The recent high rising cases of flood disaster in the Federal Capital Territory and other parts of the country, which has left behind loss of billions worth of properties, death and soil erosion, has only revealed to Nigerians and indeed the whole world, that the government of Nigeria, is not addressing the root of our under-development. The recent flood has taught us that sustainable development goes beyond constructing just few roads, bridges and planting flowers on few major roads and go to sleep.
In fact, it is safe to say, that Nigeria as it is colloquially described as an underdeveloped nation is indeed moving at a reverse speed. My heart goes out to those who lost their loved ones and also those who lost properties, and even residents of those affected areas who are no longer strangers to flooding as it is now a commonplace among them that heavy rainfall comes with flood. Flood is now our own tsunami or hurricane in Nigeria that could have been managed without any problem.
However, different reasons have been adduced to the cause of the damage while some have ignorantly stated that what happened was natural and could not have been otherwise. The Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola had on Tuesday disclose that the Federal Government in his usual martial order has commenced immediate repairs of road sections destroyed by flooding caused by rainfall in five states across the country. The roads according to him are Ibadan–Ife road, Gombe–Bauchi road, Gombe–Darazo; Bauchi–Ningi, Bida–Lambata, and Tsamiya bridge in Jigawa State. Well, on the surface, it may look reasonable because infrastructures including roads have been destroyed, but this is not the needed solution to the problem but just a reaction to it.
Government should adopt more responsive measures and proactive steps towards putting a lasting solution in place. The National President of Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria (REDAN), Aliyu Wammako had on Monday during a visit to one of the flood engulfed location at the Lugbe axis in Abuja, said that the FCT Administration should provide necessary infrastructures from Lokogoma to Lugbe to control the flood. Similarly, Festus Adebayo, the Convener of the Largest Housing event in Africa, The Abuja International Housing Show (AIHS) and President, Housing Development Advocacy Network (HDAN) said that the issue of planning first is the key. Adebayo while charging the FCT Development Control to be more active and result oriented, called for a complete re- engineering of Galadimawa to Lugbe axis of Abuja against the annual flooding which has killed many lives and rendered many homeless.
Obviously, they are some identified buildings on drainages, water logged areas and cases of refuse dumping in drainages which can be responsible for the flooding and as such become one of consequences of lack of structural and development planning. The question now is, where was the same government and its agencies when these houses were erected on drainages?
Besides that, many of the drainages and canals were not properly built and have overtime degenerated to the extent that they could not properly serve their purposes; most of the canals have been silted and overgrown with plants; drainages have been filled with refuse and sand. Simply, flood could be caused by heavy rainfall that can force the river or ocean to over flow its banks, but the recent flood crises in certain parts of the country I can authoritatively say, is not as a result of overflow of the Atlantic Ocean but by a heavy downpour with inadequate or poor drainage system.
Nigeria, just like other countries of the world like china is densely populated. Therefore, the more population increases, the more the challenges of basic infrastructures. Thus, this calls for adequate planning and provision of basic infrastructures to manage the population growth. Planning in this sense implies that every area of life should be put into consideration when putting and expanding basic infrastructures. When houses were built without putting into consideration a central water system, a central sewage, electricity, drainages, canals, roads, bridges, pipelines, rail lines, dams etc, there is bound to be a problem. Putting the Federal Capital Territory in perspective, in recent years, many new areas have been developed at a very rapid pace with no corresponding basic infrastructures, like drainages, roads, canals, etc. and these are some of the basic checks the various agencies of government put in place, should ensure.
The truth is, until we recognize that each house or drainage in one street is part of a whole community/city/town there is bound to be disaster. The level of physical development today is largely as a result of self-help or private investment. For example, Mr. A builds his house without considering the environmental impact in terms of what is best for the locality and to others in the community. He is in a race to create a blind alley such as others. A planned society takes into account effective channels of waste water from a building to drainage linking possibly to bigger drainage or floodways and to a canal or dam. And all the drainages, canals, roads etc, must be built to live up to the challenges of a low, high land and the environment in its entirety. When a country leaves everybody to build his or her house, possibly drainages and roads, it is encouraging a state of anarchy and disaster as what we are experiencing now.
Sadly, over the years, housing is one area that draws no attention from the government at all levels. How effective is the housing policy in this country? People only build houses within their financial capacity, whether structurally suitable or not. In fact, in many instances, the owner of the house plays the role of the engineer, whether trained or not and mostly use quacks in the construction of houses. Substandard materials are mostly used as a means to reduce cost and when it is for commercial purposes it is geared towards making more profit.
Thus, this private builders and the disasters they have continued to unleash are products of the absence of a well-planned public housing policy. The neglect of the housing sector by successive governments has made it possible for people to seek other ways since nature abhors vacuum.
Government should have on its employment list a good number of experts to assess all construction buildings across all the states in the federation from its take-off point to the end, but this is sadly an action the government will not embark upon because of the cost implication.
Furthermore the rising cost of building materials makes it impossible for most house owners to adhere to standard. Cement, a key building material is selling for about N4000 a bag, the price of other building materials is also rising. Recently, the Chief Operational Officer Brains and Hammers Affordable, Kabir Umar-Gano, revealed during an interview with AHN that one of the major challenges faced by developers in the provision of affordable housing is the exorbitant cost of building materials in the country, and called on the government to address this issue.
Government intervention at all levels is instrumental to bringing down the prices of building materials. Cements are produced in Nigeria, all government need do is to take over the cement industries already privatized and invest massively on them and make cement readily available at an affordable price. Government could also directly import other materials that could not be currently produced in Nigeria with low import charges on them as a means to bring down the prices. Bringing down the prices of building materials will make possible for more public funded housing estates to be built in different areas of the country. This also implies that a big public construction firms will be created with the right quantity and quality of staff/experts and tools/equipment’s to work with and placed under the management committee of workers, relevant professionals and government representatives. Any member of such committee should be subject to democratic recall whenever he or she goes against collective interest of the public.
In the final analysis, the houses constructed should be let out to those who need them at a cost that is affordable. This is the only way sanity can return to the housing sector on a sustainable long term basis. No country could get industrialized without viable housing and accommodation facilities, reviving these sector will help in galvanizing the fast tracking of national and economic development
It is only the optimal use of the collective human and material resources to meet the needs of all that will guarantee the basic necessity of life that is free from crises. Anything short of an all-encompassing and holistic approach can only at best produce momentary relief at the expense of long term initiative for a sustainable development. So much damage has been done but it is never too late to start planning and rebuilding anew.