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THE alarm by residents of several communities in the Ifo Local Government Area of Ogun State that flooding had forced them to abandon their homes is a portent of what lies ahead for many communities in the country this year. Earlier in the month, residents of the residential estates and businesses opposite Mountain Top University, on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, were prevented from their various daily activities after floods took over the main road connecting them to the highway. The overnight rainfall left many other areas flooded in Ogun, Lagos, and other states. The authorities must take action to prevent a major humanitarian disaster.
Similarly, floods wreaked havoc in the Federal Capital Territory and submerged 116 buildings. Experts forecast that these are likely to be child’s play compared to heavier downpour expected in the months ahead. The attendant disasters are problems foretold, but sadly, Nigeria is ill-prepared to deal with the challenge. Devastating flood incidents have also been recorded in other parts of the country.
This year’s rainy season and other weather conditions have been predicted to cause major disruptions in the country, which could affect citizens’ health and infrastructure in key sectors. According to a technical committee of experts set up by the Federal Government, this is due to the severity of the weather and lack of preparedness by relevant agencies. About 178 LGAs across 32 states and the FCT had been warned in February to prepare for heavy rainfall and flooding beginning April this year.
The 22-member technical committee is chaired by the National Emergency Management Agency. Other agencies include NEMA, the Nigeria Hydrological Service Agency, Nigeria Meteorological Agency, National Space Research and Development Agency, National Inland Waterways Authority, Office of the Surveyor-General of the Federation, and the National Orientation Agency. Several other MDAs are on board.

The report warned that roads, bridges, and other key infrastructure, as well as communities, might be washed away, while disease epidemics might break out in many communities. The aviation sector was also put on alert; airplanes might skid off runways. It also warned that severe flooding would likely wash away farms and lead to the destruction of livestock, thus causing severe hunger in the land. In addition, it predicted that severe weather might worsen malaria, cholera, and other water-borne diseases, and escalate depression among Nigerians.
Floods are damaging to lives, property, the environment, and the economy. Swiss-Re Institute reported that about 50 floods occurred around the world in 2021, wreaking havoc worth $82 billion. The Federal Government, citing World Bank estimates, said Nigeria lost about $6.68 billion to flooding in 2022 with buildings and other infrastructure destroyed and farmland devastated; 650,000 hectares of crops were destroyed. The most affected states included Jigawa, Rivers, Taraba, Cross River, Delta, and Anambra.
According to Statista, however, Nigeria was not among the first 11 countries with the highest flood risk 2022, with Bangladesh and Vietnam listed in the top category. It noted that seven out of the top 10 countries at high risk of flood were in Asia. Southeast Asia is prone to frequent and intense flooding events due to several factors, which include low average elevation, high incidence of tropical storms and heavy rains, prolonged monsoons, and underdeveloped flood protection infrastructure.

Floods caused havoc worth $15 billion in 2022 in Pakistan. In Bangladesh, floods in June last year damaged over $12.5 billion worth of crops and affected 24,000 farmers. A third of the global population is constantly at risk of flooding, the Swiss-Re Institute added.

For Africa, Statista listed Congo DR as presenting the highest risk of flooding among all countries on the continent as of 2022. Egypt, Nigeria, and Sudan followed. Most other African countries also stand the risk of exposure to flooding.
Nigeria appears incapable of learning from history as in 2012, NEMA reported that floods killed 363 people and displaced over 2.1 million citizens; 30 of the 36 states were affected in what was termed as the worst flood in the country for 40 years, with estimated seven million people affected and damage and losses recorded at N2.6 trillion. NEMA said in 2022, 662 persons lost their lives to flood, while 2.43 million others were displaced. Another 3,174 persons suffered injuries.
The problem of flooding has been there for ages and is compounded by climate change. To mitigate the impacts of climate change, Nigeria should adopt scientific and engineering solutions, as propounded by experts; she must improve the existing drainage facilities and build more, and address the issues of underdevelopment, and poor or lack of planning in urban centres.
As experts have predicted, more severe floods are expected in the coming months as the intensity of the rainfall will be higher and more water is expected to be released from dams, notably Lagdo and Oyan dams in Cameroon and Ogun State, respectively, around September and October. When that happens, the sea and the lagoon will not be able to contain the excess water coming in and rising tidal waves will distribute the excess water to surrounding communities. The government must go beyond telling residents of flood-prone areas to relocate to higher ground; it must provide them with alternative accommodation and stop approving building construction on floodplains. State governments need to be well prepared, especially coastal and confluence states.
Nigeria is not the only country with coastal environments, most of the Netherlands is built on water. Creative engineering is needed to prevent devastating floods. Citizens should refrain from indiscriminate dumping of refuse in water channels, while the government ought to carry out massive public awareness campaigns to tackle flooding.
The Netherlands built the extensive Oosterschelde Dam; Venice in Italy has a similar challenge; London erected a huge mechanical barrier across the Thames River; in Manitoba, Canada, the government built dykes; while in Romania and Bulgaria, risk assessment mapping is given priority.

Other countries carefully manage rivers prone to floods through the construction of defences such as levees, bunds, reservoirs, and weirs to prevent them from bursting their banks, Nigeria should learn from these experiences and take similar proactive measures.
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