The Federal Government of Nigeria has alerted states and relevant government agencies over plans by Cameroon to open the Lagdo Dam on the Benue River. The Cameroonian authorities said that they will open the dam ahead of schedule due to heavy rainfall around the dam catchment area in the northern part of the country. This was contained in a letter which was dated August 21, 2023, signed on behalf of the permanent secretary of the foreign affairs ministry by Umar Salisu, Director of African Affairs, and addressed to the Director General of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).
It urged NEMA to take necessary proactive steps and actions that will mitigate the damage as well as sensitize the populace living in such areas about vigilance and all necessary precautions. The letter stated that when the release of water becomes necessary, the authorities of the Lagdo dam will be releasing a small amount of water on a modulated variable at a time. This is in order to mitigate and avoid damages that the released water may cause along the River Benue basin in both Cameroon and Nigeria.
Water release affects a few states in Nigeria.
More so, the effect of the release of water from this dam is largely felt on surrounding regions in a number of states in Nigeria, including Kogi, Benue, Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba, Yobe, Niger, Nasarawa, Kebbi, Kogi, Edo, Delta, Anambra, Cross River, Rivers, and Bayelsa States. The government, through the Ministry of Water Resources and Sanitation, during the week, also advised the flood-prone states to embark on aggressive comprehensive sensitization campaigns to ensure unobstructed drainage systems and strategic relocation of residents living along the riverbanks to safer ground.
Minister of Water Resources and Sanitation, Joseph Utsev, and Minister of State, Bello Goronyo, in a statement, reportedly asked all tiers of government to escalate measures up to the grassroot levels to ensure seamless preparations. The statement also expressed the resolve of the government to encourage collaboration, innovation, and positive transformative changes within the ministry. Concerns about the potential for flooding in Nigeria from July to October were also highlighted, and significant hydrological findings were revealed, emphasizing a conspicuous increase in the flow volume along the River Benue system.
Findings by the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency.
Despite the increased flow, the statement reassured the public that the flow situation at the confluence of the Niger and Benue Rivers in Lokoja, a flood-prone area, remains reassuring within normal parameters. Already, a statement from the ministry revealed that Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency had noted an increase in the volume of flow along the River Benue system, registering a flow level of 8.97 meters since last Friday. On the same date in 2022, a flow level of 8.80 meters was recorded.
However, the flow level on the River Niger system remains stable, with the level of the River Niger at Niamey, Niger Republic, standing at a normal level of 4.30 meters. Reports from inland dams, including Kainji, Jebba, and Shiroro, also indicate a consistent flow regime. The flow level at the monitoring station downstream of the confluence records 7.80 meters on August 25, 2023, compared to 8.24 meters on the same date in 2022.
Early warning hasn’t addressed flooding issues in Nigeria.
Meanwhile, both governments agreed that before Cameroon opens its dam, it must issue an early warning to enable Nigeria to put proactive measures in place to prevent the destruction of lives and properties. In compliance with the Memorandum of Understanding, Cameroon usually informs the Nigerian authorities about its intention to release excess water from the Lagdo dam. Spokesman for the Adamawa state government, Himwashi Wonosikou, lamented that the arrangement has failed to sufficiently address the flooding issue in Nigeria. He added that the solution will be to complete the Dasin Hausa dam in Fufore local government in Adamawa state, which will serve as a buffer for water released from the Cameroonian dam.