Following a notice from Cameroonian authorities on the release of huge volumes of water from the Lagdo Dam in Cameroon, the Nigerian government and respective states are bracing up to put in place contingency plans to forestall possible flooding in the coming weeks.
States along the path of River Benue in Nigeria brace up for possible flood disasters in their various domains.
The National Emergency Management Agency officials say no fewer than 11 states including Adamawa, Taraba, Benue, Nasarawa, Kogi, Anambra, Edo, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers and Cross River are likely to feel the negative impacts of the opening of the dam.
The President of Environment Protection and Climate Change Experts, Mr Akugbe Iyamu, has however made a call on Monday for states to scale up their plans for mitigating the possible devastating effects that could arise from the release excess water from Lagdo dam.
The Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) has also called for immediate construction of flood control dams along the Rivers Niger and Benue to avert flooding likely to be occasioned by the release of Lagdo dam in Cameroon.
Every year, neighboring Cameroon, which runs along the length of Nigeria’s eastern border releases water from a dam in northern Cameroon, causing 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 constructed on the Nigerian side to contain the overflow, but the second one was never realised.
The effect of the release of water from this dam is largely felt on surrounding regions in about 13 states in Nigeria, namely; Kogi, Benue, Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba, and Yobe.
Others include Niger, Nasarawa, Kebbi, Kogi, Edo, Delta, Anambra, Cross River, Rivers, and Bayelsa States.
Iyamu said having a contingency plan in place would help stakeholders prepare and respond effectively, so as to manage flood risks, saying it may cause displacement, and affect food security.
According to him, water that will be released from the dam may contribute more than 40 percent to Nigeria, calling on states in the downstream areas to take actions to prevent flood disaster.
BRANDPOWER recalls that Prof. Joseph Utsev, the Minister of Water Resources and Sanitation, had said there was no immediate threat of flooding, calling 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 meters today.
This, he said, was insignificant compared to a flow level of 8.80 meters on the same date in 2022.
BRANDPOWER also recalls that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had alerted the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) of the likelihood of flooding along the River Benue basin.
A letter signed by the Ministry’s Director of African Affairs, Umar Salisu, dated August 21, reads “the Cameroonian government plans to “open the flood gates of the Lagdo Dam on the Benue River in days ahead.”
It said that this was due to the heavy rainfall “around the dam catchment area in Northern Cameroon”.
According to the letter, when the release of water becomes necessary, the authorities of the Lagdo Dam will be releasing only modulated variable small amounts of water at a time.
This was in order to mitigate and avoid damages that the released water may cause along the River Benue basin in both Cameroon and Nigeria.
“In view of the above, it would be appreciated if the esteemed agency takes all the necessary proactive steps and actions that will mitigate the damage as well as sensitise the populace living in such areas for vigilance and all necessary precautions,” it said.
Data from NEMA revealed that the 2022 floods had displaced more than 1.4 million people, killed over 603 people, and injured more than 2,400 persons.
About 82,035 houses had been damaged, and 332,327 hectares of land had also been affected.
Continuous monitoring of water levels in rivers ongoing- NIHSA
Meanwhile, the Director General, Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA), Mr Clement Nze, has pledged continuous monitoring of water levels in rivers across the country to forestall possible flood emergencies.
Nze this was necessary to prevent disasters and emergency situations that could occur from excessive rainfall.
BRANDPOWER recalls that the agency had predicted in its 2023 Annual Flood Outlook (AFO) that 178 Local Government Areas in 32 States and the capital territory fall within the “Highly Probable Flood Risks Areas”.
Also, there are possible apprehensions that many states may be affected from the decision of the Cameroonian government to release excess water from its Lagdo dam.
Every year, neighboring Cameroon which runs along the length of Nigeria’s eastern border, releases water from a dam in northern Cameroon, causing flooding downstream in Nigeria.
Nze said, “We maintain close watch on all of the rivers, and 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 Katsina-Ala river where we have kashimbilla dam, it contributes to 26 percent of River Benue, If the rainfall intensifies more and which we are monitoring, there could be flooding from that axis”.
The director general said states should complement Federal Government’s efforts by sensitising their populace on flood disaster prevention, saying 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 are to take responsibility for it, they should take more action, to sensitise and relocate their people to safer grounds.
“They should augment the relief materials that NEMA is providing so as to give succor to the people, they should be on standby in all those flood flashpoints”.
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 succor to flood victims.
He said many states had flood hostels functioning, saying states were duty bound to support the committees’ effort to cushion the immediate effects of flooding and recovery of affected persons.
According to him, the Committee, co-chaired by Alhaji Aliko Dangote and Dr Olisa Agbakoba SAN, had monies dominated from individuals, 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, and not only for flood emergencies.
“There are some states that are very critical in terms of flooding, this committee built hostels and well equipped clinics, water facilities, basic amenities, Drugs are donated, light, kitchen, clinics etc are available to provide temporal relief in times of emergencies.
“Many states delay in keying into these interventions, You can’t expect the federal to do everything, where there are states and local governments available.
“States should be able to take over and run it tor the benefit of the people in states and not during flood emergencies alone”.
While commending the National Emergency Management Agency for giving succor to flood victims, Nze urged Nigerians living in flood-prone areas to be watchful and move to higher ground.
On Cameroon’s release of excess water from its Dam, Nze said the country didn’t enter into any legal agreements to notify or not, saying non-release of the dam’s excess water would be more dangerous to Nigeria.
He added that there was no cause for alarm, as no immediate threat to the country, even as the dam was opened since August 14, spilling water at the rate of about 20 million cubic metres per day — about 200 metres per second.
BRANDPOWER reports that 32 states and the FCT, which are within the Highly Probable Flood Risks Areas include; Adamawa, Abia, Akwa- Ibom, Anambra, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Cross- River, Delta, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Edo.
Others are; Gombe, Imo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Lagos, Nasarawa, Niger, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Rivers, Sokoto, Taraba, Yobe, as well as Zamfara and the FCT.