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Flood: NEMA, environmentalists, task communities on preventive measures

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As the rain intensify across the country, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and other stakeholders have advised residents of flood prone communities in the South East to embark on preventive measures for safety of lives and property in the zone.

The agency made the call while responding to a News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) survey on Challenges of Flooding during rainfall.

NAN reports that some states in the South East Zone of Nigeria experience perennial flooding during rainy seasons which threatens lives and the economy of the country hence the survey.

Some of the stakeholders who spoke to the agency maintained that flood posed disaster risk not only to prone areas but the nation’s economic development.

The Acting Head of NEMA, Imo/Abia Operations Office, Mr Ifeanyi Nnaji, advised affected communities to always monitor sea level in their areas.

He said the Disaster Risk Management Implication of the 2022 flood prediction by NEMA through the Seasonal Climate Prediction (SCP) will soon be released to help prepare the society for emergency.

 “The Annual Flood Outlook (AFO) and the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) gives the organization effective planning of weather-related disaster management in Nigeria,” he said.

Nnaji further advised the public to desist from indiscriminate disposal of waste in or around water channels.

According to him, such habit hinders the free passage of rainwater, hence causing the overflow of rain water beyond boundaries to damaging proportions.

Also, the Executive Secretary of Imo State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Mrs Agnes Ajoku, expressed concern over the negative impact of flood on the society.

She said if not properly managed, flood effect could cause shortage of food, ecological disaster and even loss of lives and property.

“In 2018, Imo experienced one of the greatest flooding in the history of the state, which left many people homeless, while some lost their lives to the flood.

“Since flooding in most cases is a natural disaster, there is the need for both government and the people to take strict measures to prevent heavy effect of flooding.

“One of the ways is for citizens to stop the habit of blocking drainage system centrally built to checkmate flood with waste,” she said.

She also advised against building on water ways, adding that such structures built on the waterways are potential disaster.

A Director in the Ministry of Environment, Dr Clement Anyawu, said the government should consider demolishing all buildings around waterways.

Anyawu said the ministry had studied Federal Government prediction for the 2022 flood outlook, adding that necessary actions had been taken to address the issue.

He appealed to residents in the flood prone communities to always adhere to early warning measures stipulated by relevant agencies.

In Abia, the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) said that 45 communities in 14 local government areas of the state were currently being ravaged by flooding.

The Executive Secretary of the agency, Dr Sunday Jackson, told NAN that the state had already begun to experience high rainfall, in line with the 2022 Seasonal Climate Prediction by the Nigerian Meteorological Agency. 

He further said that the Annual Flood Outlook Prediction by the Nigerian Hydrological Services Agency also shows that Abia, was one of the highly probable flood risk states in the country. 

He explained that climate change and the attendant high rainfall had turned the state into one of the “flood disaster prone states” in the federation, especially during the rainy season.

He said that the agency had put some strategic measures in place to mitigate the phenomenon which, according to him, has increased in frequency and intensity.

The SEMA boss described the magnitude of the menace as  “overwhelming and beyond the capacity of the State Government”.

He said that the development had resulted in the loss of many lives, displacement of many households in the affected communities as well as the destruction of their means of livelihood and valuable property. 

Jackson, therefore, called for urgent assistance from the federal government to cushion the impact of the disaster on victims.

In Enugu State, NEMA says it has started collaboration with disaster stakeholders to take sensitisation on flood early warning and mitigation to council areas and high-risk communities in the state.

South-East Coordinator of NEMA, Mr Tickman Tanimo, said for two months the agency had collaborated with Enugu State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Red Cross and its NEMA-NYSC Community Development Service corps members to hold sensitisation in communities in Enugu North Local Government Area.

Tanimo said that the agency and its stakeholders started early after receiving the 2022 Flood Prediction of Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) and the need to check annual flash flood within Enugu metropolis that destroyed property and threatened lives.

According to him, although from NIHSA, Enugu State was not put on the red flag states for flooding but four council areas: Awgu, Ezeagu, Oji River and Uzo-Uwani are placed as Probably Flood Risk areas.

He explained that the major flood challenge the state faced was the annual flash flood within the metropolis, which might be attributed to human negative activities on the environment especially on drains and waterways.

 “Government, NEMA and SEMA cannot do it alone; we need individuals, neighbourhoods, communities and council areas to play their own part.

“We have started with Enugu North council to sensitise every one even the council authorities on opening up drainages in streets, neighbourhoods and entire council area.

“I have also met with the chairman of Enugu South council area and we will be moving to that council area soon and after that our massive sensitisation train will move to Enugu East council area to ensure flash flood is checked in the metropolis.

“What we are saying is that individuals and neighbourhoods should open up all drains; while council authorities should open up bigger secondary water drains and waterways in the council areas.

“Everybody has a duty of checking negative attitudes of residents blocking drainages and waterways with refuse or with structures as these negative attitudes affect majority of residents of a council area when flash flood occurs,” he said.

Contributing, Prof. Christian Madu, a Professor of Environmental Management and Control, noted that there was a need for continuous awareness and engagement to change negative environmental attitudes and get people prepared to take proactive actions against flooding.

Madu, who is with the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), also tasked NIHSA, NEMA, SEMA and other stakeholders on developing early warning signals that are culturally oriented which the local people could easily relate with.

According to him, until the five South-East governments develop stringent laws to protect against building on waterways and punish offenders appropriately, those in the habit will continue to cause untold hardship for an entire neighbourhood.

 “All sensitisation and education to clean up or open the drains should be done in local language to ensure that the message and consequences of flooding is well understood by majority of the locals.

“Traditional, religious, opinion leaders and teachers should be carried along in sensitisation programmes against flooding so that even after the sensitisation they, on their own, would continue to resonate the message to their people,” he added.

Meanwhile, stakeholders in the Ebonyi social sector have hailed the improvement made so far by relevant stakeholders in checking the menace of flooding in the state.

The stakeholders, who spoke to NAN in Abakaliki, said that the provision of relevant infrastructure had helped in proper channelling of water from rains which hitherto caused flooding.

Mrs Rose Akpa, a farmer in Abakaliki, said that the construction of large drainages across the state capital and other parts of the state have led to the drastic reduction of flooding in the state.

“We used to record submerging of houses, farmlands among other property during the rainy season but such incidences rarely occur presently.

“Adequate drainages have been constructed along strategic waterways which have effectively channelled water from the rain to the Ebonyi river, ” she said.

Mr Tim Uketu, Chief Executive of Global Environmental Forum, a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO), said that the citizens are encouragingly imbibing the message of keeping drainages free from dirt.

“This has helped tremendously in easing flood paths to prevent the submerging and destructions of property,” he said. 

An official of the Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Programme (NEWMAP), who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that it would complete all drainage projects being constructed across the state.

“The citizens have been cooperating with us and the drainages already put into use have helped in reducing flooding in the state,” he said.

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