By Ismaila Chafe & By Francis Onyeukwu
Abuja, Sept. 14, 2018 & Awka, Sept. 15, 2018
President Muhammadu Buhari has delegated authority to the Director-General, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Mustapha Maihaja, to declare a “national disaster’’ in the event that anticipated flooding turns a reality in parts of the country.
Malam Garba Shehu, the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity in a statement in Abuja, said the President’s directive followed a warning by the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency that Rivers Benue and Niger had almost reached levels that resulted in flooding in 2012.
The 2012 disaster had led to loss of lives and destruction of property in some parts of the country.
A letter to the Director-General, NEMA, titled: “Situation Report on the River Flood along the Banks of Rivers Benue and Niger’’, which was signed by the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, said:
“Delegation of authority to the Director General of NEMA to activate the Disaster Response Units of the military for possible search and rescue missions, and
“The procurement and proportionate stocking of relief materials and health related items up to N3billion to provide for the needs of possible victims.’’
The letter also instructed the head of the emergency agency to provide regular updates to the President.
Meanwhile, the Anambra Government has advised people living in flood-prone areas to immediately relocate to approved Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) centres across the state.
Anambra State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) announced within the week that it had established 28 camps across the state for possible flood victims.
In a statement on Saturday in Awka SEMA said the directive became necessary in view of flood already threatening lives and property in coastal communities.
In a statement, Mr Paul Odenigbo, Executive Secretary of SEMA, explained that the decision was arrived at after a meeting with ministries, institutions and agencies involved in flood/emergency matters.
Odenigbo said the meeting chaired by the state’s Deputy Governor, Dr Nkem Okeke, at the Government House, Awka, on Friday based its action on reports from critical stakeholders.
Quoting an earlier statement issued by his office, the SEMA scribe noted that government wanted residents of the affected areas to adhere to the forecast on flooding by relevant agencies.
“People living in towns and communities within the three local government areas – Ayamelum, Anambra East and Ogbaru – should move to IDP centres immediately to avoid impending devastations due to flood.
“Obeying this would enable us to minimise our losses as homes and farmlands are already being submerged under flooding,’’ he said.
The official reiterated the commitment of government to assist the IDPs through the provision of adequate welfare packages for affected persons.
“Already, government has made arrangements for them to be evacuated and camped in some designated centres within the various council areas.
“Residents of the affected areas are advised to move into them immediately,’’ he said.
Odenigbo said the National Emergency Management Agency and its state counterparts, SEMAs, had been alerted for prompt response to rescue those that might be trapped in affected areas.
“The security agencies and other stakeholders have been also notified to be battle ready to assist in the evacuation of people from danger.’’
Odenigbo said that government would appreciate contributions and support from donor agencies, Non-Governmental Organisations and philanthropists to ensure that losses resulting from flooding were minimised.
Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency had listed 12 states, including Anambra, as areas likely to be affected by flood.
The agency said on Wednesday that the water level in Kogi, one of the states, had neared the 2012 level at 10.66m and called for vigilance by residents.
In 2012, NEMA reported that floods killed 363 people and displaced over 2.1 million others in 30 states.