In a continuous effort to check perennial flooding in riverine communities, the Nigerian government would require international funds to cater for the over US$20 billion budget estimated, to carry out the dredging of Rivers Niger and Benue as well as Kaduna rivers, reports say. Speaking at the stakeholders meeting on flood mitigation and other related issues in Ilorin, the capital of Kwara State, North Central Nigeria, the Managing Director of the Hydroelectric Power Producing Areas Development Commission (HYPPADEC), Alhaji Abubakar Yelwa, revealed this. According to him, the clamour by Nigerians for the dredging of the rivers would be difficult for the Federal Government alone to handle without intervention from international donor agencies.
The HYPPADEC boss said that the estimated cost for dredging the rivers, as it was in 1983, when the Federal Government asked for the cost, was US$2 billion, adding that the cost had astronomically gone up over 10 times. Yelwa, who was responding to suggestions from participants at the meeting for the dredging of the rivers, as part of solutions to the annual flood disaster affecting riverine communities under the commission’s areas of focus, said that the funding for the project was beyond the commission and the Federal Government. He said; “The dredging of Rivers Niger or Benue, as the case may be, has always been repeatedly suggested in all the places we have visited. We have visited about five states including Kwara, and almost all the states were asking for dredging.
“In 1983 when the former Shehu Shagari Government asked for the cost of the dredging of River Niger and Benue, a bill of US$2 billion was given. That was in 1983. You can imagine the scope now, even if the dollar had remained the same, the scope would have gone up 10 times. That is why it is difficult. It is not what HYPPADEC can fund, and not even the Federal Government, without making recourse to international organisations for intervention and that is what we are working towards, to mobilise international donor agencies for intervention”. Yelwa stated that the commission would start an afforestation programme to lessen the Nigerian Meteorological Agency’s flood prediction for 2023. He added that trees would be planted in five hectares of land in each of the five local government areas in the flood-prone Kwara North Senatorial District.
The Kwara State Commissioner for Environment, Mrs. Remilekun Banigbe, who was represented by the Director of Ecological Services, Malam Ilyasu Yahaya, said the high risk of imminent flooding, predicted by the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet), could cause high rate of disease and displacement of people, if not addressed early enough. The State Director of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), Mr. Segun Adeyemi, warned residents saying, “the way we manage our environment pre-disposes us to flood. He, however, said the NOA would work in all local government areas to sensitise people on what is ahead of them.
The Kwara Coordinator, World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr. Salihu Abdullahi, said the rapid response team should be reviewed to involve necessary stakeholders that would look into different aspects of the flooding. Meanwhile, a multi-sectoral strategy for reducing floods in Kwara State was demanded by one of the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) present at the occasion, Global Hope for Women and Children Foundation (GLOWHWOC). On his part, the Emir of Shonga, Dr. Halliru Yahaya, who spoke on behalf of traditional rulers at the meeting, also called for the mapping of the flood prone areas, to reduce the impact.