The floods which periodically sweep across the banks of Rivers Benue and Niger down to the Atlantic Ocean in Bayelsa State emanate from the Lagdo Lake in Northern Cameroon. This occurs seasonally, whenever excess water is released from the Lake to protect the Lagdo dam from bursting, inundating and overwhelming the surrounding towns and villages. Incidentally, the National Emergency Management Agency recently alerted that 19 states and 56 communities across the country are likely to witness heavy rainfall that can lead to flooding within the month.
The Lagdo Dam was built in 1982 by a Chinese company to provide electricity, potable water and irrigate farmlands in Garoua and the Northern provinces of Cameroon. The flood flashes experienced in Nigeria today were expected to happen, hence in 1982, a feasibility study was conducted to build a water withholding dam at Dasin Hausa in Furore Local Government of Adamawa State.
This project, unfortunately, did not proceed further, and after over three decades of dilly dallying, the plan is still on the drawing board.
The dam in Nigeria would have stopped the incessant floods along the banks of the Benue River and further downstream to the sea. It will in addition, generate electricity, irrigate at least 150,000 hectares of farm lands, create jobs, and attract tourists to the site location and Adamawa State.
While the torrents of water continue to wreak havoc in Nigeria, the people of Northern Cameroon are enjoying the resources derived from the Lagdo Lake.
I can still recollect vividly my visit to Lagdo Dam, when I accompanied officers from the Nigerian Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru during their 1992 world tour, and my mission, the Nigerian High Commission, Yaounde, hosted the group. The government of Cameroon organised a guided tour of the Lagdo Dam Complex for the delegation.
The Lake is the source of potable water, and irrigation of cotton, maize, millet, sorghum animal fodder, grazing fields and fishing in and around Garoua. The electricity generated powers the Northern provinces of the country with excess capacity.
Cotton produced is processed into clothing materials in textile mills in Garoua, where there is a river port through which goods are transported by barges on the River Benue tributary to Douala sea port over 1000 kilometers away. The climate around the Lagdo Lake is temperate, scenic, and a good holiday destination for tourists.
The Dasin Hausa dam, if built, will in addition to the benefits mentioned above, prevent the floods which have caused extensive damage in Nigeria.
The abandoned Dasin Hausa project is not the only one in this category. The Federal Ministry of Water Resources has identified over 100 of them. Some of these are: the Khashimbila dam in Taraba State; the Ikere-Iseyin dam in Oyo State; Dadin Kowa Dam in Taraba State; Goronyo dam in Gombe State among several others.
These projects have passed through 11 different administrations in Nigeria from 1982-2023. The successive governments and the institutions in charge of the projects viz: the Water Basin Authorities, the Federal and State Ministries of Water Resources should be blamed for their lack of foresight and lackadaisical attitude towards a critical national project.
If these state institutions had been strong, up and doing, they would have circumvented the challenges, by proposing alternative solutions, with convincing arguments on the urgent need to build the Dasin Hausa dam for its economic value, and as the only solution to the seasonal floods in most parts of Nigeria.
According to the National Emergency Management Agency and other reliable sources, 6000 houses were destroyed and seven million people displaced during the 2012 floods with losses put at over $12bn. The floods have continued to devastate communities from year to year, without any known action taken for a definite solution, other than the efficiency displayed by NEMA in the evacuation of victims.
The following measures are hereby suggested to break this intractable problem.
- The dams should be handed over to the state governments in which they are located.
- The funds for the completion of the dams should be sourced from Nigeria’s foreign reserves. This should start with the Dasin Hausa and other flood controlling dams.
- Oil for project, also called counter trade or oil wells in exchange for capital projects, is another option. This arrangement was discussed with the Chinese government during the administration of President Umaru Yar’Adua. The details of the deal are elaborated in Segun Adeniyi’s book. (Spokesperson and confidant of the late President)
- The loan option is another possibility, in which case, the funds obtained cannot be used for any other purpose, other than the designated projects.
- Public, private partnership, alias PPP, is another possibility, which has not worked in Nigeria. This will create unnecessary delays because, the ‘investors’ in most cases do not have the funds or anything to offer, other than influence in high places.
In conclusion, the root causes of the flash floods in Nigeria are known, the solution and sources of funding have been identified. The gravity of the situation is also known, and the enormous benefits to the economy are obvious.
It is a national embarrassment that, year, after year, the effects of the floods are handled efficiently, but the obvious solution is glossed over or even ignored.
Ambassador Akinkuolie was Director of Trade and Investments in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.