Cablegate: Flood Damage in Northern Nigeria Grave And

Published: Sun 9 Sep 2001 07:11 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
REF: (A)ABUJA 2259 (B) ABUJA 2260
1. (U) Summary: The worst flooding in many years has wiped
out dozens of villages in northern Nigeria, killing over 300
and displacing 1,600,000. Floodwaters are rising in some
areas and receding in others. There is an urgent need for
food, potable water, plastic clothing and shelter. Even
elderly people say they have not seen flooding like this in
their lifetimes. The magnitude of the disaster has
overwhelmed state and local capacity, and Nigeria's federal
government does not appear to be responding. Further
flooding could take place downstream (toward Lake Chad).
Economic and social effects will be substantial and
long-lasting. If not mitigated, they could be politically
destabilizing. The GON will have to play a major role in
long-term relief for the people (largely subsistence farmers)
most gravely affected. The USG can deliver a critical and
hugely positive impact by engaging energetically now.
Disaster declaration sent by niact immediate precedence ref
A; request to use helicopters contracted for Operation Focus
Relief in support of damage assessment transmitted ref B.
End Summary.
2. (U) Poloff, USAID Deskoff and two Mission FSNs visited
flooded areas of Kano and Jigawa states on September 6 and 7
to assess the extent of the damage. Flooding in both states
that began August 26 has resulted in approximately 317
deaths, and roughly 1.6 million displaced persons. 35 of 44
local government areas (LGA's) in Kano State were affected by
the flooding, as well as 20 of 24 in Jigawa. Communities in
the southern parts of both states have seen floodwaters
recede, but streams and rivers are continuing to rise. Many
communities lying in or along the floodplains in western Kano
and eastern Jigawa are isolated by as much as one or more
kilometers of water. Some have yet to be visited by
government officials, due to lack of suitable water-craft.
People remaining in these cut-off villages are especially
vulnerable to illness resulting from the lack of potable
water, adequate food and clothing.
3. (U) Government officials in both states claim to be
meeting the immediate needs of the displaced persons.
However, the dimensions of this disaster clearly outstrip the
capacity of both local and state governments to respond. At
this point, neither the Federal Government, nor NGO's, appear
to be delivering disaster relief. From the descriptions of
local officials, this flood should probably be characterized
as a 100-year event. As water continues to accumulate and
overflow dams in Kano, flooding will likely spread eastward
through Yobe, Bauchi and Borno states as the water moves
towards Lake Chad. While the full dimensions of the disaster
are not yet clear, its economic and social effects will
likely be both severe and long-lasting for the affected
states and their people. Many people have lost everything,
since the mud-brick walls of their houses simply dissolved,
washing away belongings and livestock, though occasionally
leaving a stranded roof where once a house stood.
4. (U) Before the flooding began, excessive seasonal rains
had already filled reservoirs to capacity and saturated much
of the ground in the affected areas. During the week of
August 26, over ten inches inches fell during a two-day
period across much of Kano and Jigawa. These rains caused
flash-flooding that damaged or destroyed villages situated
both within and outside floodplains. While the water has
receded from some areas, water levels in reservoirs, rivers
and streams continue to rise elsewhere. As of September 7,
Governor Kwankwaso of Kano State reported that water was
flowing over the tops of Tiga and Challawa dams at a height
of nearly two meters. Consequently, the Hadejia and other
rivers in Kano continue to rise, making it difficult--and
treacherous-- to access already-isolated villages. Many
residents trying to reach villages with supplies via
makeshift boats have drowned when these fragile crafts
5. (U) In southern Kano some LGA's appeared to be coping
relatively well with the crisis. In Warawa, many displaced
persons had been received by local villages, and those who
had not were living in primary schools with clean wells.
Those living at the schools appeared to need clothing, food,
medicine, sleeping mats and mosquito nets. Many of the men
were sleeping outdoors, and the people there reported
increased incidence of malaria. In the Kura Local
Government, Emboffs visited a large village that had been 80
percent destroyed by the flooding, and remained completely
surrounded by water. Few in the North know how to swim, and
the team was forced to borrow a large canoe and push-pole in
order to access the village, as the boatman was gone and
no-one would assist for fear of drowning. That particular
village had no potable water as all wells had been flooded.
The well being used had foul water a few feet down, when
normally the water was 24 feet below the surface. Food and
clothing supplies in the village were inadequate. The local
government chairman claimed that a team of doctors was
visiting each of the affected villages daily, but that seemed
unlikely, given the difficulty of accessing some of the
villages surrounded by water. The crops in these areas did
not appear to be a total loss, as the flash-flooding receded
fairly quickly, and only crops left in standing water
appeared to be severely damaged.
6. (U) In Wudil, situated at the western end of the Hadejia
flood plain, there were several camps for displaced persons
set up in primary schools, but people there complained of
inadequate food, clothing and medical attention. Many
villages surrounding Wudil were totally destroyed by flash
flooding, and some were surrounded by water. We stopped to
listen to Friday's Juma'at prayers in Wudil, and the local
Imam called on all Muslims to take in anyone they knew who
was affected by the floods and ensure that they had adequate
food and shelter.
7. (U) The flooding in Ringim, Jahun and other LGA's near
the Hadejia floodplain is severe. Poloff was able to visit a
town of 20,000 people on the edge of the floodplain near
Jahun that had two to three feet of water standing in the
streets. Villages deeper within the floodplain are entirely
inaccessible, and the waters there continue to rise due to
rain runoff from the Tiga and Challawa dams in Kano. In
Dutse, government officials reported that they had ordered
twenty rubber boats with motors from the Delta region in
order to access and provide aid to the stranded villages.
Roads and bridges traversing the floodplain are reported to
be submerged, stopping all north-south traffic in Jigawa.
Standing on the southern edge of the floodplain, Poloff
observed water stretching north to the horizon.
8. (SBU) Federal Government involvement, including the
Nigerian Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), was practically
nil. Deputy Speaker Chubidom Nwuche, an ethnic Igbo, visited
flooded areas at the same time as the Mission's team, but the
National Assembly has a limited ability to respond with any
short-term aid. The Nigerian military was not engaged in any
flood relief efforts. Governor Victor Ibechi of Akwa Ibom
visited Dutse and brought a truckload of corn to support
Jigawa's relief effort. Governor Kwankwaso of Kano State
appeared to be more engaged in flood relief than his
counterpart in Jigawa, where the damage is much more severe
and widespread. By September 7, Kwankwaso had already
identified land and begun the process of construction of some
resettlement villages for Kano's displaced persons.
9. (U) Comment: The economic and social effects of this
disaster will be substantial and long-lasting. If short-term
flood-response were viewed as a test of Nigeria's democratic
institutions, the Federal Government has made the poorest
showing. There appears to be little or no co-ordination of
relief efforts between Abuja and the state and local
governments. Abuja will have to become involved with
long-term aid efforts, as the states are not likely to be
able to support 1.6 to 2 million displaced persons who will
have little or no income until next year's harvest. Governor
Kwankwaso expressed concern that, if they are not adequately
cared for, these people would migrate to Kano, where they
would be unemployed, impoverished, and restless. It is clear
that in both the short and long terms, the people of Kano,
Jigawa, and possibly Yobe, Bauchi and Borno states will need
assistance beyond what the Federal, State and local
governments can provide. By septel, the Mission is
requesting authority to release $25,000 to the Nigerian Red
Cross/Red Crescent societies, and the support of an OFDA
assessment team. This is a rare opportunity for the USG to
build goodwill in the North, where many Muslims view us as
fundamentally anti-Muslim. An effective long-term disaster
assistance program would also contribute substantially
towards maintaining stability and peace in a potentially
volatile region of Nigeria. End Comment.
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