Concerns Mount in Flood-Prone States as Cameroon Activates Lagdo Dam

In response to a notification from the Cameroonian government, several states have announced proactive measures to mitigate the potential impact of a dam water release from the Lagdo dam. The government of Cameroon, through a letter directed to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), alerted about its intention to discharge water from the Lagdo dam and urged NEMA to implement necessary precautions.

States at the frontline of the flood risk resulting from the dam’s water release have already initiated actions to avert potential loss of life and property. Notably, states like Lagos, Benue, and Delta have begun urging residents residing in flood-prone zones to relocate to higher ground.

Addressing the situation, Dr. Femi Oke-Osanyintolu, the Permanent Secretary of the Lagos State Emergency Management Authority (LASEMA), affirmed the state government’s readiness to swiftly address any emerging emergencies linked to the impending flood. He disclosed that LASEMA has readied 144 units of accommodations capable of housing up to 5,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the event of a crisis.

He said: “Lagos is well prepared. As you can see, LASEMA has changed from management to holistic emergency management.

What we mean here is that we have moved into the improved strategy of clearing canals and ensuring local governments have their local response, called Environmental Guard.

“The purpose is to ensure effective clearing of tertiary drainages and environmental gang clearing the secondary drainage, thereby complementing each other simultaneously.

“We have met with the 57 local government chairmen on the need to put all primary emergency responders on alert. We are fine-tuning and strengthening our local response mechanism.

‘’We have carried out risk analyses, resource mappings, opened directories in each council to know the vulnerable people in terms of emergency situation. All these measures are geared towards ensuring swift, prompt, and effective responses.

“We are carrying out enlightenment and sensitization programmes to get residents prepared across the councils.

“The type of flood we have in Lagos called flash floods disappears within 30 minutes and one hour due to improved infrastructure and machinery in place. We are prepared.”

Similarly, the Benue State Emergency Management Agency (Benue-SEMA) has taken swift action. Sir James Iorpuu, the agency’s Executive Secretary, issued a warning yesterday, urging all individuals residing in flood-prone areas across the state to promptly relocate to safer zones.

Through the agency’s Administrative Head, Mr. Donald Komgbebda, the Executive Secretary, conveyed that Benue-SEMA is intensifying its efforts in raising public awareness about the impending flood. The agency aims to ensure that the populace is well-prepared for the potential challenges ahead.

He said: “What we are doing now is to intensify the awareness campaign across the state to ensure that all those on flood plains vacate such areas.

“We also have plans to take steps to mitigate the effect of the flood on the people, but for now, the priority is to get the people to safer places.

“Though we also have contingency plans, and we will not allow our people to be subjected to untold hardship following the flood.

‘’All stakeholders in the matter will be mobilised to ensure that all hands are on deck to take actions to mitigate the impact of the impending flood.”

Governor Hyacinth Alia recently appealed to all those on the banks of River Benue and flood plains to vacate those areas.

The governor, who spoke while flagging off the distribution of food and nonfood items donated by the National Emergency Management Agency, 2022 flood disaster in the state, also appealed to residents to immediately commence clean-up of gutters and waterways in order to help mitigate effect of the flood in the state.

In a letter signed by Umar Salisu, the Director of African Affairs, the Cameroonian government has communicated its decision to open the Lagdo Dam. This move is in direct response to the persistent rainfall in Cameroon, which has led to an alarming surge in water levels.
It pleaded with NEMA to implement precautionary measures and raise public awareness among the regions at risk in order to mitigate the potential damage that the ensuing floods might cause.

The letter read: “I have the honour to inform that the ministry is in receipt of a Note Verbale from the High Commission of the Republic of Cameroon informing that Cameroonian officials have resolved to open the flood gates of the Lagdo Dam on the Benue River in days ahead, due to heavy rainfall around the dam catchment area in Northern Cameroon.
“According to the Note, it is pertinent to note that when the release of water becomes necessary, the authorities of Lagdo Dam will be releasing only modulated variable small amounts of water at a time in order to mitigate and avoid damages that the released water may cause along the River Benue basin in both Cameroon and Nigeria.
“In view of the above, it would be appreciated if the esteemed agency takes all the necessary proactive steps and actions that will mitigate the damage as well as sensitize the populace living in such areas for vigilance and all necessary precautions.”

The Cameroonian government also urged residents of the affected areas to remain calm and follow instructions of the authorities.

While commenting on the letter yesterday, NEMA stated that the notice is not new, noting that it had since informed state governors of impeding floods, including that from the Lagdo Dam.

NEMA’s spokesperson, Manzo Ezekiel, said it is time for the affected state governors to take action and secure lives and properties, in collaboration with NEMA.

He said: “There was a particular letter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs addressed to the DG NEMA, and NEMA is the recipient of that publication. The communication is not coming to us by surprise and has not taken us by surprise.
“In our preparation for flood mitigation and response this year, we envisaged that a situation like this will arise.
In all our programs and activities for flood management this year, we had in mind that there could be a release of water and.
‘’Therefore, in line with this, NEMA has written to all the state governments, including the governors of the frontline states that are likely to be impacted by the release of this water from Lagdo Dam.”

-Jesse Voyamba

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