also necessitated flooding, especially along our two major rivers – Niger and Benue.”

Prof Idris noted that to address problems associated with flooding in Nigeria, there was the need to construct dams, especially in Adamawa State, which would serve as control whenever Lagdo dams discharge their excess water through River Benue.

There is also the need to dredge major rivers to reduce siltation (sand deposits), and in an event where floods occur, there is the need to construct river walls and water retention structures along riverine communities. 

Other solutions include massive planting of trees and Vetiver grass along the rivers, streams and around houses in flood-prone areas, he said. 

He further said if the right equipment was in place, “Nigeria won’t be experiencing flooding every year. State-of-the-art equipment to mitigate flooding is not in place, but an early warning system is available in the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) and a few ministries, departments and agencies.”

Contributions from Hussein Yahaya, Terkula Igidi & Chidinma C.Okeke (Abuja); Hope Abah Emmanuel (Makurdi); Magaji Isa Hunkuyi (Jalingo);  Zahraddeen Yakubu Shuaibu (Kano); Tijani Labaran (Lokoja) & Abubakar Akote (Minna) 

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