Flooding: What is Niger state doing to mitigate future disaster?

One year after flooding affected communities in Niger state, The ICIR’s Mustapha USMAN visited several local governments to examine the level of government preparedness to deal with potential flooding and mitigate reoccurrence.

See also: Flooding: What is Jigawa state doing to mitigate future disaster?


Kushogi

In Kusogi, a community in Mokwa LGA, Niger state, the memory of the devastating floods that forced residents to abandon their homes still haunts them as many lives were lost, farmlands were damaged, and properties ruined.  Despite this unfortunate mishap, the government’s response has been lacking, with no flood prevention measures or control projects initiated in the village.

As of October 2022, residents of this community, along with their neighbours in surrounding towns, were forced to abandon their homes due to the onslaught of heavy flooding. 

Before seeking refuge in an official Internally displaced persons (IDP) camp and makeshift huts, inhabitants of Kusogi squatted in a few houses in large numbers. However, as the flooding became more severe, overburdening even the houses, they gave up and had to flee. 


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Situated in a riverine area, the community had experienced periodic flooding, but this was one of the worst. While it appears that there may be a similar occurrence this year due to the forecast by the Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NiMET), survivors in this community have returned to their homes; this time, they vowed not to relocate even if there is a repeat of last year. 

Some of the reasons cited are hunger, government neglect and lack of basic amenities in their camps.

The ICIR investigation shows that should the forecast become a reality, the community is at risk of losing lives and property as no flood preventive measures and control have been launched in the village – either by the government or the residents.

Yahaya Mohammed
Forty-year-old Yahaya Mohammed who lives in Kusogi was one of the victims of 2022 flooding incident as he lost his property to the devastating force of the flood. Photo: The ICIR/May 2023.

Forty-year-old Yahaya Mohammed, an inhabitant of Kusogi, explained that flood cut off roads to adjoining villages, and they resorted to using canoes for evacuation. The canoes could hardly take up to 20 residents each.

He said,  “It has been eight years now that the government intervened in our plight”, adding that the Hydro Power Producing Area Development Commission (HYPPADEC) visited his village and promised to help the residents in the area with relief materials and fertilisers but failed to deliver.

Kusogi was among the major areas affected by flood in 2022 as scores of houses, thousands of hectares of farmlands, infrastructures and roads were flooded. Beyond the infrastructural damages, many people were reported dead, while thousands were displaced.

The flooding across the country affected 35 of the 36 states and FCT, which Niger state is among. In Niger state, about 35,629 persons were displaced, over 37,000 hectares of land were washed away, and 12 died. 

Ketso

Ketso one of the most affected but no visible proactive measures 

Ketso villageKetso village. Ketso is located in the shore of River Niger, thus prone to flooding every year. Photo: The ICIR/May 2023.
Ketso village. Ketso is located in the shore of River Niger, thus prone to flooding every year. Photo: The ICIR/May 2023.

The absence of effective flood control measures, infrastructure improvements, and proactive disaster management has left residents of Ketso, a village in Mokwa, exposed and vulnerable to future climate disasters.

According to reports and residents who spoke to The ICIR, this village was one of the most affected areas by flooding last year. The entire area was submerged by water, leading to the loss of lives and property.

Another house on the shore of thAnother house on the shore of the River Niger in Ketso village. Photo: The ICIR/May 2023e River Niger
Another house on the shore of the River Niger in Ketso village. Photo: The ICIR/May 2023

The village is close to multiple waterways, making it susceptible to future floods. Aside from that, the village hasn’t recovered from last year’s loss as schools, houses, and primary health care in that area remained closed, thus causing distress to the residents. 

The ICIR investigation revealed that there’s no single project launched in the villages either by the government or the community despite the severity of last year’s flood and the urgent need for resettlement.

The Back view of some of the houses previously affected by flood in 2022. Photo: The ICIR/May 2023
The Back view of some of the houses previously affected by flood in 2022. Photo: The ICIR/May 2023

When The ICIR visited Ketso, the lands allocated to the village for relocation purposes, as directed by the villagers, remained undeveloped, lacking both housing and necessary facilities. The villagers blamed the lack of development on the paucity of funds from the government.

Although HYPPADEC public relation officer Nura Tanko blamed the situation on the area’s inaccessibility, he stated that the initial contractor who was awarded the project left the site and abandoned the project.

However, he noted that the HYPPADEC didn’t plan to execute drainage projects in these communities as they planned to get them housing in upper land.

While speaking with The ICIR in May, he said, “We have already awarded this project about three months ago with the intention that before the rain starts, the project will be completed, but the contractors found it very difficult to assess the areas because of the nature of the place. He abandoned the site, but we mobilised another contractor, who has now resumed work in Muregi and Ketso.”

He also noted that villagers mistook another place for the project’s construction site as the housing scheme was already launched in a place known as the new Ketso and Muregi.

Idris Mohammed, a 37-year-old farmer in Ketso, while explaining the plights and hurdles they went through during the flooding incident, said “When it submerged houses, we deserted village to upland. But when we returned home, our buildings were completely destroyed.”

Speaking further, Idris explained that many farmers took loans to renovate their houses and start afresh.

While appealing to the government, he said, “If the government can not prevent flooding in this community, the hectare upland can be built for us. That is the help that we are seeking from them. It will be the biggest intervention from the government.”

A 25-year-old farmer and the Secretary to the village head, said they have experienced annual flooding for a decade, “When it floods, more than 30 people live in a single room.” 

According to him, in a few months to come, no adjoining villages can cross to this village. The ICIR can also confirm that the only bridge that joins the community to other villages and the outside world has been destroyed by flood. One would need to journey on a canoe to get basic amenities.

“Before the election, I took the village head to Muregi where HYYPADEC flagged up”, Usman noted, adding that HYYPADEC promised to build 50 rooms, but they are yet to hear from them.

Unlike residents of Kusogi, who have remained steadfast about not relocating should flooding happen, Ketso inhabitants claimed that by September, they would temporarily seek refuge elsewhere.

Zhiwu and Muregi

Two other villages affected by the flood that The ICIR assessed and observed that there are no flood and erosion control projects are Zhiwu and Muregi.

Like Kusogi and Ketso, these two villages were severely affected by the flood, leading to the loss of lives, farm products and houses. Residents of these communities who were also displaced have now returned to their homes amidst rising fear of future occurrences.

Mariga

Locals deploy self-help to mitigate flooding in Mariga

A drainage system completed by residents of Mariga
The view of  the abandoned drainage project in Mariga. A project now being completed and repaired by residents of the community. Photo: The ICIR/May 2023.

After suffering extensive damage from last year’s floods, including the horrifying sight of a dead body floating in waterlogged graveyards, residents in Mariga resorted to self-help to repair the abandoned drainage system that has left residents vulnerable to the devastating impact of flooding.

One major concern is the poor state of the road linking Mariga Market to Gulbin Gada, which experienced severe flooding on Monday, May 22, a day before this reporter visited the location. Due to a blockage along its path, water inundated houses and caused widespread damage.

The ICIR gathered that the drainage construction project in the area, initiated by the government, has been left unfinished, leaving the waterways obstructed. The lack of proper drainage systems has further compounded the flooding problem. 

Frustrated by the government’s negligence, the community took it upon themselves to repair and complete the culvert.

Culvert repaired by Mariga residents
The yet to be completed drainage project in Mariga. A project now being completed and repaired by residents of the community. Photo: The ICIR/May 2023.

The flooding affected 1500 graves last year.  Reports stated that over 1000  decomposed bodies were reburied after the incident, noting that mining activity in the region also contributed to the unfortunate event. 

Shafi’u Nata, a 23-year-old residing in Mariga, expressed his concerns about the dire situation. “To tell you the truth, last year’s flood has inflicted damages to our graveyard up to the extent that you can see a dead body floating on water. People have to join forces to relocate graves to safer places because of the water that is flowing.” 

“We are anticipating heavy rainfall and the likelihood of flooding this year,” Nata warned. “Even yesterday’s rain experienced blockages in its passage, leading to the forceful breakage of some portions of the road. If not repaired, we fear this project [abandoned construction] may be damaged from the ground.” 

“As you see, the water that is coming out from the community has no passageway,” Nata pointed out. “Here, we organised a self-help project to repair a damaged culvert by the caterpillar when they were carrying out the work. We have now repaired it ourselves.

Dayyabu Kabiru Maga, 30 years, another resident of Mariga said, “As a community whose majority of its members are poor, we can’t do anything because it has passed our capacity. Look at the size of the graveyard, a poor man can not do anything to repair it, and we have severally appealed for help, but nothing came. Even the Emir had come, we had one of our townsmen as Commissioner, he came and visited the place, we had state assembly members, they all came in fact their dead parents and relatives are buried here, but they did nothing”.

“We are afraid now if another rain comes and floods occur; we don’t have anywhere to go. All that we can do is to turn to God. Look at this deep hole here (Pointing directly to the abandoned culver) that they started work and abandoned it. We wish they did not even start it because it has no significance. They have blocked waterways. Even the rain that fell the day before yesterday has filled up the place because they have destroyed the mini bridge here.”

Shiroro

Inadequate response in Shiroro LGA

Gwada IDP, where displaced persons by flood camped last year
Gwada IDP, where displaced persons by flood camped last year. Photo: The ICIR/June 2023

The flooding incident in Shiroro LGA was not different from other LGA, as about five communities bordering Zungeru hydroelectric power station were affected during the last year’s rainy season. The communities – Gurumana, Palei, Nmachi, Npani, Zangoro, Masuku, and Magani – according to a report, were affected due to the ongoing construction of the power station.

The then Niger state governor also confirmed the incident, noting that the FG made provisions for the affected communities to move to higher grounds. However, villagers claimed neglect in the camp and are returning to their flood-prone communities. 

The ICIR gathered that the Federal Government commenced the Zungeru Hydro Electric Power Project in 2013 — an infrastructure that has now caused the displacement of hundreds of residents who were living on the shore of the dam.

Zungeru hydroelectric power plant. Pc: Niger state govt.
Zungeru hydroelectric power plant. Pc: Niger state govt.

The project, which commenced during former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration at a contract rate of N162.9 billion, was awarded to Messrs SYNOHYDRO Corporation/China Nation Electrical Engineering Corporation Consortium for N162.9 billion.

During the previous year’s rainy season, many villagers from the affected areas were forced to evacuate their homes and seek shelter at the Central Primary School Gwada, which served as a camp for displaced persons.

The camp, which housed people displaced by banditry, was now faced with people displaced by flooding. The then governor of the state, Sani Bello, had said: “We have almost 4,000 IDPs displaced by banditry and the construction of Zungeru dam; some communities have been flooded and are underwater and have left, while they have not been paid compensation.”

“The situation is serious; we are concerned that epidemics can spread. We are making efforts with security agencies as they have been up to the task and have dealt decisively with the bandits,” he said. 

During the peak of the flooding in September-October, some villagers resorted to building makeshift shelters, as the Gwada camp was unable to accommodate more people. 

Situation of the Gwada camp when The ICIR visited.
Situation of the Gwada camp when The ICIR visited.

However, when The ICIR visited the camp on May 22, 2023, the camp appeared sparsely populated. The camp chairman Lado Pada explained that those displaced by the flood had left. “Now they left because they are looking for where they can get food and water to drink. But we that left Kore are in the IDPs camp, and we are appealing for assistance from wealthy individuals and the government.”

Rafin Gora

In Kotagora, projects are half done

One of the projects constructed to mitigate the effect of flooding
One of the projects constructed to mitigate the effect of flooding

To assess the government’s proactiveness in preventing flooding, The ICIR visited Rafin Gora, a community affected by flood in Kontagora. 

Findings revealed that to mitigate the effect of flooding, Niger state government initiated a project in the area late last year, which lasted to early this year. There were constructions of a substantial drainage system, waterways and culverts in one of the places that leads to the village.

Culvert built to mitigate flooding
Culvert built to mitigate flooding

The ICIR was unable to ascertain the contractor’s identity, as there were no signboards or project offices.

There are two major routes through which water enters the community, and the government has taken measures to address one of these routes.

However, the other waterway remains a significant concern for the residents, as previous flood incidents have already widened it.

Other waterway yet to be addressed by the state government
Other waterway yet to be addressed by the state government

The ICIR gathered that Niger State Executive Council in 2020 approved the continuation of the construction of drainage channels in the Minna metropolis and the extension of a similar project in Kontagora to avoid flooding.

The then commissioner for Works and Infrastructural Development, Ibrahim Mohammed Panti, explained that the Minna metropolis drainage construction work was paused due to some challenges beyond the control of the contractor which was awarded last year at the cost of over N1.4billion, adding that a similar project in Kontagora has been extended with the additional cost of N635.3million.

Speaking on the intervention received from the government, a 40-year-old Rafin Gora resident Bilyaminu Ango explained that although both the state and local government have attended to some of their needs, he still wished they could do more.

He said, “Government did their best, especially our state government and local government and also the elected governor sent his people to check the place last month. But I still appeal to the government to help us and execute another project in our community, especially the remaining waterway. Because they only contracted one area, and we want them to help us with more culverts in the village.”

Another drainage system in Rafin Gora
Another drainage system in Rafin Gora

Beyond losing houses, property and farm products, Yunusa Kabiru, 49 years old, lost two children and one sibling to the flood last year when the flood hit the community.

When asked if he is planning to relocate this year, he said, “We are going to relocate because even now we are preparing to relocate. Yes, we have intervention from the government; even the governor visited us more than two times and helped us. They helped us with a culvert and a drainage system at the back of our village.”

Flood prevention in Niger state and FG’s Budget

As the flood caused many untold effects last year, the Federal Government under the administration of Muhammadu Buhari took a step towards preventing the flood by budgeting a sum of N43.7 billion out of the approved N49.7 billion for the capital expenditure of the federal ministry of environment. 

The FG reported that the amount is a 141.6 per cent increase on the sum of N18.1 billion budgeted for erosion and flood control in 2022. In the budget, the ministry is allocated N86.4 billion for personnel, overhead and capital development fund for the entire 2023.

Also, the National Assembly directed a committee to introduce N200 billion in the budget for ecological funding under the Presidency to prepare and plan further ahead for recurrent floods. This development is to prevent flooding nationwide and prepare a lasting solution to the climate problem. 

Similarly, the Niger state earmarked 2.4 billion towards erosion and flood control in their 2023 budget. The projects as nominated by Niger government are the provision of 2no Hilux Vans and 30no motorcycles for Forest Protection Enforcement (statewide) at a contract amount of (N90,000,000.00) distillation of mega drainages and Water-ways in Minna, Suleja, Bida, Kontagora and New Bussa at a contract amount of N20,000,000.00 in Borgu and Agro-climatic resilience activities for semi ARID landscape project (statewide) at N2,327,480,000.00.

Meanwhile, efforts to check other flood-related projects using the Niger state Open Contracting Portal proved abortive as the state failed to upload all the 2023 projects under the Ministry of Environment and Forestry.

The ICIR further checked whether the state government procured flood-related projects in 2021 and 2020 under the same ministry but got no result. Checks by the Ministry of Water Resources and Development and Ministry of Local Government, Community and Development Chieftaincy Affairs to see if the government takes an approach from the Local Government position also showed no result.

Ecological fund from FG and alleged corruption

Dataphyte report shows that 36 states received a total of N64.417 billion as ecological funds between 2021 and 2022. The report noted that the Niger state government got N1,395,465,315 as the ecological fund to mitigate the effects of climate change within that period.

The Ecological Fund is an intervention fund by the Federal Government of Nigeria to address the multifarious ecological challenges in various communities across the Country.

Data for the National Bureau of Statistics shows that Niger state’s ecological fund in December 2022 was N71.8 million. The amount was part of the N1.44trn disbursed by the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) to the three tiers of government in January 2023 from the total revenue generated in December 2022.

However, several reports indicated corruption and mismanagement of money in using the fund. Earlier in 2023, the former president challenged the state governors to account for all the allocated ecological funds in the past years.

Affected residents need to exercise patience – HYPPADEC

The HYPPADEC spokesperson Nura Tanko, while responding to some of the findings by The ICIR, said the commission is doing its best and needs to prioritise the most hit communities. 

“As you know, this problem has accumulated for over five decades, and these communities are dealing with socioeconomic and ecological challenges. Addressing it to the satisfaction of the people going by their expectations is not a day or two days job. We are just two years old,” he said.

“Resources also matter in addressing this issue. I can tell you we have actually done our best, and where people are not satisfied with what we are doing, all they need to do is to exercise patience. We can’t rise up in one day and address all the issues.”

“We are sure that we experienced last year no matter the amount of torrent flood, we aren’t going to experience it again. We have re-channelled the water, and we constructed dykes to prevent it from cutting off the road.”

When asked about Ketso and Muregi, he said, “For Ketso and Muregi communities, our plan is not to provide ecological intervention within the existing community, our plan is to relocate these people to where the state government has provided for their relocation and as I speak with you, construction of houses for their relocation has started in a place identified by the state government where the government constructed a clinic and palace for the district heads.”

“For Mariga, as we address these things in batches, it will get to them. We can’t address all this problem overnight because of resources and the number of communities we operate in the six states.”

Speaking on the Hydro Electric Dam project in Shiroro LGA, Tanko said communities in that area have enjoyed the commission’s intervention, which is in contrast to what The ICIR  reporter gathered on the field. 

“For the Hydroelectric dam, the communities I can tell you about have been enjoying our intervention because we consider them as HYPPADEC communities. Controlling ecological problems is the most expensive project. Flooding is a problem, and it comes with another problem. Whenever there’s flooding, people usually suffer access to potable water and construct boreholes for them.  We are also planning to move them.” 

When asked about the idea of dredging River Niger, he explained that the idea is not an easy task, and the Federal government cannot take the challenge currently. 

The managing director of HYPPADEC, Abubakar Yelwa, had earlier noted that to dredge River Niger, River Benue, and River Kaduna, the Federal Government will have to spend over $20 billion.

The HYPPADEC boss, unfortunately, stated that the process will be difficult for the federal government to handle without intervention from international donor agencies.”

Need for urgent policy coherence in Nigeria

The team lead of GIFSEP, who is also the Africa Regional Coordinator Citizens Climate International, David Mike Terungwa, said there is no policy coherence on flood management in Nigeria. 






     

     

    “There is no one single policy on flood management in Nigeria. Different agencies of Government work on flood and flood-related issues. The Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency is saddled with the responsibility of providing the flood outlook of the country.  The federal and State Governments have the National Emergency Management Agency and the State Emergency Management Agency, respectively. These agencies have more to do with disaster response than prevention. There is, therefore, an urgent need for a policy coherence in respect to flood management and control policy. Programmes and plans integration exist usually between the three tiers of government federal-to-states and states-to-local governments.”.

    He also stressed that lack of land use planning and enforcement of sustainable land use and urban planning laws affect flood control.

    He said, “There is also the lack of early warning systems and downscaling of flood risk and seasonal rainfall predictions. The annual predictions made by NIMET are not downscaled enough to the vulnerable communities. There is also the lack of proper awareness and public sanitisation on climate change and its associated risk such as floods.” 

    He added that  “effective Cooperation and collaboration among relevant Government agencies is key to solving this problem. There is an urgent need to form an intergovernmental agency both at the federal and the state levels that will work beyond the provision of relief materials alone but focus on prevention. This is a combination of awareness, relocation of people from flood plains etc.  It is very important to involve stakeholders from the community; the state and local governments have a huge role to play.”

    Usman Mustapha is a solution journalist with International Centre for Investigative Reporting. You can easily reach him via: [email protected]. He tweets @UsmanMustapha_M

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