By: Abubakar Jimoh

Following the recent prediction by the National Meteorological Agency (NIMET) saying there may be more and intense flooding in 2013, the need for immediate collaborations and rational brainstorming on recurrent issues of flood disasters in the country was brought to fore, when the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) organized two-day Consultative Workshop on flood prevention, preparedness, mitigation and response.

Apparently, the occasion was meant to create a platform that would provide useful information and recommendations about the anticipatedflood disasters; primarily to create a better understanding and scrutiny of issues relating to emergency response strategies particularly by officials of the agency in collaboration with all stakeholders on disaster management.

The forum, which was cosmopolitan in nature was honoured by stakeholders in disaster management who were drawn from public and private organizations, as well as from the Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Health, National Space Research and Development Agency, Federal Road Safety Commission, Nigerian Police Force, Nigerian Air Force, Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence, Federal Fire Service, Nigerian Meteorological Agency, United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, Nigeria Red Cross Society, Media Information Committee on Emergency Management , UNICEF, OXFAM, YADI, OCHA, JADI, CCFN, among others.

While commenting on the drastic increase in hydro-climatic disasters the country has witnessed in the past few years with a growing spatial coverage and number of communities impacted, Director-General of NEMA, Alhaji Muhammad Sani-Sidi noted that the recurring floods and the attendant hazards must serve as a wakeup call to emergency management stakeholders, governments at all levels, individuals and the organized private sector to rise up their responsibility on disaster risk reduction.

His words: “This emerging trend of annual floods couple with a wide ranging human and nature induced emergencies experienced in recent times have put to test our national resilience and pose a challenge to emergency management stakeholders in Nigeria. Disaster such as large-scale of flood of 2012 can retard our national development process and hinder the achievement of projected national development agenda including the Millennium Development Goals.”

The need for us to re-strategize and foster stronger collaboration on principled and effective disaster management remains paramount. Despite the competing demands on NEMA stakeholders, we must work together to protect and improve the lives of vulnerable citizens as well as enhance their resilience”, he said.

In his own remarks at the occasion, Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, who pointed out that the devastating experience of 2012 has brought about the need for the immediate sensitization on the impacts of global warming. He commended NEMA for organizing consultative workshop that would help improve preparedness and create awareness in the country beyond that of 2012.

Also speaking at the occasion, the Minister of Environment, Mrs. Hadiza Ibrahim Mailafia, urged the states to learn from the early warning alert on the year 2012 flooding which was totally neglected by some states; and exercise necessary preventions and preparedness against the current year.

Some of the participants had in there good will massages attributed the devastating 2012 flood disasters to the global climate change which was aggravated by increase in volume of rainfall and the release of excess water from Lagdo dam upstream of River Benue in neighbouring Cameroun which also coincided with the release of water from Kanji, Jebba and Shiroro Dams into Rivers Benue and Niger.

Others identified causes of the floods to include poor drainage networks and inadequate culverts/canals, obstructions of water ways, weak soil texture/structure, land topography, ineffective management of solid wastes, deforestation, land degradation, sedimentation of aquatic ecosystem, precipitation and wind effects.

Meanwhile, it was revealed that over the last 25years the average global surface temperature rose by 0.56c by the end of the century, while a further rise by 1.4-5.8c has been projected by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). For instance, in Nigeria, Mean annual temperature has increased by 0.9c since 1960, an average of 0.20c per decade. The past decade was the hottest of the past 150 years, and possibly of the past millennium. The hottest 22years on record have occurred in the 25 years since 1980. The IPCC forecasts a global temperature increase of 1.4ºC to 5.8ºC above 1990 temperatures by 2100. Without doubt, the vulnerable populations across the globe are already feeling the impacts, irrespective of the level of economic development.

In order to mitigate the impacts of flood, the forum recommended provision of necessary working tools, equipment and training to strengthen the operations of National/State Emergency Management gencies; proper land use to minimize overgrazing, deforestation; massive public enlightenment, advocacy and sensitization of communities on flood issues; improved Early Warning System; immediate promotion and adoption of Disaster Risk Reduction mechanism that will reduce the impact of future flood events; dredging/channelization of rivers and construction of appropriate drainages, culvert and canals in the affected state to avert a reoccurrence; avoid setting up of permanent structures (e.g. Buildings) in areas vulnerable to flooding.

Moreover, they suggested that mechanisms for bilateral co-operation between Nigeria and her neighboring countries particularly, Niger and Cameroun, for joint-management of the trans-boundary waters should be strengthened. The participant urged adequate provision of buffer dams to accommodate excess water being released from Lagdo dam and other major rivers; provision of solid waste management facilities by State Governments; development of Humanitarian Action Plan for humanitarian actors to key into early recovery plan; and effective Humanitarian forum.

Abubakar Jimoh is the National Coordinator, Youths Against Disaster Initiative (YADI), and lives in Abuja.