The 52 Year Old Flood In Nigeria

Posted: October 3, 2012 in Uncategorized

By Prince Charles Dickson

So who do we blame, and really is it a blame game or the scary realization that we are just a nation run on auto-pilot, one for which after 52yrs, we are still plagued largely by the same problems.

We are 52yrs today, parts 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.

Barely two months ago when parts of the Shendam, Mikang axis and the Southern parts of Plateau was cut off from the North. It was just one of those rare occurrences. Then the city center was next with a death toll of over a score…parts of Bauchi too was not left behind. But like all floods, all issues that have plagued us, with a wave of hand, its been confined to the bin of history.

While we mark our 52nd year of ‘dependence’, we do so with the news that over a million of us are likely to die if the Nyos Dam in Cameroon happens to collapse.

Many have never heard the name Nyos before or know that we could be victims of this magnitude of disaster if neighboring Cameroun open a dam until now. The names Kiri and Lagdo dam in Cameroon are new, River Benue overflowing its banks brings new significance.

And while we witness realities of a bad situation on ground NEMA was presenting a manual to prevent an even more disastrous occurrence at a ceremony.

Like I said, this is no blame game, NEMA has tried, tight budget, using big boats and local canoe owners for the evacuation exercise, exhibiting ‘Nigerian promptness and expertise’ in the rescue efforts and relief distribution’, but it smacks of selfishness that while on the immediate very little had been done as prevention, by a body responsible for combating these forces of nature is a reflection of all that has been wrong with us for 52yrs.

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” infact within 10yrs it may collapse. Yet after some 7yrs, nothing has been done. So it is for 52yrs, and same lackadaisical attitude, same way of doing things and expecting different results .

Emergency body, 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,” by the same Nyos.

Based on the report, financial losses estimated to be in billions of naira, comprising of crops, residential and commercial structures, utilities and infrastructure, including roads and bridges and other services will occur.

All that havoc, when the Dam at Lake Nyos collapses. However, it has not, but when it does, all these predictions and others not known will occur. The reason is simply, the facts very undisputeable.

In the last one month there has been no Lake Nyos but how well has NEMA coped?

In many of the flood ravished states, there were flood warnings and alerts by the appropriate bodies. But really how much was done in terms of proper enlightenment and were there cases that enforcement was necessary, or its same old story, 52yrs 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 ruling party and opposition played politics of Labaran Maku, sale of power stations and health of Patience amongst many inconsequentials while citizenry are carried away by all sorts of floods.

From Anambra, to Kogi, Niger to Edo, Delta to Plateau, parts of Nassarawa, 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 beyond 500 people and its on the increase. No one really cares, and 52yrs 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. And here we are, with a situation where the monies in that fund could be best utilized. But has that not been the case with us, 52yrs of misplaced priorities.

One cannot point to any very-quick-fix-it solution, no drastic measure, no long term plan either, no one even understands how and why the dam was opened causing the rise in water level in some states.

We are marking 52yrs in what is now popularly called low-key, when indeed it is actually disastrously and calamitously a big national tragedy we have.

Farmlands have gone, food prices would soar, so also livestock that have drowned.

And while I said its not a blame-game, I dare say government has failed, same way its been for 52yrs, flooding in corruption, missed opportunities and nearly chances.

It hurts to know that you cannot blame government for removing roofing sheets from submerged houses, A/C or electronics that have disappeared from peoples’ home. 52yrs we have been our own flood…

The fact is, we remain largely the architect of our flood as a nation…we really can address the floods that ravage us as a country, the long unanswered question is, do we want to, only time will tell.

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