Nigeria: Authorities must act now to save lives amid threat of deadly flooding

The Nigerian authorities must urgently take concrete steps to prepare for and mitigate the potential consequences of flash flooding to avoid a repeat of last year’s fatal floods, which killed more than 612 people, Amnesty International said today.

Federal and governments of states at high risk must – with all urgency – be proactive, by mapping out flood zones and issuing early warnings. Communities frequently affected by flooding must be provided with all the critical information on effectively preparing for floods disaster. Emergency response plans must be accessible, and people centered by providing
evacuation routes, adequately trained search and rescue teams, location of emergency services, and lines of communication across the 32 states that the Federal Ministry of Water Resources said are “at high risk of flooding.”

“With this year’s rainy season already gaining momentum, time is beginning to run out. Yet there is still a chance for the authorities to put in place comprehensive disaster risk preparedness plans to protect lives and livelihoods. As the Federal Ministry of Water Resources, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), and the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency have already issued warnings of severe flooding, there is an urgent need for the government to act in a timely manner to protect human rights,” said Isa Sanusi, Director of Amnesty International Nigeria.

In October 2022, severe flooding in Nigeria killed 612 people and injured 2,776 others. The floods also displaced more than 1.4 million people across the country and damaged more than 300,000 houses and 569,000 hectares of farmland, including arable land in Adamawa, Jigawa, Taraba, Kano, Bauchi, Niger, Anambra, and Ebonyi States.

“Our investigation shows that the devastating impacts of last year’s floods entrenched existing inequalities, plunging already poor people into greater poverty. The destruction of crops impacts food security, as most of the farmers who lost their produce were not offered any seeds or other agricultural support from the government that could have aided their recovery. Without access to these resources, farmers will struggle to restore their previous levels of productivity and may not be able to meet the food demands of the country,” said Isa Sanusi

With many people in Adamawa, Rivers, Bayelsa, Anambra, Jigawa, Bayelsa and Ebonyi yet to recover from the impact of last year’s floods and unable to carry out their livelihoods, the devastation inflicted by last year’s floods is still with us. Besides endangering lives, severe floods also damage infrastructure, as happened in Kogi and Bayelsa states, and destroy farmlands, as happened in Jigawa and Adamawa states, thereby affecting both local and national food supply chains. In Anambra state, the floods severely affected Onitsha industrial hub, which forced a halt in production.

Isa Sanusi, Director, Amnesty International Nigeria

Nigeria, as a party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, has an obligation to uphold and promote the rights of all without discrimination and ensure a decent standard of living by guaranteeing access to adequate food, housing, healthcare, and education.

“While flooding can be caused by a variety of factors, rising temperatures as a result of climate change make the likelihood of extreme rainfall much higher. Millions of Nigerians have already been impoverished by extreme weather caused by climate change. Their rights to life, health, water, and sanitation have been gravely undermined. The authorities need to do much more to put adequate and human rights-consistent disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation measures in place to protect people in Nigeria,” said Isa Sanusi.

In February, Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Water Resources warned that at least 32 states are at risk of flooding this year. In March, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) issued a “severe flood warning”. In February and March, the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency also said that “at least 178 local government areas in 32 states of the federation and the federal capital territory have been predicted to experience severe flooding in 2023.”