June 25, 2024

Central News

at the center of it

Anxiety in flood-prone states as Cameroon opens Lagdo Dam

Cameroon’s authorities have alerted Nigeria to their plans to open the floodgates of their Lagdo Dam, to release excess storm water occasioned by unexpected heavy rains, into River Benue.

This will necessarily cause sever flooding of the surrounding areas of the river banks.

Curiously, this came barely 48 hours after Benue State-born Nigerian minister of water resources Prof. Joseph Utsev, called a press conference to announce that alarms earlier raised of flooding were no longer serious.

Two weeks ago, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) had issued alerts that no less than 56 communities in 19 states and the FCT were in danger of “serious flooding.”

But, Prof. Utsev said at the weekend that River Benue was glowing beautifully, so nothing to worry about. That is why Cameroon’s advisory caused fresh panic.

Already, many states said yesterday they had started taking steps to stem the tide of severe flooding that may result from release of water from the Lagdo Dam, apparently based on the earlier alarm by NEMA which even listed the states and communities to watch out for.

Cameroonian government had in a letter addressed to NEMA, weekend, warned of its intention to release water from the Lagdo Dam and urged the agency to take precautionary measures.

However, states, some of which are on the frontline of flooding caused by release of water from the dam, said they had already started taking steps to prevent loss of lives and destruction of properties.

Such states, including Lagos, Benue and Delta, have also asked people living in flood-prone areas to relocate to higher grounds.

Lagos reacts

Reacting to the alert from Cameroon yesterday, permanent secretary of Lagos State emergency management authority, LASEMA, Dr. Femi Oke-Osanyintolu, assured of the state government’s preparedness to promptly tackle any possible emergencies that could arise from the impending flood in the state.

According to him, the state government had provided LASEMA with 144 units of facilities that could accommodate 5,000 internally-displaced persons, IDPs, in the event of any emergency.

He said: “Lagos is well prepared; s you can see, LASEMA has changed to holistic emergency management. We have moved into improved strategy of clearing canals and ensuring local governments have their local response called “environmental guard.”

“We have met with the 57 local government chairmen on the need to put all primary emergency responders on alert. We are fine-tuning and strengthening our local response mechanism.

‘’We have carried out risk analyses, resource mappings, opened directories in each council to know the vulnerable people in emergency situations, and enlightenment. These measures are geared towards ensuring swift, prompt, and effective response.

“We are carrying out enlightenment and sensitization programmes to get residents prepared across the councils. We are prepared.”

Benue instructs citizens

Benue State emergency management agency, SEMA, has directed residents of flood plains across the state to vacate such places to safer areas.

Executive secretary of Benue SEMA Sir James Iorpuu, issued the warning on Monday while reacting to the alert from the Federal Government to states on the impending floods.

Speaking through head of administration of the agency Mr. Donald Komgbebda, the executive secretary said the agency was intensifying awareness campaigns to get the people prepared for the impending flood.

He said: “What we are doing now is to intensify the awareness campaign across the state to ensure that all those on flood plains vacate such areas.

“We also have plans to take steps to mitigate the affect of the flood on the people but for now the priority is to get the people to safer places.

“Though we also have contingency plans and we will not allow our people be subjected to untold hardship following the flood.

‘’All stakeholders in the matter will be mobilised to ensure that all hands are on deck to take actions to mitigate the impact of the impending flood.”

Gov. Hyacinth Alia recently also appealed to all those on the banks of River Benue and flood plains to vacate those areas.

Delta State may start IDP camps

Similarly, Delta State government said it had taken proactive steps to mitigate the effect of flooding in the state, saying it would not hesitate to set up internally-displaced persons (IDP) camps in the event of any severe flooding.

Chief press secretary to the governor, Sir Festus Ahon said: “We are already opening drainages and demolishing illegal structures blocking the waterways.

“We believe and hope that if we open up the drainages, it will help to reduce the effects of the flood. However, we advise those living in coastal communities to start moving to higher grounds.

‘’As it stands now, if need be, the state government will not hesitate to set up IDP camps for flood victims.’’

Bayelsa seeks FG support

Similarly, Mr. Daniel Alabrah, chief press secretary to Bayelsa State governor said: “As a government we have opened up major canals and water channels.

‘’The governor has also set up a flood and erosion control directorate which has since commenced operations because of our experience last year.”

He, however, urged the Federal Government to take the necessary steps to support states in tackling the menace of flooding instead of just issuing alerts.

His words: “We cannot dredge the rivers because of the NIWA Act which vests such power on the Federal Government. If the government does its part by dredging the Benue and Niger rivers, the impact on states would be minimal.”

Cameroon explains

Meanwhile, the Cameroonian government had in a letter signed by the Director of African Affairs, Umar Salisu, said the decision to open the Lagdo Dam was to reduce the level of water caused by persistent rains in Cameroon.

Cameroon urged NEMA to take immediate precautionary measures and sensitise people of the affected areas to reduce whatever damage the expected flooding might cause.

The letter read: “I have the honour to inform that the ministry is in receipt of a Note Verbale from the High Commission of the Republic of Cameroon informing that Cameroonian officials have resolved to open the floodgates of the Lagdo Dam on the Benue River in days ahead, due to heavy rainfall around the dam catchment area in northern Cameroon.

“According to the Note, it is pertinent to note that when the release of water becomes necessary, the authorities of Lagdo Dam will be releasing only modulated variable small amounts of water at a time in order to mitigate and avoid damages that the released water may cause along the River Benue basin in both Cameroon and Nigeria.

“In view of the above, it would be appreciated if the esteemed agency takes all the necessary proactive steps and actions that will mitigate the damage as well as sensitize the populace living in such areas for vigilance and all necessary precautions.”

Cameroon’s government also urged residents of the affected areas to remain calm and follow instructions of the authorities.

We’re ready — NEMA

Reacting to the letter yesterday, NEMA said the notice is not new, noting that it had since informed state governors of impeding floods, including that from the Lagdo Dam.

NEMA’s spokesperson, Manzo Ezekiel, said it is time for the affected state governors to take action and secure lives and properties, in collaboration with NEMA. He said: “There was a particular letter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs addressed to the DG NEMA and NEMA is the recipient of that publication. The communication is not coming to us by surprise and has not taken us by surprise.

“In our preparation for flood mitigation and response this year, we envisaged that a situation like this will arise.

In all our programs and activities for flood management this year, we had in mind that there could be a release of water and.

‘’Therefore, in line with this, NEMA has written to all the state governments, including the governors of the frontline states that are likely to be impacted by the release of this water from Lagdo Dam.

“So what has happened now is just a way of confirming our programme and the time has come for us to tell the governments of states that are likely to be impacted to match all the awareness information we have given them with actions, so that people that are living along the river areas would begin to have a plan to move away.

‘’Ths is because the release of the water has a consequence of overflowing the river bank, so NEMA is prepared and we have begun preparations long before now.”