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    Mitigating recurring floods in Nigeria

    By Muhammad Salihu Ahmad Ahmad

    Nigeria is already facing multiple humanitarian crises: violence from militant/bandits groups; Boko Haram; outbreaks of diseases including diphtheria and cholera etc. and critical levels of high cost of food and malnutrition. Now, climate change is exacerbating the situation and putting even more people at risk.

    The country has been facing frequent and massive floods that are worsened by climate change and poor infrastructure. The floods have killed hundreds of people, displaced millions, and destroyed homes and farmlands.

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    Floods have become a common occurrence in Nigeria, especially during the rainy season. However, some years have seen more severe and devastating floods than others, affecting millions of people and causing significant damage to lives and properties.

    Sources have captured some of the major floods that occurred in Nigeria in the past 10 years as follows:
    2022: The worst flooding in a decade, caused by heavy rains and the release of excess water from Cameroon’s Lagdo Dam. More than 600 people died and 1.3 million were displaced. More than 200,000 houses and 266,000 acres of farmland were destroyed or damaged.

    2018: The second worst flooding since 2012, affecting 12 states and displacing over 100,000 people. At least 200 people died and thousands of hectares of farmland were submerged.

    2017: A flash flood in Suleja, Niger State, killed at least 20 people and destroyed hundreds of houses. Heavy rains also caused flooding in Lagos, Kano, and other states.

    2016: A flood in Benue State displaced over 100,000 people and damaged crops worth billions of naira. Floods also affected other states such as Kogi, Anambra, Delta, and Edo.

    2015: A flood in Zamfara State killed over 40 people and destroyed several houses and farmlands. Floods also occurred in other states such as Kebbi, Sokoto, Niger, and Kaduna.

    2014: A flood in Ogun State killed at least 11 people and displaced thousands. Floods also affected other states such as Lagos, Oyo, Rivers, and Cross River.
    2013: A flood in Bayelsa State killed over 20 people and displaced over 150,000. Floods also occurred in other states such as Adamawa, Taraba, Katsina, and Jigawa.

    2012: The worst flooding in Nigeria’s history, affecting 30 states and displacing over two million people. Over 360 people died and millions of hectares of farmland were destroyed. The floods were caused by heavy rains and the release of water from dams in Nigeria and neighbouring countries.

    2011: A flood in Ibadan, Oyo State, killed over 100 people and destroyed thousands of houses. Floods also affected other states such as Bauchi, Gombe, Plateau and Kano.

    2010: A flood in Jos, Plateau State, killed over 40 people and displaced over 200,000. Floods also occurred in other states such as Sokoto, Kebbi, Niger, and Kwara.

    This is only an overview of the record of floods in Nigeria in the past 10 years. They are driven by rainfall intensified by human-induced climate change and poor climate resilience infrastructure and washed away entire communities and destroyed thousands of hectares of farmland”. (Please note that this is not a comprehensive list of all the floods that occurred in Nigeria during this period).

    A recent bulletin by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has placed states on the banks of rivers Benue and Niger (Adamawa, Taraba, Benue, Niger, Nasarawa, Kebbi, Kogi, Edo, Delta, Anambra, Cross River, Rivers and Bayelsa) on red alert following a notification they received from the Foreign Affairs Ministry that Cameroun plans to open the Lagdo Dam.

    The notice drew attention to taking all necessary proactive steps and actions that will mitigate the damage as well as to sensitize the people living in such areas for vigilance and all necessary precautions.

    Even before this notice we have witnessed floods in Lugbe–Abuja, Bauchi–Gombe highway washout, Cheledi–Kirfi Local Government of Bauchi State, communal buildings in Borno State etc.

    To forestall the risks, the government should continue to raise awareness among governmental agencies and citizens on the need for effective waste management, tree planting, land reclamation, landscaping and beautification efforts, as well as for addressing land, water, noise and air pollution and reforestation. This is because:

    Nigeria’s flooding is mainly caused by human factors such as poor urban planning, inadequate drainage systems, poor waste management and unregulated urban expansion.

    Flooding negatively affects the social, economic, and environmental aspects of sustainable development in Nigeria, as it disrupts livelihoods, damages infrastructure, spreads diseases, and degrades ecosystems.

    Some of the possible solutions to mitigate flooding include improving urban planning and infrastructure, enforcing environmental regulations and standards, enhancing waste management and recycling, promoting public awareness and education, and strengthening disaster preparedness and response.

    Flood risk has been a serious challenge in Nigeria, it has affected millions of people and caused significant economic and environmental damage. It is time we begin to think of some of the possible ways to mitigate flood risk in Nigeria such as:

    Ramping up actions to tackle climate change, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions and implementing the Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement.

    Improving urban planning and infrastructure, such as providing adequate drainage systems, preventing encroachment on wetlands and floodplains, and enforcing building codes and regulations.
    Promoting reforestation and conservation of wetlands, which can help reduce runoff, absorb water, and prevent soil erosion.

    Dredging silted rivers and/or constructing dams to act as reservoirs for excess water
    Enhancing information communication technology, such as using satellite imagery, geographic information systems, and early warning systems to monitor flood hazards and disseminate timely alerts.

    Relocating vulnerable communities, and raising public awareness and education.

    Strengthening disaster preparedness and response, such as educating the public on flood risks and safety measures, providing adequate relief materials and shelters, and facilitating recovery and rehabilitation.

    Muhammad Salihu Ahmad Ahmad resides at FMA2, off Yaya (Petel) Abubakar Road, Fadamar Mada, Bauchi.

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