Earlier this year, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) released its Seasonal Climate Prediction (SCP) for 2022, alongside a mobile app that allowed people in weather-related sectors to predict extreme weather conditions.
Despite the gathering of sectors, including civil societies to beam their searchlights on the issue of climate change and its accompanied effects, what was missing in the Seasonal Climate Prediction report was the early warning signs of floods across the country and environmental management strategies or guidelines in cases of high precipitation. Also given that it was predicted that when it does occur, the volume of water across Nigeria would increase due to “excessive rainfalls and contributions from external flows”.
While the SCP stated rainfall to be normal or near normal in most parts of the country for 2022, the cases were far different with increased flooding engulfing more than 10 states, with bets off on which region is more affected.
This devastating disaster underscores abundantly the fact that the torrential rains can be linked to climate change.
Going by the intense rainfall, runoff water can no longer naturally make its way into the soil because it has been degraded by human activity. More so, as evident in the increasing temperature; variable rainfall; rise in sea level and flooding; drought and desertification; land degradation; loss of biodiversity and more, these extreme weather events are a pointer to the fact that the ⊂climate is indeed changing and will continuously change therefore the need for disaster management measures remain important to Nigeria.
The year 2022 started on a positive path for climate change in Nigeria; having passed the Nigerian Climate Change Act in November 2022. The next line of action which was the implementation phase saw several programs and initiatives being rolled out to counter energy poverty.
It was clear that Nigeria’s priorities for climate change were mostly targeted at energy which is being championed by Nigeria’s Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo.
While this is something that should be roundly applauded, other aspects such as floods mitigation, adapting to floods and droughts (volatile weather conditions) were not given center stage, especially as every year Nigeria experiences the impact, however minimal or dire in magnitude.
Tackling climate change in developing countries like Nigeria requires a holistic approach to climate related areas (we cannot abandon other areas and only focus on energy). As such, the current floods in Nigeria showed the firsthand experience of climate-induced loss and damage. While specific figures of the impact of the floods are yet to be released, the severity of the floods across states in Nigeria surpassed the historic 2012 and 2020 floods which are mostly used as reference flood cases in Nigeria.
For context, this is the harshest spinoff of climate change Nigeria has witnessed since the 2012 floods disaster.
The frequency in the occurrences of these floods only show the lack of political will for structural arrangements and planning for disasters in Nigeria, including the lack of intervention modalities on infrastructural support and people’s capacity to respond to disasters.
In addressing the floods, most conversations were stirred to the opening of the Cameroon Lagdo and Burkina Faso dams as a major driving force to the floods especially in Northern Nigeria.
Although true, there is need to understand that excess water caused by increased rainfall between August – October 2022 surpassed the capacity of what these dams could carry. The anthropogenic activity of people was also another causal factor. For example, the lack of conserving natural resources due to overpopulation and agricultural needs are not largely discussed. While these are largely impacts of climate change, people continue to remain ignorant of the causes. There will always be climate disasters except proactive and practical measures are taken and each individual gets involved in matching words with actions.
The lagging bilateral agreement between the Nigerian government and neighboring countries indicates that the will to safeguard citizens livelihoods are not taken into consideration since reports have it that every year these dams are opened. The creation of proper drainages and functioning dams has only been paid lip service by those in charge.
To control floods, the government needs to construct more drainages for free flow of water and dams to inbound the water, yet most dams in Nigeria are not completed or functioning. Consequently, these floods drew the attention of international organizations, including humanitarians but for Nigeria, it was a lackadaisically normal and every year affair needing a slow or no response demeanor to endangered regions and people. This continuously proves that the response to floods in Nigeria is anything but proactive and willful and that ecological funds are not properly harnessed across states.
What these floods mean for Nigeria in the coming year. Bleak or hopeful outlook?
According to the federal government, it would take about 30 years of consistent investment to be able to control the current flood menace in different parts of the country. This means that every year Nigerians will continue to face devastating floods that affect the livelihood of people and the circular economy.
In my opinion, Nigeria’s plans to eradicate poverty will be difficult since every year we continuously face the devastating impacts of floods such as the recent awful experiences of the 2022 floods; whose destructive fangs destroyed, unapologetically, the livelihood of people as evidenced in the number of deaths, displacements, loss of properties, food insecurity, as well as trapping people on road transport in affected areas. Let’s also not forget disrupting economical activities such as the recent fuel scarcity which was severe in most parts of Northern Nigeria.
Furthermore, because of the deplorable living conditions in which people (especially vulnerable children) have been condemned into, there has been a rise in cases of malaria, typhoid, and waterborne diseases as hundreds of people continue to seek for shelter in schools and abandoned buildings.
As the effects of the floods gradually wane, the aftermath will largely impact all regions in Nigeria in the following ways:
1. Food Security: As a result of the havoc wreaked by the floods in several states in Nigeria- the destruction of farmlands have undoubtedly disrupted farming activities and also the washing away of maize, rice and crops for next year’s harvest spells doom.
This grim reality means food insecurity is imminent as the level of hunger will be intense next year with limited foods and crops that were only successfully grown in regions that were not affected.
As we approach a close of the rainy season, drought surfaces as an impact of climate change especially in Northern Nigeria, thus inhibiting crop production and predictably influencing the prices of foodstuff to go up. This posits that Nigeria’s goal to achieve the SDG 2 will suffer a setback as a result of the floods.
Buttressing on this, Nigeria’s Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Sadiya Farouk raised concerns over food security following the outrageous flood outbreak. She wrote in a tweet that “flood has destroyed thousands of hectares of farmland, worsening fears of a disruption of food supply in Africa’s most populous country”.
2. Insecurity: With food insecurity and increased hunger on the horizon, the natural consequence would be for people to fight for survival and provide for their families especially in Northern Nigeria which is vulnerable to land conflicts. With the nation still battling to resolve in totality the issue of the farmers-herders’ conflict and the infringement of lands belonging to others, the effects which the floods already pose to farmers would most likely exacerbate the issue of land conflicts.
3. Forced Migration: As people have been displaced and forced to move out of their original settlements, this will increase not just the numbers/population of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) but to other issues associated and domiciled within these camps across all affected states. Furthermore, when people move, they move with a political will to own and control the new place which they find themselves.
4. Inflation: With the current rate of foreign currencies in the stock market, it is evident that we are already facing an unprecedented rise in inflation. Therefore, middle and low class Nigerian families will face the uphill task of providing basic needs for their families.
5. Depression; People have been destabilized and traumatized by the impact of these floods. Some people will increasingly find it hard to adapt to the new situation caused by the floods creating mental instability.
6 Increased cases of water-borne diseases such as malaria, cholera and even typhoid will be on the increase given the squalid living conditions affected people will be forced to live in. It is no rocket science that children who are the most vulnerable will be affected the most. Also, the tendency of the spread of airborne diseases will in no doubt be on the increase especially for displaced individuals.
As Nigeria participates at the Conference of Parties (Cop27) in Egypt, our positions must be reflective of the current and lived experiences of regions and people on the frontlines of floods across Nigeria, and also how to scale up investments to tackle the climate change crisis.
“Our programs and policies must translate into actions and people at the grassroots must feel the impact”.
Without tackling such disasters, removing over 150 million people out of poverty remains ineffective.
Furthermore, in the months leading to Cop27, African countries have experienced the most severe loss and damages.
While Cop27 is tagged as an “African COP”, we most know it can only be fully and truly “African” if the extent of loss and damages in African countries are given center stage of discussions in Egypt.
Since Cop26 failed in dedicating and setting up a new fund for loss and damage for vulnerable countries, as an African initiative, commitments should be fulfilled and the issues of loss and damage must be effectively addressed.
Only then can the true objectives for which this African initiative was set up would have been achieved.