Anxiety in flood-prone states as Cameroon opens Lagdo Dam
Some 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 in Cameroon.
According to the Vanguard, the Cameroonian government had in a letter addressed to the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, weekend, warned of its intention to release water from the Lagdo dam and asked 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.
Reacting to the alert from Cameroon government yesterday, the Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Emergency Management Authority, LASEMA, Dr. Femi Oke-Osanyintolu, assured of the state government’s preparedness to promptly tackle any possible emergency that could arise from the impending flood in the state.
According to him, the state government has 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. As you can see, LASEMA has changed from management to holistic emergency management.
“What we mean here is that we have moved into the improved strategy of clearing canals and ensuring local governments have their local response, called Environmental Guard.
“The purpose is to ensure effective clearing of tertiary drainages and environmental gang clearing the secondary drainage, thereby complementing each other simultaneously.
“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 terms of emergency situation.
“All 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.
“The type of flood we have in Lagos called flash floods disappears within 30 minutes and one hour due to improved infrastructure and machinery in place. We are prepared.”
Benue govt directs residents to vacate floodplains, and evacuate blocked drainages.
Also reacting, Benue State Emergency Management Agency, SEMA, directed all those living on flood plains across the state to vacate such places to safer areas.
Executive Secretary of the agency, Sir James Iorpuu, issued the warning yesterday while reacting to the alert from the Federal Government to states on the impending flood, following notification from Cameroonian authorities of the release of water from the Lagdo dam on Benue River due to heavy downpour in Northern Cameroon.
Speaking through the Head of Administration of the agency, Mr. Donald Komgbebda, the executive secretary said the agency is intensifying its awareness campaign to have 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.”
Governor Hyacinth Alia recently also appealed to all those on the banks of River Benue and flood plains to vacate those areas.
The governor, who spoke while flagging off the distribution of food and nonfood items donated by the National Emergency Management Agency,2022 flood disaster in the state, also appealed to residents to immediately commence clean-up of gutters and waterways in order to help mitigate effect of the flood in the state.
Similarly, Delta State government said it is taking proactive steps to mitigate the effect of flooding in the state, saying it will not hesitate to set up internally displaced persons, IDP, camps in the event of any severe flooding.
Chief Press Secretary to the State 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 govt asks FG to come to states’ rescue.
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 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 federal government does it part by dredging the River Benue and River Niger, the impact on states will be minimal.
‘’We need the Federal Government to play key roles. The Federal Government issuing warning or alerts to states is not enough.
‘’You know we do not have the resources to tackle this issue but the state government is currently handling shoreline protection work in some communities. “
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 is to reduce the level of water caused by the persistent rain in Cameroon.
It urged NEMA to immediately take precautionary measures and sensitise people of the affected areas to reduce whatever damage the resultant 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 flood gates 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.”
The Cameroonian government also urged residents of the affected areas to remain calm and follow instructions of the authorities.
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 program and the time has come for us to tell the government of the 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.
Therefore, NEMA is prepared and we have begun preparations long before now.”