Abuja, NIGERIA — Residents of riverine and flood-prone communities across the country should relocate to higher grounds before flooding starts this year, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has advised.
Speaking during a Twitter Space organised by The ICIR on Wednesday, NEMA spokesperson Manzo Ezekiel said relocation will protect residents of flood-prone areas from the impact of another flood disaster which is most likely to reoccur based on the prediction of the Nigeria Metrological Agency (NiMET).
The Twitter Space was themed, ‘Flooding: Analysing Nigerian government preparedness’.
“The NiMET weather prediction is almost hundred per cent accurate,” he said before asking those residing on low-lying grounds to move to higher grounds for safety.
Farmers were also warned to plant and harvest their crops before the floods set in.
“NiMET predicted an early onset of rain, and we have seen the early onset of rain. There would be flooding unless there are changes by God or any other factor. The forecast should be taken seriously, and those residing in prone areas should begin to relocate to high grounds.
“Farmers in these areas have to farm early, to harvest their crops before the floods.”
Nigeria experienced intense flooding in 2022, which caused loss of life, displacement of people and extensive destruction of houses, farmlands and infrastructures. The disaster affected over 2.8 million people across 34 states, leading to the death of about 603 people and the displacement of more than 1 million.
Why people suffer flooding annually
Ezekiel said Ignorance has made some victims unwilling to look out and protect themselves from flood disasters.
“They are often unwilling to leave prone areas for safe zones.”
He noted that others have gotten used to the experience and are willing to endure the impact.
“They believe the high water level will only last for two weeks or at most a month. So why leave? These people are used to the experience and it shouldn’t be so. One should not get used to suffering,” he said.
Some others are unwilling to relocate due to an attachment to their ancestral homes. Such attachment makes relocation a difficult decision to make, according to the NEMA spokesperson.
Speaking further on why some residents of flood-prone areas are unwilling to relocate, he said: “Most people have an ancestral attachment to their communities, so no matter what you tell them, they will tell you that their ancient fathers died here, and so, they cannot just leave.
“Apart from the negative impact of the flood, it also brings along nutrients that help the soil, and they know this.
“When the flood is gone, the nutrients remain deposited on the ground, and in the following year, when you plant there, the crops planted there will grow very well.
“These are some of the reasons people believe they cannot leave.”
To prevent the recurrence of floods and attendant devastating losses, the NEMA spokesperson said state governments must create awareness among people about the impending floods, especially those living in flood-prone communities.
He said five states have been predicted to experience heavy rainfall in 2023, which puts coastal communities at high risk of flooding. Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross Rivers, Bayelsa and Delta are the states.
Ezekiel said the states’ governments should sensitize the people and begin to think of ways to manage the flood.
He urged state governments to act urgently: “The expected rainfall in these areas is as high as 2700mm or above. This is the amount of rainfall that some parts of the country record over three years.
“This is a flash point that the people living in the coastal areas of these states must be aware of. We ask the government to raise awareness and that they themselves be aware of this threat so that they can begin to prepare ahead.”
He said the government should also remove houses built on waterways immediately.
As ways to manage the disaster, Ezekiel also suggested the creation of disaster management committees at the local government level.
“These committees should be well funded and equipped,” he said. The role of the committees will be to carry out mitigation strategies outlined by NEMA in its 2023 Climate-Related Disaster Preparedness And Mitigation Report.
According to Ezekiel, state governments can effectively manage the impending flood by adopting NEMA’s recommendations.