Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Niger communities groan under erosion, floods, lament abandonment by government

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Communities in Minna metropolis are threatened by erosion and flooding challenges every rainy season. In this report, Shehu Umar, takes a look at how residents of the metropolis are negatively impacted by the problem.

Jikpan, Dutsen-Kuran Hausa, Dutsen-Kuran Gwari, Bajego, Fadikpe and Gbeganu, are communities stretching across several kilometres and battling lingering flooding and erosion challenges in Minna metropolis, Niger state capital.

A sign of rainfall is a farmer’s delight but not in Jikpan and environs where many residents including farmers dread the rainy season. Muhammed Bello, a farmer in Jikpan lost all his livestock and a substantial part of his farm to flooding in 2019 after a heavy rainfall.

“After the rain, the flood came and submerged my fish pond, swept away livestock. I lost everything and up till now, I am still yet to recover financially from that incident,” Mr Bello told DAILY NIGERIAN.

Erosion at Jikpan community
Erosion at Jikpan community

Even schools are not spared. Gbatara International Science Academy, Jikpan, is always flooded whenever it rains. Half of the classrooms are usually submerged in water when it rains. The proprietor of the school, Adamu Abdullahi Kura said the flood keeps worsening every year, adding that without the government’s intervention the entire school might be submerged in the coming years.

“The whole school might be under water very soon. Not only that, erosion in surrounding environment and communities keeps deepening and widening due to the washing away of the top layer of the soil when it rains,” he said.

Aliyu Almajiri lives in the same axis and has witnessed the havoc wreaked by flood in his area. Almajiri, who is a victim in Fadikpe said his apartment completely collapsed as a result of the impact of flooding during a heavy downpour in 2019.

Danladi Musa Jibrin, 53, the ward head at Fadikpe corroborates Mr Almajiri’s story.

Eroded area at fadikpe community
Eroded area at fadikpe community

“Government later intervened to provide financial succour to the likes of Mallam Almajiri and those affected. I was instructed by government officials to compile a list of intended beneficiaries of the intervention but till date government didn’t do anything about the list submitted to them,” Mr Jibrin said.

In Hayan-Gwari axis, the story is the same. Umaru Baba, 76, and other residents cannot go to bed with their two eyes closed whenever it is the rainy season.

“Erosion is one of our biggest problems here. Once it starts raining, we cannot sleep again for fear of our buildings being flooded during and after the downpour,” said Mr Baba.

Failed community and government interventions

Community efforts to curb the erosion and flooding problems has yielded little or no efforts. Mr Jibrin said he and other stakeholders had to rally community intervention towards constructing drainages to curtail the impact of flooding and erosion in the area.

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“When the bridge at Kuturiko collapsed, it worsened our flooding issues and we decided to contribute money to salvage our community by constructing temporary drainages.”

Previous government efforts have not brought long-lasting solution to the problem. Sources in the communities confirmed to this newspaper that the last time the communities witnessed major construction works to nip flood and erosion related issues in the bud was in the early 90s where drainages were built. Even then, residents alleged that the project was carried out in a disjointed manner.

“The drainage was supposed to be constructed from the Federal University of Technology in Jikpan to Gbeganu passing through 4 communities, but they didn’t,” said Tanko Marafa Muhammed, the ward head at Jikpan community.

Sources in the community said the reason for this was because the former occupiers of the area very close to the eroded side were hostile to the project.

“They were farmers and they felt the project would jeopardize their livelihoods as they may not have access to their farmlands and water after the construction. They claimed government want to take over their property and make irrigation farming impossible for them,” a source who craved anonymity for security reasons said.

Findings showed that another major government intervention in the axis in 2009 by late Senator Dahiru Awaisu Kuta, who represented Niger East senatorial district, yielded no tangible result.

“He constructed the bridge which linked Dutsen-Kuran Hausa and Bajego community. It helped for a while in reducing erosion issues in the area,” said Muhammed Inuwa Bawa, Dutsen-Kuran Hausa community ward head.

In 2019, some residents alleged that government waited till erosion and floods swept away multiple businesses, houses and properties worth millions of naira before intervening.

“After the flood, government through the Niger State Emergency Management Agency, NSEMA, intervened. They brought an excavator to clear water paths and gave us 60kg sacks to sand fill and stack them up to raise a barrier against the flood whenever it rains. Of course, it didn’t take long before those sacks gave way,” said Lawali Aminu, a resident of Jikpan.

In another failed attempt, residents alleged that government officials from the Nigerian Erosion and Watershed Management Project, NEWMAP, paid a visit to the communities in the axis in 2021 soliciting the support of community heads to survey affected areas with the aim of providing long-lasting solution to the problem.

“We provided them with necessary support and they promised us a lot of things including resettlement action plan. They showed us the engineering design made for proper implementation, and construction of drainages across the affected communities but up to date no construction has commenced,” said Danladi Musa Jibril, the ward head at Fadikpe community.

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Ibrahim Abubakar Beji, 43, is a resident in Fadikpe community. A part of his house was washed away by flood in 2019. He decried the false promises given to them by previous governments.

”Year-in-year-out, its almost 2 decades that government left us in anticipation for intervention. We see officials coming to mark our buildings and up till date nothing is being done about the lingering erosion,” said Beji.

Flooding constitutes threat to achieving global sustainable development goal on climate action (SDG13)

Globally, the effect of erosion transcends the loss of fertile land. It has led to increased pollution, sedimentation in streams and rivers. Degraded lands are also often less able to hold onto water, which can worsen flooding.

According to a United Nations report, extreme rainfall and flooding are some of the main impacts of climate change. Summarily referred to as human activities contributing to climate change, human-induced climate change is notorious for causing dangerous and widespread disruption in nature affecting the lives of billions of people around the world. People and ecosystems least able to cope are being hardest hit.

Despite the obvious impact of climate change in Nigeria, flooding is mostly human induced and exacerbated by human-nature interactions. Poor and non-existent drainage systems are major causes of flooding with many residential areas lacking efficient drainage systems to drain storm water from streets, sidewalks, buildings and other areas. Most residential areas rely on natural drainage channels.

Flooding has been a re-occurring problem in northern parts of Nigeria with communities in Niger state not spared. In August 2021, no less than 1,000 farmlands were submerged and 200 houses destroyed by flood in some local government areas of Niger State.

The story was the same during the 2020 rainy season. No fewer than 18 local governments and 500 communities was ravaged and submerged by flood, with 30 people killed in Niger state. Furthermore, 50,600 farmers had their farm lands with crops submerged by flood.

Government’s reaction

The Federal Ministry of Environment in collaboration with the World Bank designed the Nigerian Erosion and Watershed Management Project, NEWMAP, to address, on a ‘multi-dimensional scale’ the danger of erosion in Nigeria. Under the project, Niger state environment and forestry ministry and NEWMAP tier 3, are responsible for erosion related issues and deforestation.

Efforts to speak with Niger state environment and forestry ministry officials proved abortive. Multiple visits paid to the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Lucky Barau didn’t yield any fruitful outcome as his personal assistant insisted that he was available to speak on the issue.

Reacting to the findings from this report, a top official of NEWMAP who craved anonymity for security reasons said that funds released to address the challenges of erosion and flooding across affected communities in 2014 was mismanaged and embezzled by the previous administration. The source, however, said that a proposal for six sites (including Jikpan to Gbeganu and Rafingoro) were sent to World Bank for approval but only Rafingoro community was able benefit. The source added that affected communities already surveyed are seriously being considered on the next phase of the project.

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“Erosion and Flooding can be a thing of the past if govt is committed” – Experts

Reacting to findings in this report, experts have asked government to prioritised funding erosion and flooding control measures and initiatives adding that erosion is impacting the lives of majority of the populace in the state.

Yunusa Idris is an emergency management expert. He said since erosion and flooding are disasters that can be caused by man and nature, the need for rigorous planning to protect lives and properties against these disasters is paramount.

According to Idris, amongst measures that must be put in place by the government include, planting trees with deep roots along eroded locations, reforestation of degraded ecosystem and protection of existing ones.

To carry out these measures, there must be a deliberate financial and budgetary commitment to the issue, Abdullahi Musa, a financial expert said. Musa laments that the Ecological Fund, a federal interventionist programme has not met people’s expectation in effectively dealing with ecological problems.

“The Ecological Fund has for a long time been seen as a political fund. This means that rather than deploying the funds to tackle ecological problems, the focus is rather on political patronage. Funding is not the problem here but lack of priority and commitment,” he said.

Also reacting to findings in this report, Idris Ibrahim, an expert in risk management at the Centre for Disaster Risk Management and Development studies, Federal University of Technology, Minna, said the risks of erosion will continue to grow due to emission-driven temperature changes. He added that the resulting decrease in land value and human health due to erosion and flooding can also cause huge losses to the economy of the communities.

“Erosion in the affected communities is worsening because residents are ignorant of the recommendations that might help to mitigate the problem which is fueled by climate change. If they know it, then implementation is their problem.

“Government most urgently invest resources in standard drainage system across the state and attention should be paid to places like Jikpan, Gbeganu and other communities whose livelihood is impacted negatively by the erosion and flooding.”

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