10th October, 2012
President Goodluck Jonathan’s anouncement yesterday morning of a N17.6 billion financial assistance to flood-ravaged states will certainly go a long way, though, we believe, this should be just a palliative measure before real solutions will be put in place to avoid a humanitarian and food crisis.
The inclement weather which has affected many communities in about 20 states of the federation has shown no sign of abating and more disasters stare us in the face as our neighbouring countries prepare to open up their dams before disaster strikes in their country.
According to a 2005 United Nations Development Programme report, Lake Nyos Dam in Cameroon, which holds about 55 million cubic metres of water, may collapse in ten years’ time. And with the inclement weather not letting up, this may spell dire consequences for Nigeria, because opening that dam to prevent its collapse would have devastating consequences on Nigerian communities along the water’s path.
Already, hundreds of communities have been submerged while billions of naira worth of property and crops have been destroyed, triggering the fear of a food crisis and epidemics, especially where thousands of people are resettled in camps where facilities are lacking.
From the north to the south, east to the west the changing weather patterns are wreaking havoc on humans, livestock and crops. The rains have continued falling and the fear of ravaging floods, especially in communities close to big rivers is real, yet we cannot fold our hands and expect to be rescued by anyone but ourselves.
The National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, has warned that one million citizens may die if precautionary measures are not taken and it has so far spent over N1.3 billion on relief materials while the Ministry of Works has pent about half of that amount on repairs of collapsed bridges and bypasses, yet danger still looms.
Residents of coastal areas have been urged to move upland all over the country as the angry floods continue to sack communities. As the Nigerian Meteorological Agency, NIMET, warns Lagos residents to brace up for heavy rains, we ask again: where do they move to in this overpopulated metopolis with already overstretched infrastructure?
It is time for the Federal Government to do more than it is currently doing and empower NEMA to enable it do more. It is also time for state and local governments, though they claim to be overwhelmed, to prevent this looming disaster. The changing weather patterns foreshadow more disasters. If we are to avoid a food and humanitarian crisis in the months to come, we need to take more proactive measures to prevent this. We need to do more than give out relief materials. We need to plan to feed the citizens in the aftermath of the floods and devastation being visited upon us by nature.