Kaduna flooding may be more about negligence than illegal structures on riverbanks


30,000 people have been rendered homeless in Kaduna state due to heavy flooding. The flood which has now resulted in the deaths of more than 10 people and about 2000 submerged houses. The affected areas are communities mostly around Kaduna’s north and south local government constituencies.

Executive Secretary of the Kaduna State Emergency Management Agency, Ezekiel Baba Karik, has blamed the submerged houses on the land owners who built their houses along the Kaduna river bank. He also implied that residents clog their drainage system, “some houses don’t have a good drainage system and some people dump refuse indiscriminately and compound the problem,” the executive secretary said.

Governor of Kaduna state, Nasir El-Rufai has always being vocal about his desire to recover government lands from the people as opposed to deliberate witch-hunt through demolition. However, there has been a lot of objection since El-Rufai started executing demolition in the state. Last month, a Nigerian high court in northern Kaduna, granted an order stopping  El-Rufai from demolishing buildings along Constitution Road, Kaduna.

The Punch reports that a resident of Ungwan Rimi, said the flooding was not caused by the rain, as was claimed claimed, but that a dam was open somewhere and authorities failed to alert the residents.

Earlier this year, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) released its 2015 annual rainfall pattern, which predicted slightly above average rainfall for some parts of Nigeria. In August 2015, Daily Trust reported that the Cameroonian government notified Nigeria of their intention to release water from the Lagdo Dam, which was responsible for unleashing mayhem on Nigerians in 2012. The release in 2012 led to flooding that killed 363 people and displaced over 2.1 million people in 30 states.

After the notification, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) alerted states along River Benue of possible flood following the impending release of excess water from Lagdo Dam. Director General of NEMA, Alhaji Muhammad Sani Sidi said the Cameroonian authorities in Garuoa indicated that between August and November 2015, there would be routine release of water from the dam.

“All those living around the dam and along River Benue in Garoua up to Nigeria should be at alert and be ready for evacuation in case of possible flooding”, Sidi advised. He called on the governors along the River Benue, state emergency management agencies, first responders and relevant authorities to alert the communities at risk and prepare safe locations for possible evacuation.

However, in view of this alert, there were no reports of evacuation in Kaduna prior to the current flood.

Is Karik right to blame the flooding on existing illegal structures along the riverbank? Perhaps. According to ‘The Impacts of Urbanization on Kaduna River Flooding’, a 2010 study, the Kaduna River has been going through a modification process due to urbanization. The journal examines the floodplain and flow of the river and suggests that without proper flood protection works, the river will endanger both lives and properties in the floodplain. It advocates for a change in existing flood protection measures, as they cannot put an end to the menace of flooding along Kaduna River.

The study further recommends a working policy for the Kaduna state government which could regulate infrastructural development along the Kaduna floodplain as a short term measure, and construct a channel/watercourse along the banks to shield already developed area from flood water as a long term measure.

On the other hand, damage could just as easily be blamed on the routine release of water from Cameroon’s Lagdo Dam. After all, the dam caused major displacement and deaths across 30 states in 2012. Regardless, making sure instances like these do not repeat themselves requires preventative measures as well as reconstructive agendas to help those vulnerable rebuild.

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