Lagdo Dam and challenge of flood risk management in Nigeria

Cameroon’s Lagdo Dam

Cameroon's Lagdo Dam

By Tosin Kolade

In a recent letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Republic of Cameroon expressed its intention to open the flood gates of the Lagdo dam.

To riverine areas within the River Benue catchment area, temporarily vacating their homes and relocating to higher grounds in the coming days or weeks can be the wisest decision now given the nightmare release of water from the dam has caused them in the past; the 2022 episode was the worst in recent years.

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and other relevant agencies have also advised the residents to take actions to stay safe and protect their pets on animal farms.

Data from NEMA shows that the 2022 floods arising from the release of water from the dam displaced no fewer than 1.4 million people, killed over 603 people, and injured more than 2,400 others.

It also damaged 82,035 houses, and 332,327 hectares of land were affected.

Nigeria’s immediate past minister of humanitarian affairs, Sadiya Farouq, blamed the scale of the disaster on the failure by branches of government to take action.

“There was enough warning and information about the 2022 flood, but states, local governments, and communities appear not to have taken heed,” the minister wrote on Twitter in apparent exoneration of the federal government.

Yearly, neighbouring Cameroon, which runs along Nigeria’s eastern border, releases water from Lagdo Dam in the north. This usually causes flooding downstream in Nigeria.

At the time of the dam’s construction in the 1980s, the two countries agreed that a twin dam would be built on the Nigerian side to contain the overflow, but that was never realised.

So, to cushion the effect of possible flooding from the Lagdo dam in Cameroon, the Nigerian government agreed to build a shock-absorber dam tagged Dasin Hausa Dam in Adamawa State.

The effect of the release of water from this dam is largely felt in surrounding regions in about 13 states in Nigeria, including Kogi, Benue, Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba, and Yobe.

Others include Niger, Nasarawa, Kebbi, Kogi, Edo, Delta, Anambra, Cross River, Rivers, and Bayelsa States.

The Dasin Hausa dam was supposed to be two and a half times the size of the Lagdo dam, which was built to supply electricity to the northern part of Cameroon and allow the irrigation of 15,000 hectares of crops downstream.

Like the Lagdo dam, the dam project sited at the Dasin Village of Fufore Local Government Area of Adamawa State was supposed to generate 300 megawatts of electricity and irrigate about 150,000 hectares of land in Adamawa, Taraba, and Benue states.

But sadly, since 1982, the Nigerian government has yet to complete the building of the Dasin Hausa dam.

As a result, anytime the Cameroonian government releases excess water from the Lagdo dam, communities in Kogi, Benue, and north-eastern states get flooded.

To halt the yearly flooding, the Senate had urged the Federal Ministry of Water Resources and Sanitation to revisit the proposed construction of Dasin Hausa Dam and any other dam to take in the flood waters from Lagdo Dam in Cameroon.

Furthermore, the ministry’s compendium, which highlighted the status of the water resources sector, revealed that the pre-2015 landscape was dotted with multitudes of abandoned and uncompleted projects.

It showed that 116 water supply, dam, hydropower, and irrigation projects were inherited, several of which were uncompleted or abandoned, some of which had been under construction since the 1980s.

On infrastructure development, there are over 400 dams in Nigeria, located in various parts of the country, with the capacity to provide 11.2 billion cubic metres (BCM) of water for irrigation, 900 BCM for water supply, and 18 BCM for hydropower generation.

Unfortunately, the Dasin Hausa dam does not seem to be a priority for the parent ministry, contrary to calls from stakeholders.

A look at the 2023 appropriation for the ministry revealed that the study and design of the Dasin Hausa dam were listed as ERGP28110523.

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When contacted, the Director of Dams and Reservoirs in the ministry declined to comment on the status of the dam project, saying all questions should be directed to the Minister.

As the rains intensify, Mr. Akugbe Iyamu, President, Environment Protection and Climate Change Experts, urges the Nigerian government and its sub-nationals to put in place contingency plans to forestall possible flooding.

Iyamu said a contingency plan would help stakeholders prepare, respond effectively, and manage flood risks, including displacement and food security.

According to him, water from the dam may contribute to flooding of more than 40 percent on Nigerian land, and he called on states in the downstream areas to take actions to prevent flood disasters.

Prof. Joseph Utsev, Minister of Water Resources and Sanitation, also called on the states to put measures in place to prevent flood emergencies.

Utsev said the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) had observed an increase in the volume of flow along the River Benue system, registering a flow level of 8.97 metres today.

This, he said, was insignificant as compared to a flow level of 8.80 metres on the same date in 2022.

Similarly, NIHSA Director-General, Mr. Clement Nze, says it continues to monitor water levels in rivers across the country to forestall possible flood emergencies.

“We maintain a close watch on all of the rivers, and as we are getting into the peak of the rainy season, there are many rivers within the Benue tributaries that could cause flooding, whether Cameroon releases water into Nigeria or not.

“Most of those rivers are not dammed; apart from the Katsina-Ala river, where we have Kashimbilla dam, it contributes to 26 percent of the River Benue.

If the rainfall intensifies more, which we are monitoring, there could be flooding from that axis,” he said.

The director-general said states should complement the Federal Government’s efforts by sensitising their populace on flood disaster prevention, saying the FG cannot do it alone.

“States should follow the Federal Government to sensitise their people; they already know the flashpoints.

“The state emergency management agencies know the locations; when they need to relocate people, they should do so on time.

“Flood issues occur in the communities, and the states should take responsibility; they should take more action, sensitise, and relocate their people to safer grounds.

“They should augment the relief materials that NEMA is providing so as to give succour to the people; they should be on standby at all those flood flashpoints”, he advised.

Nze recalled that after the 2012 flood incidents, the FG constituted the Presidential Committee for Flood Relief and Rehabilitation (PCFRR) to raise funds and provide succour to flood victims.

He said many states have functional flood shelters, adding that they were duty-bound to support the committee’s effort to cushion the immediate effects of flooding and the recovery of affected persons.

According to him, the committee, co-chaired by Alhaji Aliko Dangote and Dr. Olisa Agbakoba SAN, had monies dominated by individuals and corporate entities to the tune of N12 billion.

He said the committee had been urging the states to take over these facilities for the people, not only for flood emergencies.

Experts believe priority should be given to flood prevention, response, and management.

They say flooding has had a major impact on lives, the country’s agriculture, social, economic, and infrastructure, and environmental targets. No effort should be spared in addressing the challenge it poses.

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