52 YEARS OF FLOOD IN NIGERIA
So, who do we blame, and really is it a blame game or the scary realisation that we are just a nation run on auto-pilot, one for which after 52 years, we are still plagued largely by the same problems? We are 52, part of the country is in water. We are deep in flood, and equally flooded on all fronts by corruption, mismanagement, maladministration and poor governance structure coupled with a citizenry with a vague picture of what patriotism is or should be.
Two months ago when parts of the Shendam/Mikang axis and the Southern part of Plateau were cut off from the North, it was just one of those rare occurrences. The city center was next with scores of death; parts of Bauchi were not spared. But like all floods, all issues that have plagued us, with a wave of hand, are confined to the bin of history.
While we mark our 52nd ‘dependence’, we do so with the news that over a million Nigerians are likely to die the imminent collapse Lake Nyos Dam in Cameroon. Many have never heard the name Nyos before or know that we could be victims of this magnitude of disaster if neighbouring Cameroun opens a dam. The names Kiri and Lagdo dams, in Cameroon, are new; that River Benue overflows its banks is a new phenomenon. And while we witness realities of bad situations, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) was presenting a manual to prevent more disasters at a ceremony.
As said earlier, this is no blame game, NEMA has tried. In the face of tight budget, the agency resorted to big boats and canoes for the evacuation exercise, exhibiting ‘Nigerian promptness and expertise’
in the rescue efforts and relief distribution. But it smacks of selfishness that on the immediate, very little had been done as prevention, by a body responsible for combating these forces of nature.
This is a reflection of all that has been wrong with us for 52 years.
Lake Nyos is close to Nigeria, and sources say a 2005 UNDP report had predicted that the dam was at “a point of potential collapse”, in fact, within 10 years it may collapse. Yet, after seven years, nothing has been done. So it is for 52 years – same lackadaisical attitude, same way of doing things and expecting different results. NEMA says, “it is estimated that between Cameroon border and River Benue, 50 settlements, including Katsina-Ala, Kashimbilla, Waya, Manga, Gamovo, Andie, Terwegh and over 15,000 hectares of land will be flooded by Nyos.
Also, over one million people and 20,000 heads of cattle and other livestock will be affected and could perish”.
Based on the report, financial losses estimated in billions of naira, comprising crops, residential and commercial structures, utilities and infrastructure, including roads and bridges and other services will occur.
Although Lake Nyos is yet to collapse, when it does, all these predictions and others not known will occur. The reason is simply that the forecasts are indisputable. In the last one month, there has been no Lake Nyos, but how well has NEMA coped? In many flood ravished states, there were flood warnings and alerts by the appropriate bodies. But really how much was done in terms of enlightenment and were there cases that enforcement was necessary, or it’s same old story? 52 years after, Nigerians sadly do not take warnings serious.
We are not only just faced with a bad case of flood, but possible outbreak of epidemics, it is so strange that with the level of devastation, no national emergency was declared. Both the ruling party and opposition played politics of Labaran Maku, sale of power stations and health of Patience, among many other inconsequential issues while the citizenry are carried away by all sorts of floods. From Anambra to Kogi, Niger to Edo, Delta to Plateau, parts of Nasarawa, Taraba, Adamawa and Imo little has been done, apart from the usual assessment tours when people are in desperate want, displaced and not knowing where to start from. This excludes the Lagos, Ibadan and Ogun axis.
Depending on whose figures, more than 30,000 people around the country are displaced, and stranded. Death toll now is over 500 people and it’s on the increase. No one really cares, and 52 years, no one cares.
Interestingly, as Nigerians groan under the effects of these floods, the House of Representatives called the Ecological Fund a mystery fund, one with no accountability whatsoever; here we are with a situation where the fund could be best utilized. But that has been the case with us, 52 years of misplaced priorities.
One cannot point to any very-quick-fix-it solution, drastic measure or long term plan. No one even understands how and why the dam was opened, causing the rise in water level in some states. We are marking 52 years in what is now popularly called low-key, when indeed it is actually disastrously and calamitously a big national tragedy. Farmlands have been washed, food prices would soar, so also livestock that have drowned.
While I say it’s not a blame-game, I dare say government has failed, same way it has been for 52 years, flooding in corruption and missed opportunities. It hurts to know that you cannot blame government for removing roofing sheets from submerged houses, air conditioners or electronics that have disappeared from peoples’ home. For 52 years we have been our own flood. The fact is, we remain largely the architect of our flood as a nation. We really can tackle the floods that ravage us as a country; the long unanswered question is, do we want to, only time will tell.
Written By Prince Charles Dickson