Posted By Godwin Onyemaechi
“The time to start taking concrete, pro-active measures is now. Not tomorrow. Not when the dams have overflowed their capacity and the rivers have swelled their banks, swallowing up the pothole-riddled roads, homes, offices and shops. Not when casualty figures have risen to thousands before half-hearted, panicky measures are embarked upon by top government officials” -Ayo Oyoze Baje (‘The Rage of floods’, opinion essay published in 2013)
‘NOWHERE TO RUN’ is the title of the mind-riveting, thought-provoking and multiple-award-winning film, as part of the noble and patriotic efforts of the Shehu Musa Yar’Ardua Foundation.
Meant to sensitize the public on the deleterious effects of global warming, it was screened to a jam-packed audience, made up of the management, staff and students, at the multi-purpose hall of Bells University of Technology, Ota, Ogun state, on 24th November 2016. That was some six years ago.
How apt! How timely and thematically relevant the film by the Foundation has proved, more so considered against the dark background of the current devastating floods in the country. For instance, more than 600 Nigerians have been confirmed to have died as a result of the floods in two months.
About 1.3 million people have been displaced. And more than 200,000 homes have been destroyed in the worst flooding the country has witnessed in over a decade. So, as the film rightly noted, hundreds of thousands of Nigerians have currently nowhere to run!
The painful aspect of it all is that the earlier warning signals given by the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) were dismissed with a wave of the hand by many citizens as well as their state governments. All because we have refused to learn from the hands of history, the ugly decimal keeps recurring, and worsening by the day from 2008, through 2012, 2018 till the moment.
How terribly sad!
As previously highlighted by yours truly, the menace of flood has become a global phenomenon and challenge. From China through India to Indonesia, Malaysia, European countries and the United States, flooding shoots its ugly head in the twinkle of an eye. The difference, however, is that in those listed countries there are more proactive, prompt and practical mechanisms for stemming the tide of flood on the part of their Emergency Management teams, to assist the victims. But it is a far cry from that here in Nigeria. Now, a scary scenario of food insecurity caused by the floods looms at our doorstep.
For instance, it would be recalled that in November 2008 the United Nation’s sponsored Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg, South Africa gave the warning that within a few years Nigeria would be amongst the 14 countries listed as vulnerable to food insecurity courtesy of climate change, including the flood menace. But our political helmsmen took it with a pinch of salt.
In fact, during the 2021 flood outlook presentation, the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) made public the vital information that 28 states, including the FCT, were most likely to experience flooding in the year
In a similar vein, the Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NMA) stated that the signals monitored by the agency in the last seven years show that things are changing on the climate front and that Nigeria was expected to experience unprecedented heavy downpours. That came in its 2021 Seasonal Climate Forecast.
But it was not taken seriously.
So, on 20th October 2020, the Nigeria Red Cross had to meet the emergency needs of 12,000 people (2,000 households) affected by floods in the five states namely Jigawa, Kebbi, Kwara, Sokoto and Zamfara. According to Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS NET) the food security emergency worsened in areas of the Northeastern part of Nigeria as access to food was further constrained.
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), over 20,000 were displaced between late July and mid-August 2018, in the Northwest and North-Central States. The death toll rose to 52, with 90 houses destroyed, over 260 livestock confirmed dead and several people declared missing. Property worth millions of naira was destroyed as flood wreaked havoc in 10 communities of Jibia Local Government area of Katsina state.
Before then the sweeping tide of the devastating flood claimed 12 lives and overwhelmed 3,800 houses in Ogun State. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo promised then that the Federal Government, along with the two states will look into the root causes of the flash flood with a view to providing a lasting solution so that such an incident does not happen again! But as usual, we must have heard this swansong years before, haven’t we? That is Nigeria for you.
That was in 2018. As usual, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NMA) warned that many parts of the country were likely to experience flooding. According to the Director-General, Prof. Sani Mashi, this was due to a shift in rainfall patterns caused by climate change. Back then, yours truly advised that the main political actors should put their 2019 ambitions on the back burner and prepare for the climatic onslaught. But did they?
Currently, in 2022, as another pre-election year, some 27 out of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory(FCT) are affected by the flood disaster. These include Adamawa, Anambra, Gombe, Jigawa, parts of Kaduna, Kogi, Niger, Delta, Benue, Nasarawa and Bayelsa, to name but a few. There, farmers suffered huge losses, of plantations and livestock while some even lost their precious lives.
Unfortunately, we – both the leaders and the led majority- have refused to learn from history. So, we keep grappling with the sweeping floods. But the questions remain: What have some state governors done with the huge ecological funds collected? Why do we, as Nigerians turn deaf ears to the warning signals given by NiMeT, NIHSA and NMA every blessed year? How prepared are members of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to deal with flood-related emergency situations in the country? Why do some political leaders refuse to take responsibility for their gross failures but exhibit great pleasure in blaming others, including God for not taking preventive measures when due?
As the Vice Chancellor of Bells University of Technology, Ota, Prof. Jeremiah Ojediran rightly noted back in 2016, Nigerians need to key into the Climate Change-themed film project of the Yar’Ardua Foundation, with a commitment to environmental protection, good governance and a democratic society for all Nigerians.
Similarly, Nigerians should shift focus to finding lasting solutions to the worsening environmental disaster. With Nigeria’s population expected to rise to 250 million by 2050, the awareness created by the film should be extended right to the grassroots. Their activities such as tree felling, over-cultivation and bush burning, come out of extreme poverty which needs to be addressed
No effort should, therefore, be spared by various governments, their related Agencies, the private sector and concerned individuals to enlighten the public and more so, put in motion pragmatic measures to mitigate the scourge of climate change on man. A stitch in time would save nine.
The Guardian Online