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According to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), ten years ago Nigeria experienced what was called the worst flood disaster. Ten years later, nothing has changed, and nothing has been done to prevent a repeat of the flood disaster, or steps taken to mitigate the impact of another flood disaster. Currently, cities in states along the banks of the great Benue and Niger rivers are going through a similarity of Noah’s experience. Farmlands are flooded and crops washed away; whole cities are completely submerged, in the states of Kogi, Benue, Rivers and Bayelsa, but 2023 is the only priority of our politicians. The ruling class has no real sympathy for the masses; and neither the dead nor the hundreds of thousands displaced. Even lost livelihoods don’t matter. Currently, the deluge has already exceeded the National Emergency Management Agency’s (NEMA) earlier forecast that 13 states would be affected. By the time the spinoffs of Shiroro, Kainji, and Jebba are thrown into the mix due to the ripple effect as expected, the full measure of the disaster can be appreciated.

The situation in Kogi State can only be imagined; in fact, no one describes the state of affairs in Kogi better than the state governor, Yahaya Bello, He said: “The floods have affected the nine local government areas which lie along the Niger and Benue , namely Lokoja, Kogi-Koto, Ajaokuta, Ofu, Igalamela-Odolu, Bassa, Idah, Ibaji and Omala. Ibaji is almost 100% underwater while the rest ranges 30% up. Other inland LGAs also have some degree of flooding from small rivers and tributaries. The current deluge portends great danger to the country’s already dilapidated road infrastructure, particularly in Kogi, Rivers and Bayelsa states. Currently, some parts of the East-West road are submerged, as is the case in Lokoja. The exacerbation is at a level never seen before. The life of most of these roads will drastically decrease, while some will be completely washed away, as is already happening in Ahoada West Local Government Area in Rivers State.

Due to erratic weather conditions, as evidenced by the timing of the rainy season, and a marked increase in millimeters per year, there is no doubt that the country has entered a new era where annual floods are considered upsetting the lives of millions of Nigerians in the low plains along the tributaries of major rivers. The resulting effect will be irreparable damage to the country’s agricultural value chain. Already, Olam Agric has reported a loss of around $20 million from the flooding of 4,400 hectares of cultivated rice fields in Nasarawa State. Olam is estimated to supply up to 25 percent of the rice consumed in Nigeria.

The implication, according to Olam Vice President, External Relations and Stakeholder Management, Mr. Ade Adefeko, is that before December 2022, rice, which is a major staple food for most Nigerian families, could cost up to N100,000. Mr. Adefeko’s terrifying projections, food ignition could head for the precipice. It was triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, amplified by the activities of Fulani herders, exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, and now by Noah-style floods in the food basket states. The idea that a bag of rice that was selling for N20,000 at the time of the 2012 flood, and is currently selling for around N40,000 could be sold for up to N100,000 in the next two months , is an existential threat of unimaginable proportions. .

What about other staple foods? Already, the economy is estimated to have lost about 1 trillion naira in the last two weeks alone, and this figure is expected to rise. Recall that during the 2012 flood disaster that affected 30 states, which peaked between July and October, many cities were submerged and about 400 people lost their lives. In the aftermath the country has lost 2.6 trillion naira so if the current estimate of 1 trillion naira over the last two weeks is correct then no one in government office relevant to addressing the flooding issue deserves of sleeping. You may recall that NIMET and NEMA warned the country about the amount of rain expected this year and the possible consequences. However, it must be made clear that our current ordeal is not due to Nigerian rainfall, but to the Lagdo Dam in the Northern Province of Cameroon.

Nigerians need to know that abandoned projects have deadly consequences.
The flooding did not happen overnight, Cameroonians warned the Nigerian government that it was about to release excess water from the Lagdo Dam, and the Nigerian government also warned Nigerians helpless to leave low planes or wait and die, because in most cases in Kogi, Edo, Benue, Nasarawa, Niger, Adamawa, Anambra, Delta, Rivers and Bayelsa there are no other options. Was the government caught off guard? No. Lagdo Dam has a mummified stillborn twin on the Nigerian side called the Dasin Hausa Dam located in Dasin Village of Fufore Local Government Area in Adamawa State.

A bilateral agreement was made around 1977 before construction of the Lagdo Dam began, and the Nigerian government was to build a dam twice the size of the Lagdo Dam to act as a buffer. More than four decades later, the Dasin Housa Dam remains at 90% completion. Since its commissioning in 1982, the Lagdo dam has provided electricity and irrigated 15,000 hectares of agricultural land for our Cameroonian neighbours. Unfortunately, while Cameroonians have enjoyed the benefits of the bilateral agreement for the past forty years, we have remained the crying child. We continue to suffer calamities from the overflows of the Lagdo dam.

The Dasin Hausa Dam was never completed to fulfill its primary purpose, nor did it add electricity to the national grid or bring prosperity. Unfortunately, after the 2012 disaster, the director of dams at the Ministry of Water Resources, Dr. Emmanuel Adanu, told EnviroNews that the 1982 feasibility study for the Dasin Hausa dam was outdated. He mentioned that a new design was in the works, and if approved, it would take 36 months to complete. He said, “It is now imperative for the federal government to build a shock dam to cushion the effect of the water released from the Lagdo dam. We are already taking steps to do the build and have started looking at how we can improve on the old design. It’s already been ten years and we are back to square one, or even worse. As a nation, our penchant for abandoning projects is unparalleled. It doesn’t matter the scale, importance, level of completion or even the amount spent so far. Ultimately, while climate change has a part in our current plight, much of our suffering in this case is self-inflicted. This is largely due to the failure of the Nigerian government to honor an agreement and do what is right for its people since 1977.

The only role of our government in this whole saga is to relay information from the Cameroonian government. Should we be surprised? No. But we must be aware that after 43 years, and after several military and civilian governments, including Obasanjo, Shagari, Buhari, Babangida, Abacha, again Obasanjo, Yar Adua and Jonathan, and again Buhari, a very important infrastructure like the Dam of Dasin Hausa is still inoperative. In truth, good leaders think many years into the future. They protect the present, but they also take steps to secure the future. It is a monumental betrayal that the bilateral agreement was signed when Nigeria brought all of Africa for FESTAC. Let us also remember that at that time, we heard someone say that Nigeria had so much money that we did not even know what to do with it. But around the same time, the first Governor of Rivers State, Commander of the Navy, Alfred Diete Spief, built lasting infrastructure altering the landscape of the city of Port Harcourt.

Interestingly, the Dasin Hausa barrage was started in 1982, but on December 31, 1983, the coup that brought in Major General Mahammadu Buhari took place. Maybe providence gave him another chance to redeem himself. President Buhari must therefore put everything in place so that even after his departure from office in May 2023, the Dasin Hausa dam is still completed to end the current perennial floods.

By: Raphael Pepple