Already struggling to help the many flooded communities around the country, Nigeria’s emergency response agency warned the nation on Thursday that the height of the rainy season has still not arrived and that people should brace themselves for more floods ahead.
The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) is preparing for more flood emergencies, the director General Audu Bida told reporters in Abuja on Thursday but said that local governments needed to improve their preparedness also.
“Emergency management must be seen as a collective responsibility and not just the function of NEMA,” Audu said.
At least 26 people have killed in the last month by floods; thousands more have been left homeless.
UN aid officials told IRIN that despite NEMA’s best efforts to help the affected communities, most of the latest victims have not received assistance promptly. “In all the cases we’ve had so far it’s always the Red Cross that is the first to get there,” said a senior UN humanitarian official who asked not to be named when discussing the institutions the government.
Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau state, where 22 people were killed in floods early this week, has appealed to Nigeria’s president Umaru Yar’Adua to direct NEMA to come to his state’s assistance.
“We are trying to see how we can get some more sleeping and other relief materials to ameliorate people’s suffering because right now the weather is very cold and people need food in the various camps,” Jang told reporters after a meeting with President Yar’Adua in Abuja on Thursday.
Jang said there were displaced people camped on both sides of the Wase River and the bridge across the river had washed away.
The floods in the past two weeks have been the worst Nigeria has experienced for several years. And with more rains expected for the next three months the experts say even more severe flooding can be expected.
Particularly at risk are towns and settlements lying close to rivers and streams, especially those lying downstream from dams on the country’s major waterways, including the Niger, Benue, Kaduna and Ogun rivers.
“Dam failure or levee breeches can occur with little warning,” NEMA warned in its latest disaster information bulletin. “Intense storms may produce a flood in a few hours or even minutes for upstream locations, flash floods occur within six hours of the beginning of heavy rainfall, and dam failure may occur within hours of the first signs of breaching.”
The agency said it was working with local authorities on issuing early warnings to downstream communities to enable them to evacuate ahead of any disaster.