Flood illustration by Houssem Zouaghi.

Nigeria faces worst floods in a decade — restricting gas and food production

The recent flooding across Nigeria has spread to the south, disrupting gas production and cutting off gas supplies to Nigeria LNG Ltd., the country’s largest gas producer. The flooding has hobbled gas exports to Europe as well, as the states struggle to replace Russian exports. 

Thousands of square kilometers of farmland — roughly the size of Rhode Island — are also completely submerged, worsening ongoing food shortages across the nation. 

“These floods act as a misery multiplier and are the final straw for communities already struggling to keep their heads above water,” said Chris Nikoi, the UN World Food Program’s regional director for Western Africa.

This is the worst flooding the West African nation has seen in a decade.

“I was witness to the serious flooding in 2012,” said Goodness Dickson, the Chief Executive Officer of Eco Clean Active Initiative. “Now, the flooding is even worse. This time around, the water is so deep and so high that it covers houses and structures unlike 10 years ago. The water had a limit back then, but not anymore.”

Since September, the climate disaster has killed over 600 people, injured more than 2,400, displaced 1.4 million residents and destroyed more than 200,000 homes, said Sadiya Umar Farouq, Nigeria’s minister of humanitarian affairs and disaster management, at a recent press conference.

The flooding has already impacted about 27 of Nigeria’s 36 states. Nigeria’s meteorological agency has warned that flooding could continue until the end of November in some states, including Anambra, Cross Rivers and Bayelsa.

While Nigeria is used to seasonal rainfall and flooding, this year has been much worse than usual due to to climate change. 

“Climate change is real, as we are yet again discovering in Nigeria,” Matthew Schmale, the United Nations’ humanitarian coordinator for Nigeria, said during a press briefing last week. 

Rising temperatures have prompted evaporation to linger in the atmosphere, leading to more frequent and severe rainfall events and drought conditions. 

In fact, Dickson said that there are two main factors driving this flooding: the change in rainfall due to climate change and poor infrastructure.

“The government needs to implement proper urban planning,” Dickson said. “We have seen houses built on waterways and flooding-prone areas. We also need a proper plan in place to move people in flood-prone areas as well as those who are displaced due to the flooding and have already lost their land and properties.”

The emergency release of excess water from the Lagdo dam in Cameroon, which neighbors Nigeria, also contributed to the flooding. The construction of the dam started in 1977 and was completed in 1982. Cameroon and Nigeria had an agreement to build two dams, so that when water was released from the Northern Cameroon dam — the Nigerian dam, the Dasin Hausa dam in Adamawa State, would absorb the shock and contain it from causing severe floods.

However, the Nigerian government has yet to finish the dam project. As a result, when the Cameroonian government releases excess water from the Lagdo dam, northeastern states undergo flooding. 

Farouq said that despite a few warnings, state and local governments failed to take proper action to prepare for the floods. In her speech, she urged communities and regional governments to prepare for more rainfall and to assist residents in relief efforts.

“We are calling on the respective State Governments, Local Government Councils and Communities to prepare for more flooding by evacuating people living on flood plains to high grounds, provide tents and relief materials, fresh water as well as medical supplies for a possible outbreak of water-borne diseases,” Farouq tweeted Sunday.

However, to mitigate further flood damage, Nigeria has put its National Flood Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan in place, hoping to improve upon its flood response efforts. A delegation organized by the ministry will be visiting state governors across the country to suggest strengthening states’ flood response mechanisms, as well.

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