Humanity and urban disaster have a complicated history. However, as humans continue to grow and expand across new spheres, urban disasters and risks also become an issue worthy of attention. But advancements in technology, industrialization, and globalization have reignited humans’ commitment to safety and survival during natural disasters.
But extreme climate change has raised new debates on the survival of humans and animals across the globe during disasters. In many countries, storms, rising sea levels, drought, warming oceans, and flooding are wreaking havoc, displacing millions of people, and destroying homes. While there have been global efforts to protect cities from climate change, it seems most Nigerian cities are still not prepared for the far-reaching effect of climate threats.
Here’s a closer look.
A look at the reality
With recent developments, the vulnerability and susceptibility to disaster in most of the country’s hazard-prone regions have been brought to light. In the North-East and North Central regions, the country’s food basket states – Benue, Kogi, and other states — have been submerged after the River Niger overflowed. Towns and villages along the Kogi coastal lines are still counting their losses while the flooding continues to spread to more states, like Delta, Anambra, and Nasarawa, in the country. For more than a week, Nigeria’s North Central region which has been a food production centre for the country has been drowning. It is a region that has sought fame in its fertile agricultural land. It is now overwhelmed by the uncontrollable flood that has taken over most of its lands.
The current flooding in this region is a largely unknown national disaster to many people in the country, but it leaves Africa’s most populous nation on the verge of food scarcity. With the country’s polity heating up ahead of the 2023 general election, the flooding still hasn’t gained national attention despite causing fuel scarcity, submerging multi-million dollar farmland, and leaving over 1 million people homeless.
Although there have been concerns over disaster preparedness in many of the hazard-prone regions, these concerns have also been tied to the lack of knowledge and awareness of risks by many Nigerians. This has remained a big issue despite the country’s increased advocacy on climate change.
A country at risk
Nigeria’s population is increasing. By 2030, more than 60% of the country’s population will be living in cities. As the country’s population continues to grow, so does its environmental crisis across different ecological zones of the country. In Nigeria, the environmental crisis is becoming fluid and broad as it manifests in diverse forms.
Flooding in the country in 2022 has displaced more than half a million people according to the National Emergency Agency (NEMA). The Nigerian Metrological Agency (NiMet) in its September 2022 flooding outlook noted that places that are along the course of the River Niger and Benue have higher chances of experiencing flooding due to their present status. In August, states like Sokoto, Zamfara, Kaduna, Jigawa, Bauchi, Kano, Borno, Gombe, and Nasarawa recorded over 300mm (rainfall), a figure which represents over 25% of the long-term normal of the states in one month. This positioned them for an impending disaster as high-risk states as the year winds down.
The role of national and sub-national governments in combating this disaster cannot be overemphasized, yet, many of the state governments despite receiving prior warnings from the country’s emergency agency did not move a hand in putting in place mitigating measures. This has further cast doubt on the commitment of the government to addressing climate change in the country. With the country on the verge of a food shortage, it is expected that the government renews its commitment to climate change and the survival of Nigerians living in vulnerable areas.