By Adeola Aderounmu
Over 70 000 may die in Benue State of Nigeria if the Volcanic Lake Nyos in Cameroon erupt before you finish reading this article. According to reports over 30 000 livestock are also at risk in Benue State alone. This lake is adjacent to Nigeria and its eruption may affect Benue, Kogi, Enugu, Adamawa and Taraba States. By implication about 40m Nigerians may be at risk.
This problem has been brought to the fore probably before 2006. The Obasanjo administration raised a technical committee which submitted a report on the situation. In January 2009, it was disclosed that a sum of N26 billion has been committed to the construction of a buffer dam at the Nigerian side of the Lake. The buffer dam is supposed to reduce the impact of the eruption.
At least two agencies of the United Nations have voiced their fears about the latent dangers of the lake. According to the United Nations Environment Programme the world would witness the greatest humanitarian crisis on the African continent should the lake erupt.
When I saw the buffer dam that is reportedly being built by the Nigerian Government I was shocked. Three years after the threat was revealed the dam is probably the same size as the 6-yard penalty box area of a football field. The contractors complained of lack of funds! So what has happened to the N26 billion released in January? Has it been shared by the contractors and the different state governments that are at risk?
This is Nigeria…we are never prepared for any disaster. Though we have been faced by many reported and unreported disasters our approach remains the fire brigade approach or the post-disaster approach where we seek cosmetic remedies. Again, this is Nigeria.
In 1976 the Federal Government of Nigeria established the National Emergency Relief Agency (NERA) to coordinate its disaster response activities. The Agency was purely a relief organization focusing only on post disaster management. In 1999, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) was established to replace NERA and to manage disasters in Nigeria in its entire ramification.
What has NEMA done about this current threat to 40m Nigerians? Has NEMA monitored the situation and the reports made by the technical committee set up by Obasanjo? Was NEMA part of the committee? How is NEMA monitoring the state of preparedness of all organizations and agencies which may contribute to this particular disaster management? If the disaster occurs now, what rescue operations are in place? Does NEMA have any comment on the state of the buffer dam that is nothing but a serious national embarrassment to Nigeria? Has any useful information been posted on NEMA’S website relating to this predicted disaster? How do the concerned people get access to such information? I did a quick browse of NEMA’s website and I’d probably missed the information.
I don’t know if we should send our sympathy in advance for the danger that is ahead of the people of Benue and probably the other states mentioned as possible risk areas. This is because if I know Nigeria very well, the bulk of the N26 billion is probably in a foreign bank by now. If this is Nigeria-where the most corrupt people that I know reside-the ugly buffer dam will mostly likely remain in comatose while the contractors and the officers of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and water Resources will disappear into thin air anytime soon. I sincerely hope that someone will prove me wrong.
This country needs serious help and deliverance!