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Nigeria’s Flood Crisis and Its Devastating Impacts

Flooding disasters are becoming more common around the world. The resilience capacity of countries varies as well, with developing countries less able to withstand the devastating effects of flooding. The level and type of measures taken to prevent or mitigate floods are mainly determined by their primary causes. Nigeria (As shown in fig 1), Africa's most populous country and home to over 200 million people is one of the most flood-prone countries in West Africa (it is estimated that more than 20% of the population is vulnerable to flooding), and while many areas experience annual flooding, the intensity varies. With Nigeria projected to become the world's third most populous country by 2050 according to the 2022 United Nations World Population Prospects, more people will be at risk of being exposed to flooding.


Map of Africa showing Nigeria and geo-political map of Nigeria divided by zones.
Figure 1: Map of Africa showing Nigeria

Nigeria is characterized by two major weather seasons; the rainy season (April to September) and the dry season (December to March). Flooding usually occurs during the rainy season and the major drivers are geography and climate change. However, human factors like lack of infrastructure, poor urban planning and governance, poor waste management, poor stormwater infrastructure, and weak implementation and enforcement of laws and policies are other factors that have made Nigeria vulnerable to flooding.

Looking back at flooding incidents in Nigeria (Figures 2 and 3) over the years, two stand out: the 2012 Flooding and the 2022 Flooding. These two cases were one of the most brutal, and devastating disasters to happen to Nigeria in recent years; killing almost 1,000 people combined and affecting over 10 million people according to statistics provided by https://reliefweb.int/.


Aerial picture of a flooded region of the Kogi State in Nigeria
Figure 2: Flooding renders people homeless in Kogi State Nigeria


 A Street in Nigeria covered by water due to flooding. People walk without shoes in the flooded street.
Figure 3: A Street in Nigeria covered by water due to flooding

The 2012 flooding

Nigeria experienced one of the worst floods in decades from June to October 2012. The flood was later dubbed the worst flooding in Nigeria in 40 years. The flooding affected an estimated 7 million people and resulted in losses of up to 2.6 trillion Naira (About 3.4 billion dollars). Over 300 people died, and more than 2.1 million were displaced. According to the Nigeria Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), 30 of Nigeria's 36 states were affected, with Kogi and Benue states being the most affected.


The 2022 flooding

Nigeria experienced another severe flood in 2022. It was the worst flooding in a decade (since the 2012 floods). According to UNICEF, over 4.4 million people were affected, with children accounting for 60% of the total (over 2.4 million), and 34 of Nigeria's 36 states were affected. Over 600 people were killed, and over 1.3 million people were displaced.

The flooding damaged not only people's homes and farmlands, but also public health facilities, water systems, and sanitation facilities, increasing the risk of respiratory infection and waterborne diseases such as cholera, diarrhea, and malaria, as the flooding added another layer of complexity to the country's already precarious humanitarian situation. According to Unicef Nigeria Emergency Flood Response (September to November 2022), as of October 12, a total of 7,485 cases of cholera and 319 associated deaths had been reported in the northeastern states of Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe.

Climate change was identified as the primary cause of this flooding. However, the release of water from the Lagdo Dam (as shown in Figure 4) in neighboring Cameroon exacerbated the flooding. Excess water released from the dam cascaded down River Benue and its tributaries, flooding communities in the states of Kogi and Benue, as well as other states in northeastern Nigeria.


Map of Nigeria and Cameroon showing the location of the Lagdo Dam
Figure 4: Map of Nigeria and Cameroon showing the location of the Lagdo Dam

Concluding remark

Flooding is a recurring and escalating problem in Nigeria, with the 2012 and 2022 events serving as stark reminders of the devastating effects it can cause. The Nigerian government and international organizations have taken steps to address the problem, but much more needs to be done in terms of infrastructure development, improved forecasting, and climate change adaptation to protect the country from future flooding disasters. The lessons learned from these events serve as a road map for future flood risk reduction and disaster response.

A combination of short- and long-term planning by the government, individuals, and international organizations, with a focus on strategies such as early warning systems to alert communities, investment in drainage systems, improved urban planning, and infrastructure, will go a long way toward mitigating these disasters.


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