Why Kogi’s floods al­ways re­turn dead­lier

Weekly Trust - - New - Itodo Daniel Sule, Lokoja

Kogi State has con­tin­ued to bat­tle the chal­lenge of peren­nial flood dis­as­ters with its at­ten­dant dev­as­tat­ing con­se­quences on the so­cio-eco­nomic well­be­ing of the peo­ple over the years.

Flood­ing means when there is an ex­cess over­flow of water on land that is nor­mally dry and it can be caused by heavy rain­fall, hur­ri­canes or a lack of proper drainage in ur­ban ar­eas where there is lit­tle open soil to ab­sorb water.

In 2012, Kogi State wit­nessed one of the worst flood dis­as­ters which led to some deaths, dis­place­ment of over 600,000 peo­ple and wrecked havoc on farm­lands and prop­erty.

The flood in­ci­dent of 2012 which rav­aged many com­mu­ni­ties in the state was mainly blamed on the re­lease of ex­cess water from the Lagdo Dam in Cameroon.

Since that ugly episode, the state has con­tin­ued to record cases of flood and flash floods across the nine flood prone com­mu­ni­ties once the rainy sea­sons set in.

Al­though a num­ber of fac­tors have been ad­duced for the re­cur­rent flood­ing, but one ma­jor one is the fact that Kogi State, par­tic­u­larly Lokoja the state cap­i­tal, hap­pens to be the point where two ma­jor rivers - Rivers Niger and Benue - meet.

The River which spans through many com­mu­ni­ties in the state more of­ten over­flows its banks due to in­crease in the water level thus sub­merg­ing farm­lands and com­mu­ni­ties.

The water level in the River Niger usu­ally in­creases be­yond the nor­mal level due to heavy rain­fall cou­pled with the water that flow into it from dams, trib­u­taries and other rivers.

Speak­ing on the re­cur­rent flood sit­u­a­tion, the Kogi State Com­mis­sioner for En­vi­ron­ment and Nat­u­ral Re­sources, Us­man Ya­haya, noted that the state be­ing a con­flu­ence point of two rivers made it sus­cep­ti­ble to flood­ing.

“We are al­ways prone to flood­ing be­cause of the con­flu­ence of Rivers Niger and Benue. As it is, water flow from Rivers in Mali and other West Africa coun­tries into the River Niger. Even within the coun­try, water flow from places like Kebbi State.

“The River Benue ex­tends from the Cameroon is­lands and flow through Adamawa, Taraba, Benue and down to Kogi State.

“On these two ma­jor rivers Niger and Benue - we have dams. Within Nige­ria, we have three ma­jor dams; Kainji, Jebba and Shi­roro. A lot of trib­u­taries of River Niger are drain­ing water into the Niger River.

“And be­cause of the heavy rain­fall this year, a lot of water has come into the river from the var­i­ous trib­u­taries.

“The dams are also filled up and they have to spill ex­cess water so that they do not col­lapse which would be worse than not re­leas­ing the ex­cess water at all.

“With the heavy rain­fall and the ex­cess water be­ing spilled ev­ery now and then, we down here usu­ally wit­nessed high el­e­va­tion of water lev­els at the River Niger caus­ing it to over flow its bank most of the times.

“The sit­u­a­tion is what of­ten leads to flood­ing of com­mu­ni­ties, farm­lands and prop­erty along the bank of the river. The dam in Cameroon has not started spilling water and as soon that hap­pens, it means the water level will go higher.

“In Kogi State, we have nine lo­cal gov­ern­ment ar­eas that are lo­cated along the River Niger and al­ways prone to flood­ing an­nu­ally.

“As we speak, all of them have been flooded on dif­fer­ent scales but the worst hit is Ibaji lo­cal gov­ern­ment area which is on the low plains. There’s no up­land in that area and so, the place has been sub­merged.

“Un­for­tu­nately like I have ex­plained to you, as long as these dams con­tinue to spill water and cou­pled with the heavy rain­fall, there’s lit­tle we can do to stop flood­ing.

“All we need to do is the aware­ness and sen­si­ti­sa­tion cam­paign on the need for the peo­ple to move away from the river banks and flood plains so we don’t have loss of lives,” he said.

An­other fac­tor that en­cour­ages re­cur­rent flood­ing is the pres­ence of set­tle­ments on flood plains and river banks de­spite re­peated warn­ings and sen­si­ti­sa­tion by gov­ern­ment on the need to va­cate such zones.

It has been ob­served that those who are of­ten times rav­aged by flood dis­as­ter in the state are mostly peo­ple in com­mu­ni­ties sit­u­ated by the river­side or on flood plains.

Most of these in­hab­i­tants who live by the river­side and flood plains are pre­dom­i­nantly farm­ers who de­pend on the water body to earn their liv­ing. Such peo­ple de­pend on the river for agri­cul­ture and fish­ing pur­poses, hence, they would hardly want to va­cate such area de­spite the re­cur­rent flood sit­u­a­tion they had faced.

Some of the in­hab­i­tants would equally ar­gue that the set­tle­ments are their an­ces­tral homes and there­fore would not be will­ing to leave.

Our cor­re­spon­dent gath­ered that one of the fac­tors that en­cour­age peo­ple to ac­quire land by the river bank and flood plains is the fact that such land are usu­ally sold at cheaper cost com­pared to the up­land.

Peo­ple who have built their per­sonal houses in such places would not want to leave de­spite the re­cur­rent flood chal­lenge they face an­nu­ally.

What most of these peo­ple do is to evac­u­ate tem­po­rar­ily once there is flood dis­as­ter only to re­turn as soon as the water re­cedes.

En­vi­ron­men­tal ex­pert Joseph Athana­sius at­trib­uted the re­cur­rent flood and flash floods in the state to poor drainage chan­nels, in­dis­crim­i­nate dis­posal of waste, in­dis­crim­i­nate build­ing of struc­tures on wa­ter­ways and poor ur­ban plan­ning, amongst oth­ers.

“If some­one builds on the water way, the pos­si­bil­ity is that he will block the water dur­ing rain­fall thus, caus­ing flood­ing.

“An­other prime cause of flood­ing is when there are no proper and ad­e­quate drainages in the ur­ban cities and towns or some­times, there could be these drainages but poorly planned,” he said.

On how to tackle the men­ace of re­cur­rent flood dis­as­ter in the state, Mr. Joseph said gov­ern­ment should put in place ef­fec­tive flood con­trol mea­sures by en­sur­ing im­proved drainage chan­nels to al­low free flow of water dur­ing and af­ter rain­fall.

He said flood can also be con­trolled by build­ing dikes and lev­ees.

“One may won­der what dikes and lev­ees are. These are struc­tures built to con­trol flood­ing. These struc­tures are built to en­sure that they block and con­trol river flood­ing, in­clud­ing water surges. What these struc­tures do is to block river water and re­strain the river any time there is flood­ing,” he said.

He also iden­ti­fied build­ing of canals and har­vest­ing of ex­cess water from rain­fall as other mea­sures that can be used to pre­vent or con­trol flood­ing.

NEMA of­fi­cials in­spect­ing a flooded com­mu­nity in Ibaji LGA

Itodo Daniel Sule

A house on the banks of the River Niger, sub­merged in Ko­ton Karfe PHO­TOS:

Build­ings sub­merged at Ganaja Vil­lage area of Lokoja

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