More than 500 people die in floods in Nigeria. The food supply is at risk.
The number of African victims of global warming is increasing. In Nigeria, the continent’s most populous country with more than 220 million people, more than 500 people are said to have fallen victim to the floods in recent weeks, which are among the worst in living memory. According to the Nigerian government, the flooding of the Niger River has now reached a level of 13.20 meters. The most disastrous flooding to date was 12.84 meters ten years ago. At that time 363 people died and the damage caused was estimated at almost 17 billion US dollars.
The flooding is due to unusually heavy rainfall currently falling across West Africa. They are also expected to continue in the coming days, weather experts say. The floods affected 34 of Nigeria’s 36 states. Especially those through which the two largest rivers, the Niger and Benue, flow. According to the government in Abuja, more than 45,000 houses have been destroyed and 70,000 hectares of farmland have been flooded. In the state of Niger, a cemetery was churned up by the water masses and 1,500 bodies washed away, said the governor of the region, Abubakar Sani Bello.
Floods do happen in Nigeria, but not to this extent. “What we are currently experiencing is the worst case,” says David Ibidapo, director of the market research institute AFEX: “It will also have devastating effects on the food supply.” As a result of the pandemic and the Ukraine war, the situation on the continent is currently strong anyway tense. The bottlenecks have already pushed food prices up sharply in recent months. According to experts, the number of malnourished Africans will increase rapidly in the future.
government jointly responsible
However, the Nigerian government cannot completely absolve itself of responsibility for the consequences of the unusually heavy rainfall. The effects could have been reduced by a variety of preventive measures, say experts – such as the construction of drainage systems, better land use planning in rural areas and better urban planning. Nigerian disaster researcher Olasunkanmi Habeeb Okunola complains that the Nigerian government has not implemented any of the measures adopted by the United Nations in 2015 to contain the risk of disaster. These include, among other things, the construction of drainage facilities, their regular cleaning and regulations for the planning of new districts.
Institutions that could enact and monitor such regulations are still rare in African countries – including the relatively wealthy oil state Nigeria – and at best poorly equipped. A circumstance that alarms experts in view of the countries on the continent that are particularly hard hit by climate change. Nigeria has only 87 state stations for measuring precipitation, although more than 1,000 are needed, according to a study by Nigerian water scientist Nelson Odume. In addition to a lack of facilities and a lack of spatial planning, corruption is also blamed for the abuses. Even in cities or areas where regulations exist, they are often violated with impunity by paying small sums of money in bribes, said Adaku Jane Echendu, a lecturer at Canada’s Queens University. Nigeria’s floods are “largely man-made.”
According to the water researcher Odume, even at the highest level, the understanding between states, there is a problem. With the “Niger Base Authority” there is an association of the countries bordering the third longest river in Africa. But when it comes to coordinating the opening of dams, there are regular breakdowns. The Nigerian government has now also made Cameroon’s government responsible for the consequences of the flooding: it had opened the floodgates of the Lagdo Dam, which dams the Benue River, in order to protect the dam from bursting.