Pre-Flood Assessment: The State of preparedness of Vulnerable Communities in Rivers State

In the year 2012 Nigeria experienced one of the worst floodings in recent times. Towns and villages were submerged and helpless citizens sacked from their homes. Over 360 persons died as a result and about 2 million people were displaced by the floods that affected 32 states of the Nation[1]. Since then flooding in Nigeria has almost become an annual occurrence with varied degree of destruction of lives and properties depending on the level of the floods in the particular year.

The Nigerian Metrological Agency (NiMet) usually comes up with predictions of possible flooding each year before the rains set in. This is meant to alert citizens and the relevant agencies of government to take proactive steps to curb or reduce the effects of the flooding. But rather than put the necessary measures in place “while the sun shines” to prevent or mitigate losses, the federal, states and local governments choose to wait for the rainy days and subject the people to the inevitability of the eventuality of nature. Nature in its bad day blows no man any good and the regurgitation of the excess volume of water leaves in its wake sad and painful tales. Unfortunately, the few signs of the presence of any government are the usual palliatives of a few food items, drugs and effectual which, in any case, get late to the victims.

In 2020, Social Action continued with its yearly visit to communities in Rives State affected by the ravaging waters and based on its findings reported that government needs to do much more to prevent the effect of flood in these communities which are mainly oil-producing and oil-bearing communities. Recommendations that reflects the suggestions from the communities were published and made known to the authorities with a view to making preparation before the next rainy (flooding) season.

Figure 1 A totally submerged community in Onelga by the 2020 floods

 

In view of the above and for the purpose of prompting the proactive actions of the relevant government and other agencies with the aim of seeking short- and long-term solutions to the problems of flooding, a pre-flood/disaster assessment visit was carried out by Social Action team. This visit was also to sensitize the citizens, in response to the Nigerian Meteorological Agency’s (NiMet) prediction that some parts of the country may experience food shortages caused by drought in some areas in the country and flooding in some others[2]. This prediction seems to be troubling because of the projected impact on food inflation which already stands at almost 23%.

The locations visited by the team include Ogba Egbema Ndoni, particularly the Okwuzi Community, Aggah Community, and parts of Omoku. In Ahoada West local government area, the team also visited Mbiama and Akinima Communities, Joinkrama and parts of Abua Odua LGA. Others were Rukporku and Nkpolu Communities in Obio Akpor LGA.

 

Figure 2 Image of the landscape of Okwuzi during the flood Figure 3 the same location after the flood

 

Figure 4 Community during the flood

 

Figure 5 The same location after the flood.

 

Figure 6 Submerged Buildings during the flood

 

Figure 7 The same buildings after the flood

 

 

OBSERVATIONS/FINDINGS

The following observations were made during our visit

  1. In all the communities visited, there has been no presence of government or its agencies to take stock of the loss of livelihood, farm crops, destroyed houses etc from previous floods ing. According to Chief Desmond Osuoka of Akinima “We have not seen the presence of any government agency since the last flood except for the few packs of indomie (noodles) that NEMA distributed towards the end of the floods” The same was the account of the other respondents interviewed by the team. “The only time we have any promise from the government was in 2018 when the Vice President came and promised that the federal government will dredge the River Niger. We believed him and were very happy because, we thought, coming from a highly places personality in the Federal Government, a solution had finally come our way but now we know better” Chief J. P. Mazi from Odawu Joinkrama bemoaned

Figure 8 The people expected the government to live up to their promises but in vain- Chief J.P. Mazi

 

  1. Villagers are already making plans to pack out of their communities as this is the only option available to them in the face of the coming flooding.

The team met with some women interviewed last year at the thick of the disaster, who were sacked from their homes by the flood. Mrs Joy Enoch, who spoke to the team said she has already rented a small apartment away from the flood-ravaged area and would be moving her belongings by the end of August to prevent the kind of losses she incurred last year.

Figure 9 “ I’ve already paid for a one-bedroom flat for me and my seven children to avoid the rush hour when the floods come”- Mrs Joy Enoch

 

  1. Many families have moved away from their homes while some houses have collapsed due to the floods. Some new building constructions observed are made on concrete platforms about 9ft from the ground in anticipation of the floods
Figure 10 Building ‘sunk’ by the flood in Odawu Joinkrama

 

Figure 11 A building under construction in Odawu Joinkrama, raised 9 ft above its foundation to overcome the floods

 

 

 

  1. The road leading to Joinkrama from Akinima has been eroded by the last flood and poses a great danger to commuters on that road. If no remediation is done before the next flood, the road may be completely abraded and the Joinkrama community would be cut off from Akinima, the local government headquarters, by road.

Figure 12 A dead-trap; Part of Akinima Joinkrama road eroded by the flood

 

 

  1. The people have lost faith in the government’s ability to take any positive actions towards preventing the recurrence of the disaster that has become an annual affair. Most of the community people interviewed expressed their disappointment with the way the government handles issues of emergency nature. Pastor Dandy Gbewa recalled with a bitter nostalgia that “Government have a way of adding political colouration to everything. In 2012 we made several efforts, in vain, to get the local government to come to the aid of our people. It wasn’t until they realised that we have gone forward to act without them that they waded in towards the end of the flood. They infiltrated the committee with their party members and at some points food and other items realised were seen in the open market.”
Figure 13 Many of the provisions realised for the deployment to the temporary camp for the displaced persons were found in open markets – Pastor Dandy Figure 14 Primary School used for temporary shelter for the displaced in 2012, can still be prepared for use ahead of the floods – Pastor Dandy

 

 

  1. The communities all agree on the point that problem is beyond the communities and need the help of the government. Eze Akuba of Okwuzi posed a question back to the team when asked what the communities are doing or will do to avert the kind of devastation they faced last year- “What do you think we can do? This is not a case of clearing drainages, otherwise, we would have mobilised to do so. This is excess volume of water coming all the way from the River Niger. It is beyond us”

Figure 14 The Team with Eze Akuba of Okwuzi and Chairman Council of Chiefs of Okwisi Community

 

 RECOMMENDATIONS TO GOVERNMENT BY THE COMMUNITIES

To avert future occurrences of the colossal loss of properties and lives, the communities recommended the following short and long-term measures. 

  1. The federal or state government needs to consider the dredging of the Orashi River. This will not only avert the emergency issues of flooding but will create massive job opportunity for the youth.
  2. Government should take stock of properties and other belonging lost during the flood and provision made to subside the loss of victims 
  3. Effective sensitisation should be carried out to let communities know what to do in the event of flooding
  4. Emergency camps should be created and equipped to cater for victims in the course of any flood outbreak.
  5. Provision should be made for drinking water, medicines and food- that mostly requires no refrigeration or cooking
  6. The Vice President should make good his promise to dredge the River Niger. This would open up the water bed to absorb more water and prevent floodings. This is among other huge economic and social benefits accruable from the project
  7. If possible, the government should relocate the affected communities who are ready and so wish to relocate to higher grounds from sea level and embark on massive sand filling on the low flood-prone areas.
  8. The government should construct embankment and shore protection to reduce the effects of flooding in the affected communities. 

 

 

[1] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-20221451

[2] https://dailytrust.com/floods-longer-dry-spell-imminent-in-2021-nimet-report

 

Artisanal Refineries and Environmental Degradation

As artisanal refineries have continued to operate, with attendant environmental and social hazards, Social Action examined the practice in and around Omadino community in Warri-South Local Government Area of Delta State, and sheds light on the environmental consequences, amid government’s inadequate responses. Read more

The Petroleum Industry Bill 2020: Examining Provisions For The Environment, Host Communities And Accountability

The Muhammadu Buhari government submitted the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) in late 2020 to the National Assembly as a revision of previous versions by the Umaru Musa Yar’dua and Goodluck Jonathan administrations. This briefing paper shows that, as proposed, the PIB 2020 is inadequate to address the environmental, human rights and livelihoods concerns of host communities, as the Executive Bill focuses more on production and commercial viability of the industry.

While Nigeria records the highest and unacceptable levels of crude oil spills globally, and the country is among the worst in gas flaring globally, the PIB 2020 fails woefully in addressing these issues. There is no clear provision for addressing environmental pollution and sanctioning polluters. The Bill fails to introduce any new measures to encourage the elimination of routine gas flaring. The PIB 2020 disempowers federal and state environmental agencies from the monitoring and enforcement of environmental regulations in the petroleum industry. Read more

The Petroleum Industry Bill Must Address Environmental Pollution and Concerns of Oil-Bearing Communities

Text of a Press Briefing by Social Action and Key Civil Society Organisations

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Abuja, FCT, Nigeria

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen of the Media, we have organised this briefing to call public attention to major flaws in the federal government’s proposals in the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), and our concerns about the manner the National Assembly has managed the Public Hearings on the Bill. Like most Nigerians, we believe that a new set of laws are necessary to govern the petroleum industry in Nigeria. However, the PIB’s proposals, as it is, would promote environmental impunity in the oil industry and exacerbate social dislocation in the oil-bearing communities in the Niger Delta.

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“I feel liberated” Supporting Economic Opportunities for Displaced Women in North-East Nigeria

Maimuna Dahiru tending her vegetables

 

                                                By Joy Bitrus Ashalva, Project Officer, Social Action

Maimuna Dahiru is a 35-year-old woman originally from Baga, in Kukawa Local Government Area (LGA) of Borno State in North-Eastern Nigeria. A mother of eight children, including five girls and three boys, Maimuna and her family fled when Boko Haram insurgents attacked Baga town in December, 2018. Since 2013, particularly in 2015, Boko Haram fighters have raided Baga and surrounding villages, killing thousands of people and burning homes and public buildings. Given the fluid security situation, people sometimes return to their community after periods of calm only for the insurgents to strike again.

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REHABILITATION AND RESETTLEMENT OF DISPLACED PERSONS IN THE NORTHEASTERN NIGERIA IN THE FACE OF THE HUMANITARIAN CRISIS

There cannot be meaningful development in a state of insecurity and anarchy. The conditions of the North East could rightly be described as nothing less than a state of war. The dreaded outlawed religious group Boko Haram is reported to have started a war with the Nigerian state in the wake 2009 and since then has held many towns in the northeastern state of Yobe, Adamawa, and Borno to ransom. Between 2011 and 2019 territories have been annexed, governance structures sacked, thousands killed and millions displaced. A people who once boasted of being a major supplier of food and agricultural products are now living in displaced persons camps depending on relief from good-minded people from home and abroad for survival. Despite the insistence by the federal government of Nigeria that the militant group has been technically decimated, they continue to cause havoc to the military and civilian population. Between 2014 and 2018, 2800 events and more than 31,000 reported fatalities have been attributed to Boko Haram, making it one of the world’s deadliest armed groups.[1]

 

While much effort and attention have been paid to the fight against the insurgency, not very much attention has been given to the direct bearers of this war. Over 2.5 million people have been recorded to have lived in the displaced peoples camp at one point in time or the other[1]. The displaced persons live under terrible conditions in the IDP camp- conditions that are aggravated by corrupt practices perpetrated by those vested with the responsibility of taking care of them. Instead of being taken care of, they are being taken advantage of. Funds meant to cater for their welfare are being diverted for personal use. There are also records of instances of the rape of young and vulnerable girls by the military, besides the intimidation and solicitation of sex from these girls in exchange for food

.newsletterpic1 Figure 1. Participants at the dialogue to “Repositioning Civic Constituencies for Rehabilitation, Reconstruction and Resettlement in the Northeast

Social action has been carrying out campaigns to promote awareness of climate change impacts in the Lake Chad Basin and to encourage accountability in the management of humanitarian and development spending in northeast Nigeria. This is in direct response to the humanitarian crisis that has left over 7.1 million people in Nigeria in need of urgent, life-saving humanitarian assistance. As part of the series of engagements, dialogue and conferences to promote civil society analysis of the humanitarian situation in the northeast, Social Action organised two key dialogue with stakeholders in Borno state in April and July 2019. The conference held on the 2nd of April had the theme “Repositioning Civic Constituencies for Rehabilitation, Reconstruction and Resettlement in the Northeast”. The conference sought to open up discussions around the proposed rehabilitation plan of the government with the view to x-raying holistically the content and component of the action plan as well as examine civil society position or perspective. The dialogue also aimed at reviewing CSOs readiness to engage the process to serve as an independent monitoring unit to achieve collective impact.

Social Action program officer, Isaac Botti noted that the crisis is one of the world’s most urgent and complex humanitarian situations and thus the need for participants to engage the theme of the dialogue. He noted that the Federal Government’s plan to move the region away from humanitarian needs to concrete sustainable development is a good initiative if sincerely implemented with the participation of the civil society. He further emphasized the objective of the plan and the need for the civic constituencies to interrogate it, discuss it and come up with a concrete engagement plan and input that will further enrich the document.

In a paper presentation Professor Abubarka Mua’zu, the Executive Director of Borno Coalition for Democrat and Progress (BOCODEP) noted that the process of reconstruction involves partial or total relocation and rebuilding the essential physical infrastructures and shelter.

The conference which had in attendance representatives from the academia, government and non-governmental organisations, foreign and local stakeholders and community groups and persons came to the conclusion that to have an effective rehabilitation plan, there was the need to strengthen community structures to handle mass rehabilitation by involving all stakeholders and imbibed best practices for integration. They also agreed on the need for a serious consultation with other members of the civil society to ensure effective coordination of efforts.

newsletterpic2

Figure 2. Participants at the Stakeholders Validation of the multi-sectoral needs assessment

The conference in July was the stakeholder validation meeting to provide the needed nods and buy-in to the reports and findings from the Multi-Sectoral Needs Assessment. The validation workshop had representations of different categories of displaced populations, host communities and key stakeholders that have good knowledge of critical humanitarian and human rights issues in the northeast, to take the feat of checking or proving the validity or accuracy of the process and results of the multi-sectoral needs assessment. It further helped in identifying missing elements and gaps in the needs assessment findings that were addressed in the final needs assessment report and also deliberated on preliminary emerging messages about priorities of humanitarian interventions in Borno State particularly and the northeast in general

[1] https://reliefweb.int/report/nigeria/new-normal-continuity-and-boko-haram-s-violence-north-east-nigeria

RESEARCH/MONITORING OF REDD+ ACTIVITIES IN ONDO STATE

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) is an effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development. In other words, is a scheme that promises to pay cash to encourage forests to be set aside as carbon sinks in mitigating climate change. The scheme which was first introduced to Nigeria in Cross Rivers state has received condemnation from well-meaning stakeholders including the host communities and civil society organisations for its failure to meet up with the initial promised it held. While the locals are prevented and even arrested by the REDD+ enforcement and monitoring task force for taking advantage of the resources of the forests earmarked for this scheme, very little or nothing has come to them as compensation for preserving the forest. This has robbed them of the means of livelihood from lumbering and farming, a profession they have known all their lived.

REDDSocial Action Field Monitoring Team with a local at Osse Forest Reserve

 

When the news of the expansion of REDD+ to Nasarawa and Ondo States broke out, Social Action commissioned a field monitoring of REDD+ in Ondo State with the view of working with communities and relevant stakeholders in the State as it has been doing in Cross River State and an extension of same to Nasarawa State.

A visit to Ondo State REDD+ pilot sites revealed that REDD Readiness started in 2016 and will be ending in 2020. There are 16 forest reserves in the state according to the State REDD+ Coordinator, Mr. David Adesina and only two are being used as pilot sites with a view of expansion to other reserves. They are Osse Forest Reserve and Akure Forest Reserve. While the Osse forest is tending towards savanna, the Akure forest is a complete, thick rainforest. Following approval by the state executive council, a moratorium is placed on logging in these two forest reserves and a joint task force commissioned to enforce it.

In our interaction with the REDD Coordinator in the state, he expressed frustration that no benefit has come from REDD. He, therefore, felt reluctant to speak to communities empty-handed without bringing them financial benefits from REDD+.

After several hours of searching for the leaders in the communities making up Osse, the team was eventually directed to Owani-Idoani where they met with High Chief Akinola Olisa who, incidentally, was the second in command to the overall Chief heading all 6 communities in the Osse Forest Reserve. He informed the team during their interaction that the state promised some sort of sharing formula which will benefit the people but no immediate benefit was given. Though they were promised of some benefits that will accrue to them in the long run, what those benefits translate to has not been made clear to them.

In Obada community Akure, the team met with a community leader Adebayo Waheed who expressed the readiness of the community to work with Social Action. He took the team on a walk into the forest while he explained some activities that had taken place in the area. He said the state forest, where logging still takes place, intersects the Queen’s Plot and we could see a truck with wood leaving the forest.

Obada has Small River that connects the community to the other side of the forests reserve and the bridge is constructed with wood

queen plot-obada

Figure 2. Queen Plot, Akure Forest Reserve.

There is a forest reserve called “Queen’s Plot” located in the Obada/Akpamu forest in the Akure forest reserve connected by the bridge. It is said to be where the Queen of England commissioned the first saw-mill in Nigeria and thus reserved as a federal forest park. The historic dilapidated structure that housed the Mill at the time can still be seen there, very closed to a new building being constructed

queen-paek-obadaFigure 3. The historic dilapidated structure that reportedly housed the first saw-mill commissioned by  the Queen of England in Nigeria  

 

 

BOILING OVER: Global Warming, Hunger and Violence in the Lake Chad Basin

Death and destruction in northeast Nigeria Brutal killings, the abduction and rape of young girls and women, mass displacements and hunger, form the reality of life in areas of the Lake Chad Basin that are affected by the Boko Haram crisis.

This crisis was provoked in part by the massacre of defenseless civilians by Nigerian security forces in the northeastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri in 2009. Protests were organized by the Islamist group Jama‘atu Ahli es Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad (commonly referred to as Boko Haram), which escalated into an armed rebellion in northeastern Nigeria that has spilled over into Niger, Chad and northwestern Cameroon – areas that
border Lake Chad. Read Full Report

Boiling Over: Global Warming, Hunger And Violence In The Lake Chad Basin

REPORT LAUNCH AND PANEL DISCUSSION 

Venue:           Nicon Luxury Hotel, Abuja FCT, Nigeria

Date:             15 May 2019

Time:              9:00 AM – 2:00 PM

The Lake Chad Basin is the scene of one of the first major international conflicts linked to climate change. Here, the Boko Haram insurgency has resulted in the killing of over twenty thousand people and created a massive humanitarian disaster with over three million displaced and many more in need of assistance. However, as one resident of Maiduguri, Borno State commented, “there was already massive displacement in northeastern Nigeria before the advent of Boko Haram”. The displacement of people and impoverishment resulted from ecological changes and inadequacies in institutional responses which enabled discontent to germinate.

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