Flooding: Heavy cloud no longer a sign of ‘glad tidings’ in Maiduguri



When a relatively heavier rain falls in parts of Maiduguri, many households will be left heart-broken and shattered. Their houses will be gone, inaccessible or uninhabitable. It was seen a fortnight ago.

Some houses were overwhelmed by what looked like a minimal flood—a symptom of a potentially even bigger problem. Such destructions are truly not unforeseen in some parts of the city, they were rather ignored, at least where it was not helpless.

There have been clear signs of imminent flood, both from past experiences and the nature of these neighborhoods.

The structures were mostly raised arbitrarily without recourse to town planning provisions. Others ignore title conditions to illegally build on waterways, roads and drainages, among others.

Elsewhere, there were no drainages. Where there are, not all have outlets. Some are narrow or inappropriately elevated above water levels.

In Bulumkutu Layin Gate, at least 20 houses now live to tell their sad tales, thanks to a heavy rainfall two weeks ago.

Our reporters who visited the community said the situation did not only make many people homeless, but also leave many sleepless at night for fear of another flood.

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Forming clouds are no longer a sign of ‘glad tidings’. It is a sign of what is likely to come. A calamity.

Most parts of the community have been flooded and hugely waterlogged, with little or no access to homes, shops and other utilities.

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Temporary, makeshift stone bridges only allow limited access for pedestrian use and those who did not have options of temporarily relocating, as many had to.

Some houses were completely taken over by the large water bodies built up over the days of rainfall. Their owners sleep outside, scrambling for spaces in the yet to be flooded areas.

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They are joined in the scramble for still-dry spaces by those whose houses are still intact. They were afraid of a midnight disaster, should an unexpected rain falls.

'The flood caused a lot; we barely slept at night for fear of damage.

'If we passed the night alright, we would wake up with the thought of receiving news of destruction from our neighbor,’ Abubakar Mustapha, a member of the community said.

But how about mosquitoes, which they said have continued to cause them malaria and an unbudgeted regular spending going into its treatment?

The flooded water continue to breed cycles of malaria-transmitting mosquitoes, leaving many, in addition to being homeless and helpless, also sickly.

Their schools, shops and worship places, among others, were all out of use.

'When the rain is high, both school and Islamiyya become inaccessible. It is almost a week now without any of them,’ Mr. Mustapha added.

Who is to be blamed?

But some of them know that they are the ones to be blamed—for their misuses, irresponsibility and the like.

They dump dirt indiscriminately into drainages and build structures along well-known waterways, without government approval.

These prevent the free flow of, and emptying of water out of the occupied areas.

They have caused many blockages on the water channels, aside some of the inherent structural irregularities in the drainages.

They could however trace the history of the problem.

Ali Ibrahim Usman, 49, said they did not experience flood until recently.

He said they used to have a drainage network laid by the administration of Governor Ali Modu Sheriff (2003 – 2011), which seamlessly emptied all flooded water in the neighborhood.

However, in 2018, when Kashim Shettima expanded the drainage network by linking it with those of other neighborhoods, about seven, it was overstretched, becoming incapable of handling the large volumes of water passing through it.

The residents also observed that there is an elevation at the end of the drainage, which slows down the emptying of the water into Ngadabul, the river intersecting Maiduguri almost diametrically and into which most drainages are washed.

For these and their other habits as a people, flood became an annual reality of their existence.

It was even fatal last year, leaving two children dead. This year too, there are claims of injuries sustained, but our reporters could not establish it.

'Four houses were destroyed last year while fifteen were at least destroyed so far this year,’ Ali Mechanic, a resident of the community told YERWA EXPRESS NEWS, stressing that, while some of the victims sleep under mosquito nets on the street, others have relocated elsewhere.

'The new drainage has done more harm than good.

'My children have been at home for almost a week now due to the flood,’ Mr. Ali added.

In 2020, the Borno State Government had marked 1, 300 houses for demolition as a result of flood, noting that it was a necessary step to avoid destruction of lives and properties.

This was stated August 20202 by Engr. Adam Bababe, executive secretary of the Borno Geographic Information Service, BOGIS, after many houses were submerged by flood.

He said ‘over 1, 300 houses that are built on waterways have been marked for demolition. If we leave the houses that way without removal, many houses in the metropolis will be submerged by flood.’

YERWA EXPRESS NEWS learnt that this is not yet completed, with the reason not immediately clear, if it was anything other than the resistance first showed by the owners of the affected houses.

This year, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency, NiMet, has predicted flood in 223 local government areas in 32 states, including Borno.

When this happened in 2020, the state government called for review of its environmental and town planning policies in an attempt to forestall recurrence.

The Centre for Disaster and Risk Management (CDRM), University of Maiduguri, was also contracted by the government to assess other factors that contribute to phenomenon in order to prevent recurrence.

While increase in the volume of rainfall across the states is the major cause, an environmental expert and professor of geography, Prof. Mohammed Mala Daura, former vice chancellor of UNIMAID, who both established the CDRM and now heads it, explained in an exclusive interview with YERWA EXPRESS NEWS in 2020 that other factors further make communities vulnerable to flooding.

The university don said flood occurs annually but with variations in the magnitude and timing.

'Flooding is an annual event, but the frequency varies,’ he said.

‘There are two types of flooding. There is what we call flash flooding and river flooding, both of which are caused by different factors. One of these, is excessive rainfall, when the frequency is abnormal, it will lead to flooding.

‘In Borno state, we can identify both types of flooding, but depending on the location, if you are in urban environment, you will likely experience flash flooding, while river flooding is more common in the rural areas, both of which can be caused as a result of heavy rainfall.’

He identified the years 2011, 2012 and 2019 as being peculiar cases, noting that there were heavier and more frequent rainfalls in almost the entire country.

Prof. Daura also explained that some of the damages caused by the incident in communities are a result of poor town planning and the attitude of people towards the environment.

‘The traditional settlement area is not properly planned, hardly do we have planned streets in most of these areas, and where we have it, there is no adequate drainage channels to carry the excess water to the point of deposition.

‘The attitudes of some residents toward community management of disaster risk is poor,' he noted.

Many communities in the metropolitan part of the state—as in parts Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe and Yobe—are still at the risk of flood.

The don explained that to prevent recurrence, proper town planning decisions must be taken, including sensitizing communities on how to take care of their environments.

An expert in urban development and town planning, who did not want to be mentioned, explained that, among other things, most of the new communities do not have these facilities because most of them grew almost independent of the government.

As such, ‘they would not have these facilities because they either emerged before government’s development master plan covered them, not at all covered or grew in contradiction of its considerations.

‘And you blame this on land allocation and sale. There is so much shoddy deals. Towns develop based on deliberate government plans. Because each time a new community develops as we now witness in Maiduguri, it brings about the need for the government to provide basic amenities like schools, hospitals, dumping sites, roads and other things. So if a town develops on its own, it faces these difficulties around until they come under government coverage which takes long normally,’ the expert explained.

In Mauduguri, there are new communities cropping up as a result of population expansion, and existing ones expanding.

He also added that even where there are such facilities, there are a number of other problems that make cases of flood more prevalent.

‘You will find communities with good drainage network, but you the residents, supposed beneficiaries make rubbish of them because they reduce it to dumping sites.

‘In some places, very sadly, you will see drainages built without outlets. It is a whole lot of things,’ he lamented, adding that ‘addressing them must require urgent overhaul’.

Prof. Daura also added in the 2020 interview that ‘the government has to embark on monitoring of these drainage channels timely, and the agency responsible has to be up and doing, whether it is BOSEPA or whichever agency that is in charge.

‘Or alternatively, there should be a covered drainage system unlike the open one we commonly do now, although it is expensive, it is more durable, convenient and healthier. If the covered drainage system is introduced, at that high cost, it will solve a big part of these problems.’

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