True to the recent warning by the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) about potential flood disasters in parts of the country, floods wreaked havoc in Lagos and Suleja the other day. There was of course, gnashing of teeth that could have been avoided.
Although, the Federal Government has released N1.6 billion to 16 flood-prone states, action ought to have been taken earlier to reduce the damage flood can do in states like Ekiti, Osun, Akwa Ibom, Kebbi, Niger, Kwara, Ebonyi, Enugu, Abia, Oyo, Lagos, Plateau, Sokoto, Edo and Bayelsa.
Every year, seasonal floods occur during the rainy season. What is disgraceful is that despite the recurrence of this natural disaster, no serious action has been taken at any level of government to effectively protect the citizens who are ill-equipped to face the recurrent disaster.
Flood and its impacts only come to the fore when disaster occurs. That is when the authorities and the victims run helter-skelter to seek solution. Impromptu and fire brigade actions are often initiated as remedy but nothing again would be heard until another flooding season.
There is even hardly any mention of flood protection in the country’s annual budget at all levels of government as it is not considered a priority issue.
It is high time the government recognised flooding as a real-time problem, especially, in the face of the global climate change. The ecological fund should therefore be used to protect the citizenry from floods and all environmental challenges.
The latest flood wrecked havoc in Lekki and Ajah areas of Lagos and Suleja in Niger State. The Lekki-Ajah and Victoria Garden City (VGC) disaster showed what has become a serious threat to lives and properties in those low-lying but fast developing sections of Lagos.
Although, no casualties were recorded, reports had it that about 6-feet high floods submerged Lekki and Ajah areas submerging roads, residential houses and offices.
Given that Lekki lies below sea-level, the absence of drainage channels over the largely reclaimed landscape exposes the area to ravaging flood water. The disaster is only a warning sign of what lies ahead, as pressure of urban development mounts over the fragile environment.
The Suleja-Tafa Local Council floods were more devastating as lives were lost and properties destroyed. Thirteen people reportedly died in the raging floods with 10 missing. Some 100 houses were swept away.
A man reportedly lost six out of his eight children as well as his two wives. Large hectares of farm lands were also destroyed. Most of the houses affected were those located near rivers that overflowed their banks.
That little or nothing has been done to stem the impacts of floods in Nigeria speaks of incompetence on the part of governments.
In all the flood disasters, the fundamental problem is lack of planning. Infrastructure is erected indiscriminately without adherence to urban and regional master plans. Consequently, structures are built along floodwater channels.
In Lekki, which is a fast growing development in Lagos, for instance, there seems to be no Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as to what the disruption of the ecological equilibrium through massive reclamation of marshland and subsequent infrastructural development would cause.
Standard engineering procedures are also not often followed in erecting structures over reclaimed land. Little or no time is allowed for stabilisation as developers carry on in a hurry.
The situation is the same in Suleja. As a sprawling sub-urban city close to the Abuja the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), the area ought to have been planned with adequate floodwater drainage channels. But sadly, it is exposed to the forces of nature unhindered. The result is the certain massive destruction of lives and property in the event of flood.
Depending on the environmental conditions of an area, the remedy to floods would naturally vary from place to place. There should be a study of the physical characteristics of an area, by professionals, to have a basis for developing a master plan.
Whereas, such studies might have been carried out in Lagos, failure to adhere to the master plan is responsible for the damaging floods in Lekki, Victoria Island and Ikoyi.
Experts note that the plans have drainages, which have not been dredged, for reasons yet undisclosed. There is the belief that much of Lagos Island is at risk of submergence in future and should that happen, billions of dollars worth of investment would be affected.
It is incumbent on the Lagos State authorities to ensure that the master plan of areas close to the ocean is strictly adhered to for easy solution to possible environmental problems.
One option that could be of benefit is to build huge underground flood water receptacles. This engineering solution is useful all over the country, including in drought-prone areas of the north, where the harvested waters could be used for irrigation. The option, however, requires the commitment of the authorities at all levels of government.
The issue of flooding must be put in the country’s development agenda so that the future might not be leak for several low-lying areas in different parts of Nigeria.