Last weekend, our own meteorologists, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency, briefed Nigerians about what to expect from the weather this year. The Director-General of NIMET, Dr Anthony Anuforom, said that the rainfall pattern in most parts of Nigeria was likely to be similar to that of 2012, however some areas in North-Western parts of the country, which also fall within the catchment area of River Niger, are predicted to have a total rainfall that may exceed that of 2012. These are Sokoto, Kebbi, Niger, Kwara states and environs. He advised relevant authorities to use the NIMET’s updates issued regularly to control possible adverse impacts, while pointing out that the forecast was not automatic as the predictions could change due to climate change. In his words, ‘‘The conditions that determine rainfall pattern over Nigeria have become more variable due to the effects of climate change and global warming.’’
What the agency is saying is simple: Nigerians, expect heavy rainfall, because climate change is affecting us too. This is the moment of truth. NIMET has done its own patriotic and professional duty, it remains to be seen how our leaders will run with the information provided. If great leaders are the ones that look into the future and set the right agenda for their people without bothering to consider the seeming contravening circumstances of the present, then we have yet to have a few here. Forecasts are vital in all aspects of national planning – be it economic, political, and what have you. But things that pertain to weather are tricky; you can have the finest sunny day today, and tomorrow have a ferocious typhoon. This is where NIMET comes in. Last year, its early warning was not utilised, and therefore the nation suffered more than it should when the floods came.
This year, we have been warned again, and I want us to consider the following. First, the Federal Government has to show visible steps it has taken to avert flood disasters. The much that we have been served with are disaster relief programmes and no concrete proactive measures on a national level. Granted, Mr. President said last year that the flooding disasters had taught the government and the people a lesson and that we would not be caught unawares anymore; but the question is what has been done so far. Has the Federal Government started work on the Kasambilla Dam? What is being done about the Bakolori Dam in Zamfara State, which has already flooded this year, swarming over 317 farmland in four villages? What of the Goronyo Dam in Sokoto State, which always overflows and causes terrible hardship for people living within its environs? Are there integrity checks on these by experts to ascertain their durability and staying power in the expected heavy rainfalls? Is it time to construct fresh dams? How well will the Ecological Funds be utilised properly this time?
Second, this is the time for Nigerians to imbibe agricultural insurance culture as an adaptation strategy against climate change. Last year, farmers were committing suicide in their numbers because they lost hope in life, having watched as their farms and life’s work were washed away. Take for example during this January’s flooding in Sokoto from Bakolori Dam, which affected Raha, Gigane, Tsamiya and Dan’Ali villages, it was reported that the 317 farmland affected belonged to about 206 irrigation farmers; their assorted farm produce were washed away. You can imagine the tediousness of irrigation farming, and the financial implications, then picture the whole efforts swept away in the twinkling of an eye. I believe there is no better time to introduce agricultural insurance than now. The government can do it. Our farmers need this more than they need telephones. They need to have hope and a fall-back mechanism even when disaster strips them of all they have.
Third, NIMET as an agency has to go beyond just warning Nigerians; it has to incorporate climate change into its periodic warning just as it is now becoming the practice in the western world. I am glad that the agency has introduced zonal SRP in order to reach the grass roots. However, it needs to incorporate tips on how to tackle climate change and other environmental challenges into its local forecasts, preferably in the language these locals will understand. This calls for raising the capacity and the institutional structure of NIMET to meet emerging global environmental best practices.
Fourth, the state governments and the general public are required to create water disposal infrastructure, in order to prepare for urban flooding and gully formations in erosion-prone regions. State governments must take concrete steps as a matter of urgency to avoid flooding across the states. The NIMET warning should be viewed from the prism of a “worst case scenario”, therefore each state must stand up to face the unfamiliar. Knowing how freaky the weather has become as a result of global warming, the North-western states mentioned in the NIMET report might just turn out to become a metaphor for general disaster warning for all Nigerian states. What is more, Nigerians must keep their environment clean and avoid indiscriminate dumping of materials and refuse, no matter how little, because these will block the water ways.
Finally, the buck stops on the table of the number one citizen of our country. Just like Eisenhower (by the way, he later became the 34th President of the US) listened to his met-men and made history, the prediction of a ravaging rainfall should be enough red light to President Goodluck Jonathan to sign the Climate Change Commission Bill lying on his table. This is necessary because as the NIMET boss has affirmed, we in Nigeria are now experiencing, first hand, the effects of a warming globe and climate change. Therefore, we need a comprehensive, policy-driven action against this, not just mere disaster management grandstanding in some flashpoints. We need to prepare for tomorrow. We need to structure far-reaching adaptation strategies, which will even attract global partners, and announce us as the giant that we are. We need to be counted in the climate change hall of fame. We need to stand tall in the comity of nations.
Culled from Punch Newspaper
Culled from Punch Newspaper