Issues With Flood Disaster Management In The South-South | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Issues With Flood Disaster Management In The South-South

Posted: Sep 23, 2015 at 12:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Bob MajiriOghene Etemiku

In spite of all the relief materials and the effort by NEMA to provide palliatives to persons affected by floods, why are we still unprepared if the floods actually come to sack us in November? Why are we still using temporary structures like primary and secondary schools and open fields as mass shelters for affected flood victims?

The answer to that question comes from another interaction with NEMA itself. One, the Agency is seriously under-staffed. For instance, the South-South Zonal Office domiciled in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, and which should take care of Delta, Edo, Akwa-Ibom, Rivers and Ondo States has only 26 members of staff as full-time employees. When there are disasters or emergencies, NEMA relies more on ad-hoc staff, volunteers and a miscellaneous team of security and health personnel who fall over one another trying to be in charge. According to a report by NEMA, planning for disaster management is usually bogged down by issues of bureaucratic bottlenecks, inadequate number of skilled State Environmental Management Authority (SEMA) personnel, absence of Local Emergency Management Committees (LEMCs), inadequate Logistic supports, lukewarm attitudes from some stakeholders, unruliness of camp residents and inadequate security of camp officials. One of the participants at that workshop told me in very measured tones that in some very nasty cases, this assorted army of disaster managers fights over who should be in charge of the food, beddings and medicine for the affected persons.

Another thing we should consider as the floods approach is that in nearly all the local government areas in the South-South, there are no LEMCs –– to be made up of the stakeholders – ordinary people of the affected communities. Therefore, we find ourselves saddled with a situation where everyone runs to the NEMA if a waterway is blocked in Agadama or in Iguobazuwa or in Umuofia.  Disasters and emergencies can be categorized in three – the minor, major and catastrophic, and nearly along the same lines as there are three tiers of government – the local, state and national. We cannot be asking for NEMA if a waterway is blocked by human induced or man-made circumstances in a village in Ughelli or Oshogbo. That should be the responsibility of SEMA, working closely with the local government officials. This year alone, three years after the 2012 flood, the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, has issued nearly 3 warnings of impending floods in the Niger Delta. In one of those warnings, NEMA said that between August and November, Cameroonian authorities would release excess water from the Lagdo Dam. If we recall, the 2012 flood disaster was attributed to the release of excess water from that same dam. What the SEMA people should be doing now is set up a crack public enlightenment team in conjunction with the local authorities, to educate people in high risk flood areas.

Part III of the NEMA Act, 1999 mandates State Emergency Management Agencies, SEMAs, to create a local LEMC to respond to any disaster within the State and seek assistance from the Agency if it deems fit in each circumstance. That part of the Act also mandates the SEMAs to carry out disaster management activities in the state as may from time to time be recommended by the Agency of the state Committee. And indeed, why the state governments across board are unwilling to set up these local emergency committees in the face of several warnings from NEMA beats the imagination.  Information available from NEMA indicates that if there’s another flood in a state like Delta, about 14 out of the 25 Local Government Areas of the State will certainly be flooded. It will result in the massive displacement of people coupled with destruction of property and farmlands, with more than 200 communities and about 137.1 hectares of the farmlands affected in 2012.

Yet as we speak, many state governments have done little or nothing to organize our people to be prepared, to know what to do in case these floods come. It is a foreign government that is picking up the bills for the enlightenment campaigns on disaster management. Shame on us all.