Flash floods killed at least 11 people in Suleja, Niger state, in the last week of July. At least 4 persons were also killed in the neighbouring Gwagwalada district of the Federal Capital Territory on the same day, with at least thirty people missing, and hundreds of families rendered homeless. Earlier in June, there heavy rains had also resulted in flash floods in several states including Lagos, Akwa Ibom and Kwara.
Three people were killed in the Kwara floods as the flood them away in the car they were in, as the bridge it was crossing collapsed. Over a hundred houses were destroyed in Akwa Ibom and substantial household goods of poor people were destroyed in Lagos. All these took place in working-class districts, dealing terrible blows to the affected families.
It might however herald an even worse situation in the coming weeks. The responsibility for this rests squarely on the shoulders of the government, and the for-profit system of capitalism which has thrown the whole world into a climate crisis.
Before the flash floods that claimed these lives, the National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA) issued a flood alert. In it the federal government agency informed that 275 out of the 776 local government areas in the country, spread across 28 of the 36 states of the federation, are likely to witness heavy floods this year. But no concrete action was taken after this information was passed, as a proactive step to save lives.
Instead, what Mr Clement Nze the Director General of the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NHSA) had to say was, “If as early as June we are losing lives and property occasioned by flooding in some parts of Nigeria, I don’t know what will happen by the time we approach the middle of August and September in Nigeria”.
We recall the disastrous impact of the 2012 floods on the poor masses. The floods which swept through 30 states resulted in 2.1million people displaced and 363 people killed. These were poor people who could not afford to relocate on their own. But instead of accepting its ineptitude, government chose to blame the victims for not saving themselves.
A flood relief fund was set up which only made a few persons in government and big business richer. Businesspeople who donated into the fund were given tax waivers worth even more than the money they put down. And goods meant for the IDP camps where displaced persons ended up were diverted at will by politicians.
Government has to take necessary action now to protect lives, before the floods come in their fullness. The trade unions and civil society organisations must demand the relocation of persons in local government areas that could be affected to decent housing.
There are empty houses in virtually every state, in the midst of poor housing for the vast majority of the urban and rural poor. These houses belong to a few rich people, many of whom have houses scattered across different locations. These should be requisitioned to provide safe shelters, immediately.
This also brings us to the need for us to deepen the fight to stop climate change and avert an epic destruction of the world. Global warming is a result of profit-driven production. System change and not climate change is our stand and it is much more than a slogan. This is the time for us all to stand against capitalism, for us to avoid a catastrophic end to the earth as we know it.
by Yusu LAWAL