In the last two weeks, Nigeria has been passing through a serious phase of challenge occasioned by the recent flood disaster that has ravaged many communities in the country, with scores of deaths recorded at the same time. The flooding, described as the worst within collectible memory; even worse that the 2012 said to have wrecked unquantifiable havoc in the country, has continued to attract comments and counter comments from within and outside the country.
These comments, expectedly, are premised on what has been the reactive rather than proactive response of the federal, state and local governments, as well as relevant agencies responsible for emergency like this.
It is noteworthy that this year’s flooding did not take Nigeria and Nigerians by the storm. As a matter of fact, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (MiMET), between July and August this year, had predicted as usual, that communities along the coastal areas are prone to flooding. Therefore, the agency warned that those living in such areas should relocate before rains would come. This warning actually came early enough to have armed the governments at all levels with sufficient mitigating strategies.
Besides alerting residents of flood prone areas, the warning came as it did to also prepare emergency management agencies such as the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and States Emergency Management Agency to evolve strategic action plan that can help in mitigating the disaster. Of course, NEMA was set up for disaster management, particularly natural disasters.
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However, the level of havoc wrecked by flooding this year has left so much to be desired. It appears the essence of the establishment of NEMA has been defeated. This may not be in the aspect of providing relief materials as many people might think, but in the area of proactiveness which the lack of it is what has led to this monumental disaster.
Perhaps, NEMA did not take the predictions by MiNET seriously, or may have thought it would, as usual, donate relief materials to those who would be affected. The prediction was for governments, communities and other bodies to take proactive steps so that the arrival of the flood wouldn’t wreck so much havoc as it has done. It was also meant for those living along the river lines to relocate and perhaps harvest some of their plantings at a convenient pace and store them conveniently too.
But sadly, Nigeria and all its disaster management agencies only predicted and took no proactive steps at mitigating what has turned out to an astronomical rate of the disaster witnessed today.
It is on this note therefore, that all the agencies set up by government should begin to look beyond just predicting and warning communities of impending doom in such areas. Mere predictions and warnings are not enough such that emergency situations and natural occurrences can be halted.
NiMET, for instance, whose responsibility it is to predict and perhaps warn as well, should be made to go beyond these mere verbal expressions and perhaps evolve early planning strategy that can help in a circumstance like what we are currently facing. Proactiveness is on it own a strategy that does prevent occurrences. This is what this agency should also be doing.
NEMA too should be equipped to go beyond just responding to disasters when they occur by distributing relief materials. It should, in addition to this responsibility, plan and proactively execute such plans as soon as there are predictions and warnings.
States should learn from this year’s experience. They should immediately establish their own management agency for a time like this. States that have it already should expand their scope to include proactive approaches to occurrences.
Communities also should be involved in this fight. When warnings are given, the thought of how to leave ancestral homes and farmlands should be inconsequential and not considered above human life. Why the country has recorded these unprecedented losses is partly due to the non adherence to the warnings of NiMET.
If all these measures are taken proactively, the magnitude of flooding witnessed this will never occur again in the country. Nigeria must learn to be proactive, rather than reactive.