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Flood – As River Niger Overflows, Fear Grips Plain Settlers

Flood – As River Niger Overflows, Fear Grips Plain Settlers

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Victims driven from their homes as River Niger overflows at Koton Karfe near Lokoja in Kogi State on Saturday.

“Go away, we don’t want you around if you can’t help us,” said Maimunat Hassan, a victim of flood on seeing our reporter approaching her and some other women who sat and watched their homes taken over by water at Koton Karfe near Lokoja last Saturday.

Our reporter moved closer and found out that Maimunat and the other women had nowhere to run to for temporary shelter. The few belongings they were able to salvage were kept beside them by the river banks.

Travellers who stopped by tried to comfort them. Maimunat recalled the last time such displacement happened was in 2012, in what was tagged the ‘Great flood’.

Maimunat said: “We are just here watching because you can see the water is higher than window level of the houses. How can we live there, we just pray it recedes and that government comes to our aid.”

This is the sad reality of the rainy season of 2018 as the Niger and Benue rivers over flow their banks due to the ever increasing volume of water in them. In 2012, River Niger overflowed its banks such that the highway connecting the North and South was temporally taken over by flood.

While many lives were lost both in the northern plains and in the creeks of the Niger Delta, properties of unquantifiable value also went down the water channel.

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and other related agencies have raised several flood alerts across many communities in recent times, warning people of the imminent peril. But like many residents of flood prone areas, some of the victims of the Koton Karfe overflow believed the water won’t get to them only to see that it had reached their place so rapidly across the flood plains.

Asabe Mohammed, a fish seller, plies her trade by the Murtala Mohammed bridge across the Niger some minutes away from Lokoja in Kogi State. She said most of them lived in the area because of their trade and that the river hardly overflowed to their settlements.

“We were surprised that apart from here, the river has taken over about 30 houses in Koton Karfe town. My sister’s home has been submerged just like ours here but they were fortunate, they got some agencies to provide them an Internally Displaced Persons, (IDP) camp on a hilly area,” she said.

Armed with information of the rising water level from the Niger tributaries, Mainstream Energy Solutions Limited (MESL), operators of Kainji and Jebba hydropower Generating Companies (GenCos) built on River Niger, in Niger State, recently spoke on what they were doing to forestall graver impact of flood on the communities.

An official of the Hydrology Department of MESL, Engr Adiniji Adekunjo, speaking on the huge impact of the rain this year, said there were forecasts by various agencies showing higher water level than what was experienced in 2012.

On the Kainji Lake built on the Niger River, he said the lake could take 15 billion cubic meters of water and that the reservoir was 85 miles (about 135 kilometres) long, stretching to Yauri in Kebbi State.

He said Kainji dam began gradual discharge of water downstream to Jebba then to Lokoja since August as the highest water depth for the dam is 141.73 meters.

“When it is over that, we have to discharge the water through the spillway gate to secure the dam from any civil issue. We started discharging early so that it won’t pose any trouble to communities downstream but the rains keep pouring and the river keeps rising,” Adekunjo noted.

The Community Relations Officers (CRO), Ahmed Lawal, said people who were compensated and resettled along the Kainji lake route still preferred to live around the river bank.

He said MESL, through its Mainstream Foundation has been engaging them through Community Consultative Forums (CCF) using multiple media platforms to alert inhabitants and forestall flooding.

The Civil and Dam Safety Supervisor at Kainji dam, Mr Babani Amadu, allayed fears of flooding from the dam as he said MESL used international standards to monitor instrumentations that control pressure and operation of the dam to guarantee safety of lives and properties across Kebbi, Niger, Kwara and downstream Kogi State.

Water level in 2018 higher than 2012 flood

The hydrology expert at Kainji dam, Mr Adekunjo, also hinted that the rising water level this year was more than that of 2012 that resulted in the huge flood disaster across the North Central and Niger Delta.

While urging government and all disaster managing agencies to rise and contain it immediately, he said, “This year, the rainfall pattern in West Africa and the quantity are so much that the rivers are overflowing their banks.”

Adekunjo said for precautionary measures, operators of Kainji lake daily interfaced with the Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research (NISER) monitoring team in Lokoja on the rising water level.

He said the team as at September 13, 2018 had already recorded 21,000 cubic meters of water level at Lokoja which was higher than the 19,000cbm recorded in 2012 that resulted in heavy flood.

He also noted that the swelling level of River Benue, the largest tributary of the Niger River was increasing the risk of flood and urged people to stop building on flood plains during the dry season.

Confirming this on Saturday, Daily Trust observed that water rose above the second carriageway and bridges being constructed near Lokoja as it threatened the expressway.

Ibrahim Ado, a hawker near the Niger Bridge said but for the clear weather on Saturday, the highway would have been taken over if the water did not recede.

In a recent report, Ahmed Mabudi, the Acting Director-General of Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA), allayed fears of release of water from the Lagbo Dam by Cameroonian authorities which would further raise the volume of River Benue.

He said Nigeria has a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Cameroon that the Cameroonians must give a long notice in the event that they want to release water from the dam so Nigeria can take precautionary measures to contain any havoc as a result of the release.

“As at Tuesday (September 11) when we spoke with Abdullahi, he said the water level at the dam was 12.1m, so it has to get to 12.6m before they start any release.

“Yes, we know that there are rising water levels in Adamawa, Taraba and the Benue axis, but this is basically due to the torrential rainfall being currently experienced in the country,” he said.

He urged people living in high level water areas to remain vigilant and calm, adding that the minister of Water Resources, and NIHSA were in touch with operators of the Lagbo Dam.

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