About 3pm on Sunday July 12, 2011, I was chatting with my sister Ubadi when she told me how the rain in Lagos had been on since morning. Another friend Ogechukwukamma suddenly updated her status to “This decoder, pls you just have to work”. It was the Bigbrother Africa most anticipated eviction show because one of our Favourite Karen Igho (she ofcos won) had refused to replace herself with a housemate , putting herself up for possible eviction. Thanks to the rain, I gave real time update on the eviction show to over 10 friends based in Lagos.
We all did not know the magnitude of the damage caused by the rain till pictures started flying around. Pictures of immense suffering and serious destruction. We heard stories of missing people, flooded homes,vehicles with people in them drowning in the canal, collapsed buildings killing women and children etc. I had the story of a top business executive who got drenched and his jeep inundated as he drove home. He 1st noticed his windows wind down like some invincible hands were controlling them. He tried to get them back up but nothing was working and soon the vehicle stopped. His God had mercy on him as he gathered enough energy to swim through the dirty water to safety. He survived the ordeal. The next day, he called an environmentalist friend of mine to tell his story and ended with “Now I believe this your climate change story. what can we do about it”. The next day, children missed school as they were asked to stay home. Workers also stayed home. Nigeria lost lives and money on that day.
As a vulnerable state, flooding isn’t all time new to Lagosians, but this was totally all time extreme.The flood left about 25 people dead including 11 children and millions of property destroyed in Lagos.
And trust Nigerians, they refused to be unhappy. Funny messages were shared. “Land in Lekki for sale. N200,000.00. Hurry before it disappears under the flood”, “Flood above knee level. Who has seen Aki and Pawpaw”, “Wife found naked in neighbors bedroom says flood carried her into the room”. Some gradually laughed the pain away, but those most affected in Lagos , Kano and Kaduna would need years to recover from the trauma or may never recover from the death of a loved one.
Good news came on Tuesday August 2, 2011, when the federal government launched an automated Web-based Flood Early Warning System (FEWS) to mitigate and control incessant flooding in the country.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim, at the launch of the new technology in Abuja, stated that annual flooding experienced in most parts of the country have caused agonising human suffering and destruction of residential, agricultural, huge economic and industrial resources.
The automated Web-based Flood Early Warning system is designed to forewarn on the likelihood of flooding, thereby providing effective solution that will not only enhance the operations of relevant institution but has very high potential of reducing flood damage.
Uncontrolled urban and rural development, without adequate knowledge of the negative consequences of human activities, coupled with inadequate provision of drainage and canals for solid and liquid waste etc are largely responsible for these disasters.
Hadiza Ibrahim Mailafia, Minister of Environment, stated that the recent floods and their devastating effects on lives and properties in the country, especially in Lagos, Kano and Katsina, have brought home the need to put in operation effective flood management strategies.
Daouda Toure, UNDP Resident Representative, said the impacts of flood and flooding are usually environmental deterioration, which makes people more vulnerable to famine, diseases, impoverishment and landlessness.
He said poverty itself leads to poor urban planning, with houses built along the water ways and poor waste management that result in dumping of refuse in waterways. This would help effectively combat the effect of climate change for sustainable development, food security and wellbeing of Nigerians.
The federal government through the Ministry of Environment and in collaboration with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), put in place this institutional arrangement and mechanism for the establishment and operations of flood early warning system.
We are making moves to adapt to climate change. We must also make moves to become more environmental conscious as government and citizens. Think environmentally-through all your actions. Development without nature is Disaster.