By Onome Pearl Oraka
PACC Policy Research Fellow
Last week, the Nigerian social media space was bombarded with images of flooding in Benue State, Nigeria. The images were as saddening as they were disheartening. The statistics of the attendant destruction of the flood were graver. A popular newspaper headline read, “Benue Flood: 110, 000 Persons and 24 Communities Affected”. According to a statement by the Executive Secretary of the Benue State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), over 2, 769 households were affected the implications of the flood were even more grave.
In Achusa, 200 houses were affected with 5, 125 persons displaced, in Idye 217 houses were affected with 5, 200 persons displaced, at Behind Civil Service Commission 200 houses were affected with 5, 777 persons were also displaced, at Genabe 200 houses were affected with 5, 021 persons displaced, in Wurukum market 218 houses were destroyed with 1, 000 persons displaced, and in Wadata Market 150 houses were affected and 4, 300 persons displaced. At Industrial layout 69 houses were affected with 4, 310 persons displaced, in Demekpe 111 houses were affected with, 7, 820 persons displaced, in Katungu 137 houses were destroyed with 6, 031 persons displaced while at Agboughul- Wadata 201 houses were affected and 5, 728 persons were displaced (LEADERSHIP Newspaper, 2017).
Flooding in Benue State is hardly a novel phenomenon. Between June and September 2012, incessant heavy rainfall in Cameroon led to excessive flooding around the Lagdo Dam to breaking point. The Cameroonian Government released the dam walls between June 2nd and September 7th 2012 leading to an overflow of water to Nigeria through the Benue River and into the seas through the Niger River. All 11 eleven state transverse by both rivers were flooded resulting in the deaths of thousands and the displacement of hundreds of thousands. In Benue state, 30 deaths were recorded and 25, 000 people were displaced (Tawari-Fufeyin, Megbwue, & Adams, 2015).
Since the Ladgo Dam was built in Lagdo town on the Adamawa Plateau in the Northern Province of Cameroun along the course of the Benue River (the second largest river in Nigeria) in 1982, Nigeria has experienced large scale flooding following the release of the dam walls. In accordance to an agreement between the Nigerian Government and the Cameroun Government in 1980, Nigeria was supposed to build a buffer dam along the course of the river to contain water released from the Ladgo Dam and inevitably prevent destruction of lives and properly. The Dam which was presumptuously called the “Dasin Hausa Dam” was designed in 1981 to cushion the effect of the Ladgo Dam flooding, generate 300mw of electricity and irrigate about 150, 000 hectares of land, and provide job opportunities for 40, 000 families. Sadly, 36 years after, Dasin Hausa Dam is yet to be created (Michael & Akinboade, 2012).
On flooding in Benue State, perhaps the Federal Government should not be apportioned all of the blame. Between June 2007 and May 2015, the Government of Benue State has received 2,500, 000, 000 (Two billion, five hundred million naira only) for Ecological funds. According to the Report of The Judicial Commission of Inquiry Into Funds Accruing/Received and the Utilization of Benue State Funds/Assets 2015, this money was diverted and misappropriated by the then Government led by Dr. Gabriel Suswam (Benue State Report, 2015).
While natural disasters cannot be prevented, it can be managed. Often times what we have as natural disasters in Nigeria are largely influenced by our actions and inactions. The impact of the recent floods in Lagos for example were greatly enhanced by drainages blocked with dirt—from water satchet, to bottles, to leathers etc. Creation of dams, drainages and canals are just one side of a coin. Pro-environmental behaviors must and should be encouraged. At the decision making level, the Government must ensure that policies are being made and implemented to preserve our environment.
Protecting and preserving the environment is a collective responsibility. It is one that can be achieved with an acute desire backed by a unified will.
Benue State of Nigeria (2015). Government Views and Decisions on the Report of the Judicial Commission Into Funds Accruing/Received and the Utilization of Benue Statae Funds/Assets. Benue State of Nigeria.
LEADERSHIP Newspaper. (2017, 8 31). Retrieved from LEADERSHIP NEWSPAPER: leadership.ng/2017/08/31/benue-flood110000-persons-24-community-affected/
Michael, S., & Akinboade, L. (2012, September 10). Retrieved from www.environewsnigeria.com/30-years-of-nigerias-failure-to-tackle-cameroon-dam-flooding/
Tawari-Fufeyin, P., Megbwue, P., & Adams, O. (2015). Some Aspects of a Historic Flooding in Nigeria and Its Effects on some Niger- Delta Communities. American Journal of Water Resources Vol III, Issue 1, 7-16.