Expect more devastating floods in Benue, SEMA warns

Expect more devastating floods in Benue, SEMA warns

The Benue State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) on Tuesday warned that the flooding in different parts of the state this year will be more devastating.

The Executive Secretary of SEMA, Sir James Iorapuu, said the alarm was based on past experience, warning that more than local government areas captured by predictions might be flooded.

Iorapuu, who spoke on the sidelines of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) enlightenment programme on early actions to save lives and livelihoods in Benue State, emphasised the need for NEMA to beam its searchlight on other flashpoints within the state instead of only the high risk areas.

He said, “The warning signals we are receiving in Benue State are very high because what we had during the flash flood was devastating such that almost all the communities in Makurdi LGA were affected. So we should be expecting something bigger this year.

“And the volume of water in River Benue and River Kastina-Ala is alarming. We didn’t experience this kind of volume of water in the rivers last year. So it’s fearful! What we are quickly doing in SEMA towards that direction is that we have already secured life jackets for distribution to those living in the coastal areas, particularly for Buruku  and Agatu as well as those crossing the rivers.

“Other mitigation actions are being taken and we are calling on the communities on river banks to be on the alert. We are also appealing to those living on the coastal areas to leave. It’s not good knowing a lion is pursuing you and you wait until it attacks you.”

Earlier, the Director General of NEMA, Zubaida Umar, stressed the need to focus on effective early actions in order to save lives and property.

Umar recalled the devastating impact of past floods, particularly those in 2012 and 2022, and emphasised the need for all levels of government to collaborate with NEMA to manage disaster risks and associated hazards in the coming days.

The DG, who was represented by Air Commodore Kennedy Mataluwo, the

Director Search and Rescue, disclosed that in recent years, floods had caused significant loss of lives, destroyed livelihoods, and damaged infrastructure worth billions of naira.

He noted that the early warning alerts from the Seasonal Climate Prediction (SCP) and Annual Flood Outlook (AFO) provided by the Nigerian Meteorological Agency and Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) respectively, served as vital tools to mitigate flood impacts, particularly for vulnerable communities.

He said NIHSA’s 2024 AFO predicted that 31 states with 148 local government areas (LGAs) are at high flood risk, while 35 states including the Federal Capital Territory with 249 LGAs are at moderate risk. The remaining 377 LGAs are at low flood risk..

Umar said, “These predictions guide governments at all levels to develop risk reduction measures to avert disaster losses this rainy season. Sectors such as agriculture, food security, WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene), education, health, transportation, and security are urged to set up disaster preparedness mechanisms based on the early action strategies.

“Benue State has been severely impacted by floods in the past, with certain LGAs such as Buruku, Makurdi, Guma, Agatu, Tarka, Gwer West, Logo, Kwande, and Katsina-Ala still predicted to be at high and moderate flood risk for the 2024 rainy season.

“This downscaling initiative aims to disseminate flood early warning and risk mitigation messages to the grassroots level. The event is expected to significantly reduce the impacts of annual floods and safeguard the livelihoods of Benue State’s residents, aligning with the Federal Government’s renewed hope agenda under President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.”

Umar stressed that contemporary disaster risk management relied on community-wide participation, urging everyone to work together to protect vulnerable communities, critical infrastructure, and support uninterrupted socio-economic activities in Benue State.