The Federal Government has warned that this year’s flooding will affect no fewer than 31 states and 148 local government areas across the country between April and November. According to the Minister of Water Resources and Sanitation, Professor Joseph Terlumun Utsev, 148 local government areas (LGAs) in 31 states are among highly probable flood risk areas for 2024 while 249 LGAs in 36 states and Abuja fall within the moderate flood risk states.

During the recent official unveiling of the 2024 Annual Flood Outlook (AFO) in Abuja, Utsev identified the high-risk states as Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Borno, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Imo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Lagos, Nasarawa, Niger, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto, Taraba and Yobe. The minister harped on proactive measures, including preparedness, early warning systems and community engagement to mitigate the potential flood impact in the identified areas.

The flood alert is usually issued every year. The danger is that people often disregard it. In November 2022, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) issued early warnings to states that there would be serious flooding in 2023 if precautionary measures were not taken. The Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) and the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMET) had similarly issued adequate and timely warnings, including weather advisories to avert the 2022 flood disaster. State and local governments ignored the alarm and they paid dearly for it.

Severe flooding is often orchestrated by climate change, which affects millions of people in Nigeria. Some other causative factors include land reclamation, tidal surges, river or dam overflow, volcanic eruptions, poor physical planning, blockage of drainage channels and constant heavy rainfall. Some people even erect buildings on top of drainage channels.

All these cause enormous problems for the environment. The 2012 severe flooding cost the nation over N2 trillion in losses. The number one victim is agriculture and food security. In the 2022 flooding, said to be about the worst in over a decade in Nigeria, hundreds of thousands of hectares of farms were destroyed. This resulted in the scarcity of staples like yam, rice, cassava, plantain and livestock.

The 2022 flooding affected about 34 states and impacted over 2.5 million people. Many people lost all their possessions. More than 200,000 houses were either partially or fully damaged. Over 600 people reportedly died and over 1.5 million people were forced to leave their homes. Anambra, Bayelsa and Kogi were among the states mostly affected. Many houses, schools and shops were submerged in the states. A lot of people were displaced and found themselves in internally displaced persons camps. Utsev noted that the World Bank estimated the total economic damage from the 2022 flood at about $6.68 billion.

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Nigeria was not the only victim in the 2022 devastating flood. Some other parts of the world suffered it too. For instance, about 1,500 people lost their lives to flood in Pakistan that year. About $30 billion worth of property were also lost in that country. In Kentucky, United States of America, about 43 lives were lost to flash flooding the same year.

It is high time we began to put proactive measures in place to avoid the same devastation this year. Government can organise public enlightenment campaigns to let people know what they are supposed to do at any point in time to avoid flooding. The National Orientation Agency (NOA) has a lot of work to do in this regard.

Structures that are erected on water channels should be pulled down. Lagos State government recently pulled down some of such structures. Other affected states should endeavour to clear water channels as well. Some of the states complain of having erosion sites. The Federal Government should assist them. De-silting of canals which contribute to flooding will go a long way in mitigating the problem.

Government should build more reservoirs and dams and dredge major rivers which contribute to flooding. The importance of harvesting the flood waters for crop and fish farming, all-season farming and even electricity and other uses cannot be over-stretched.

State Emergency Management Agencies (SEMA) and NEMA should brace up for the impending flood. Government should fully fund them so as to enable them to effectively tackle the looming disaster. States should begin now to plan on emergency relief programmes and on how to relocate people on flood-prone areas.

Citizens should play their part by refraining from blocking drainage with refuse, especially plastic bottles and sachet water nylons. They should open up such drainage systems and clean up the water channels to allow flood water to flow easily. The recent ban on the use of Styrofoam by the Lagos State Government is a step in the right direction. We must do everything humanly possible to avert catastrophic flooding this year.