From categorisation to Intervention: NEC ‘s blueprint for flood mitigation

Nigerians are no strangers to flooding. In fact, in some parts of the country, flooding is an annual event. But the intensity varies from one year to the next. In some years, the effects are minimal and, in others, devastating.

Last year, the floods have caused massive damage, like those experienced in 2012. In 2022, more than 7.7 million people in 32 out of 36 states were affected by the cases of floods.

Thus, the National Economic Council (NEC) has categorised the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, into three groups for smooth handling of issues relating to flood disasters and the distribution of relief materials to victims of floods.

This was made known by the Minister of Federal capital Territory, Mr Nyesom Wike, after the monthly National Economic Council (NEC) meeting chaired by Vice President Kashim Shettima.

He said the states were grouped by the special committee set up by the NEC to assess the impact of flood disasters in the country.

“The States in group ‘A,’” Wike said, “are those with over 15 points, the most affected states are Anambra, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Borno, Kogi, Nasarawa, Niger, Rivers, Enugu, Kano, Oyo, Yobe, Zamfara,” he said. “Those in group ‘B’ those with 10-15 points are Cross River, Delta, Jigawa, Kwara, and Ondo. While those in category ‘C’ with less than 10 points are Katsina, Abia, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Gombe, Imo, Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi, Lagos, Ogun, Osun, Plateau, Sokoto, Taraba, FCT,”
He said that the NEC also directed the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to provide immediately intervene in the states affected by floods.

Of course, Nigerians pray that there won’t any case of flood and, if there were, NEMA will respond immediately. Unfortunately, Nigeria often suffers from two types of flood – the fluvial flooding, which occurs when rivers overflow their banks, and pluvial flooding, which occurs due to intense, heavy rains.

Interestingly, in Nigeria, the two types of flooding are interrelated because the peaks of all the two flooding types sometimes coincide seasonally.
Some of the principal causes of flooding in Nigeria are rapid urbanisation, poor spatial planning and poor solid waste management, including drainage systems being used as dump sites.

Nigeria’s population has been growing rapidly – it’s currently estimated to be over 200 million from 122.3 million in 2000. There has also been rapid urbanisation in the last six decades. Today about 55% of the population lives in urban centres.

The rapid population growth combined with urbanisation and poor spatial planning, make people to build on flood-prone areas such as river banks, wetlands and low-lying areas.

Another consequence of poor spatial planning is that storm water and drainage systems are built that aren’t fit for purpose. In many of Nigeria’s cities, the storm water systems are inadequate to handle flooding peaks. As a result, communities living downstream are sometimes flooded.

Poor solid waste management is a key contributor to the problem of flooding. Often, drainage systems are used as dump sites, blocking the flow of water.

Another factor has been a change in rainfall patterns in the country, particularly an increase in extreme events. Rainstorms lasting up to five days are becoming more common. And it’s predicted that they will increase due to climate change. These extreme rainstorm events cause serious flooding.
Another feature of the country that adds to flooding risk is that it has numerous rivers, including transboundary river systems such as the Rivers Niger and Benue. Poor water infrastructure developments such as dams, reservoirs and bank protection contribute to the annual flooding.
For example, the release of excess water from the Lagdo Dam in Cameroon, which often contributes to flooding in Nigeria, was supposed to be contained by a dam, the Dasin Hausa Dam in Adamawa State. But after more than 40 years the dam has still yet to be completed.

Regrettably, many of the rivers in Nigeria are poorly managed and regulated including the River Niger and removal of vegetation from river banks and wetlands for agricultural purposes are all outcomes of poor water resources management which have also contributed to flooding.

It is needless to say that floods have consequences that are socio-economic, health-related, ecological and cultural. Socio-economic consequences include the loss of lives, emotional and psychological distress and destruction of property, social amenities and infrastructure worth billions of naira.

For example, the 2022 flooding has claimed the lives of more than 500 people, destroyed more than 200,000 homes and left around 90,000 homes under water.

It has also displaced over 1.4 million people. The congregation of people in camps for the internally displaced and their separation from their ancestral homes and loved ones often causes emotional and psychological trauma.

Therefore, Nigeria should address the flooding menace and minimise its effect through a multi-pronged approach. It should adopt a combination of hard infrastructural solutions and ecosystem-based adaptation include the construction of dams and reservoirs to hold excess water, riverbank protection, construction of levees and spillways, appropriate drainage systems and storm water management regimes and dredging of some of the major rivers in Nigeria.

In particular, Nigeria should complete the Dasin Hausa Dam in Adamawa state and prioritise appropriate storm water management regime and encourage ecosystem-based solutions that include reforestation in important river catchments, planting native vegetation on flood plains that have been claimed for cropping and creating riparian buffers through vegetation.

Nigeria also needs to strengthen its regulatory, governance and institutional capacity in the area of spatial planning, regional cooperation on trans-boundary water resources management, emergency response time, flood prediction and enforcement of environmental and spatial planning laws.
Building on flood plains must be avoided at all costs. Awareness raising, education and disaster risk communication and messaging need to be strengthened to minimise flooding effects in Nigeria.

The Nigerian Hydrological Services Agency, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency and the National Emergency Management Agency now, more than ever, need resources and capacities of their staff improved to avert flooding in Nigeria.

Creating an inclusive economy, will Skillnovation programme work?

Access to gainful employment, participation in the evolving digital economy, and socio-economic development of the nation are all at a disadvantage. As Nigeria seeks to carve a space for itself in the global digital economy, the significance of equipping its young population with digital skills should not be abandoned.

Thus, in a bid to support information technology revolution, Nigeria launched a skill acquisition programme. The federal government launched the programme in partnership with another body, ALAT, and the initiative is to be known as Skillnovation Programme.

The initiative targets over three million Nigerians with essential digital skills to help them succeed.

Vice President Kashim Shettima described the Skillnovation as a “transformative initiative” that ushers in a new era of digital empowerment for Nigerians.
He said: “We are compelled to tread this path by the direction in which the world heads, a world of disruptive technologies redefined by the fourth Industrial Revolution. This initiative is a response to the evolution of the modern business environment, an acknowledgment that digital skills have become the cornerstone of economic ease and expansion.”

No doubt, the arrival of the fourth industrial revolution has ushered in a new era of globalisation with significant changes and disruptions across various industries, necessitating the prioritisation of digital skills.
According to information and technology experts, digital skills are required more than ever before to stay relevant and competitive in the global economy, which is now driven by technology.

Unfortunately, these skills appear to be in short supply as statistics show a huge gap of digital skills across the globe with Africa topping the chart.
Already, the evidence of the inadequacy of digital skills is noticeable in the workspace today with many companies facing the challenge of having to fill vacant job positions as there are not enough people with the right digital skills to power their companies’ transformation now and in the future.
To this end, it has become imperative for a sustained investment in digital skills to support the shift in career opportunities driven by digitalisation for long-term economic growth.

It is on this note, therefore, that the Tinubu-led administration should be commended for its commitment to developing the digital skills of especially the youths and, in the process, shaping and properly situating the Nigerian economy for the challenges ahead.

Giving an insight into how the country would benefit from the programme, the Vice President said: “Nigeria, with its expanding MSME sector of close to 40 million, has the potential to lead business innovation beyond Africa. The Skillnovation Programme, therefore, aims to unlock this immense potential. The initiative is designed to provide the necessary tools and skills for our MSMEs to thrive and compete on the global stage.”

The Skillnovation Programme will establish 15 state-of-the-art ICT centres in Nigeria to provide individuals and businesses alike with access to cutting-edge digital training, resources and support.

The first phase of the programme will focus on the states of Katsina, Anambra, Borno, Lagos, Oyo and Kano, while the second phase will include Delta, Kaduna, Ogun, Bauchi, Kwara and Ekiti states.