By Yaya Ademola
WIKIPEDIA defines flood as an overflow of water that submerges land that is usually dry. It can also occur in rivers when the flow rate exceeds the capacity of the river channel, particularly at bends in the waterway. Floods can be as destructive as hurricanes, tsunamis and earthquakes. They can submerge homes and sack the entire community; they can devastate livelihood and sweep away everything with incredible speed.
Although, floods are mostly natural disaster caused by massive rainfall, overflow of rivers, collapsed dams, snowmelt, climate change, emission of Greenhouse gases amongst others; gross irresponsibility of the people andgovernment is a major causative factor.
On the one hand, some people, especially those who live close to waterways, are fond of a bad attitude to dumping refuse in the waterways, anticipating that rain will eventually flush it away. This tendency will create bottleneck and obstruction in the waterways, preventing free flow. Hence, flood as water must flow irrespective of the blockage. Government, on the other hand, is grossly found wanting in sensitisation and enlightenment of stakeholders – traders, market women, people in the grassroots, among others, on flood prevention. The Ministry of Environment should constantly be placing jingles on local radio and television to enlighten the public on the effect of disregard to environmental law and blocking of drainages and pronounce penalty for offenders. In addition, government has the responsibility to fundamentally intervene in prevention of floods. A lot could be learnt from the erstwhile Governor of Osun and now Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola floods special intervention when Osun was under his watch.
Before his emergence, Osun had always witnessed terrible and devastating floods. Immediately after he recruited 20,000 youths through Osun Youth Empowerment Scheme (OYES) to commemorate his first 100 days in office, Aregbesola second major intervention was flood and erosion control. He expanded Rasco River around Oke-fia, Osogbo, with reinforced retainer and concrete channelization of about 12 meters wide and 2.5 meters high to pave way for smooth control and flow of water. Buildings and shops built around this waterway and very close to the river were separated. Bigger bridges which correspond with the wider range of water path to control huge volume of water, triple cell bus culvert with each of the cells constructed to specification of 2.5 meters wide and 3 meters high, were built.
He didn’t stop there. Aregbesola’s dredging machine worked annually before the commencement of downpour to cover about 75km waterways in Esimirin, Agbara, Opa, Gbalefefe, Ogboku, Osun streams in Ile-Ife. 30km dredging was done in Ipetu-Ijesa, Ejigbo, Yakooyo, Ipetumodu, Asipa, Ikirun, Iragbiji, Ede and Igbajo. Streams and rivers in Ikire, Iwo, Ode-Omu, Ilesa were not exempted.
Little wonder that Aregbesola tenure did not witness floods. It is not a rocket science. Once the waterways are expanded where necessary with no obstruction to water flow, flood is tackled. We don’t need a chief executive to be paying visit to floods ravaged areas and commiseration to the victims of floods and promising relief materials once the needful is done. Politicians should stop playing politics with peoples’ lives, property and livelihood. Floods don’t happen in a jiffy; governments have always been alerted by concerned institutions.
The Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) had earlier warned countries in the River Basin – Nigeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroun, Chad, Cote D’Ivore, Guinea, Mali and Niger – of necessary action to avert the impending danger. Again, Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NiMet) had warned of expected rainfall which could lead to flash floods to commence from August, 2021 in 34 out of 36 states in Nigeria.Based on this warning signal, Lagos State Government had asked residents of low lying areas to relocate without provision of an alternative temporary location.
In Osun, the heavy downpour of 3rd August 2021 wrecked havoc on the residents as two persons in Oke-Onitea and Okejetu lost their lives with property worth millions of Naira destroyed. In fact, about 25 meters of the perimeter fence of the Government House was not spared as it collapsed. All the sand beneath the rail track at power line was eroded, leaving the track line suspended in the air. Reason for this is not farfetched. The present government has refused to continue with Aregbesola legacy of annual dredging of rivers and streams long before raining season.
Those who lost their loved ones have been put in irreparable pain and loss. The rains are far from over in 2021. Government should quit negligence and become proactive in its commitment to its core responsibility – protecting lives and property of the people- by taking the bull by the horn to avoid repeats of disasters. Power beckons responsibility.