Temie Giwa: And the floods came (YNaija Frontpage)

We are at a crossroads again. Nigeria could choose to do the right thing and engage in building those buffer dams that is so needed or we could ignore it like our parents did in the 80s. We need a series of better weather gauges and a vigilant institution that will track and release water in dams when water overflows.

 In the last three years, thousands of Nigerians have lost their lives and homes, because of the neglect by their governance system. In 2010, 258,000 lost their homes to waters and government incompetence. Over 20,000 folks succumbed to the diseases that stagnant water brings with 1,500 of them losing their lives. A year after that, 4,000 farms and 5,000 homes were lost to floods in the North. In august of the same year, one hundred and two people died and over a thousand people displaced in Lagos floods. Later that year, the Sokoto and Ibadan floods displaced around 150,000 Nigerians with even more deaths and loss of properties.

With all of this, it would seem that national and statewide commitment to preventing floods would become a priority, but this is Nigeria where no one cares about those who die senseless deaths, where history is challenged to repeat itself, and it does, and people die in a constant loop of wastefulness and despair.

The flood of 2012 came with fury, smashing homes and restaurants, destroying roads and entire states. The federal government estimates that some states like Bayelsa are 50 to 70% underwater, and 25% of the population of the country displaced by the raging water. Most people who live in these states are concerned about what to feed their children each day, some of them living on top of huts, and trying to make life work. Health services, schools and essential businesses are completely closed down. Life is so hard in the places that the president had to publicly beg citizens not to commit suicide.

This flood was the worst in decade yet we had it coming, and we chose as a country to do nothing to prepare for it. It is important to note that the most important thing after a disaster is to help those affected and it seems that NEMA, is doing better this time with help coming all over the world. However, as we help the victims of our neglect we must pay attention to all the things we can do to prevent similar flood next year, and the year after that.

30 years ago, there were warnings about the strength of the dams we had in Nigeria and the need to build stronger ones to absorb the excess rainwater. Cameroun, suffering from similar fate, planned to build a dam on the river we shared. Cameroun built Lagdo Dam and Nigeria who agreed to build a buffer dam further downstream, to absorb excess water from Lagdo, failed to do so.

Feasibility studies were conducted, and proposals were written but instead of doing the needful, the Federal Government did something else with all the petro dollars. Subsequent governments were preoccupied with stealing money. So here we are today, a significant part of the country underwater and all the branches of governments they entrusted their livelihoods to thoroughly failed them.

We are at a crossroads again. Nigeria could choose to do the right thing and engage in building those buffer dams that is so needed or we could ignore it like our parents did in the 80s. We need a series of better weather gauges and a vigilant institution that will track and release water in dams when water overflows.

Unfortunately, the NASS has decided to create a committee forgetting that a committee that creates more committees gets nothing done. Committees don’t build dams, they never have. Even more heartbreaking is the fact that the amount of money allocated to buy snacks for the executive branch in the 2013 budget is enough to build at least one.

It is imperative that we focus on the long-term health of our infrastructure, while simultaneously working to make sure that the current victims are cared for.  If we don’t, our children will face greater floods and will become victims all over again.

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Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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