WHEN prodded on the issue of flood control in the light of RBDAs Act Chapter R9 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 which requires RBDAs to control floods in their areas of operations, Lucas acknowledged that flood control is part of their mandate.
He said: “We have a department on that. There is a peculiar issue about flood; there is the Ecological Fund Office set up by the Federal Government. This agency has funds for the control of flood and erosion. That office does not have a field office in the states.
The River Basin Authorities are their field offices. What we do is to identify projects and get same approved by the Ecological Fund Office, while we manage the projects. For instance, the flood of last year was a River Benue flood, which was peculiar. I am very sure that Nigeria is talking with the Cameroonian authorities on how to handle that.
“There is an engineering programme saddled with the duty of managing reservoirs and dams. The issue is that if a dam is threatened by flood, the best option is to release water. But the water needs to be released properly to avoid flooding.
Ecological fund office
“Anytime we discover a flood-prone area or a flooded area, we inform the Ecological Fund Office in order to provide funds for us to manage the situation. Some times we also include it in our budgets.”
Despite this, an expert in flood management, Dr. Akintola Omigbodun, in a 2012 interview with Vanguard, said RBDAs are not doing enough on flood prevention and management. “It is regrettable that the river basins are not working. For example, when I met the General Manager of Sokoto River Basin Authority, he told me that he only had three qualified staff to work with. Why should the government continue to award new contracts to build new dams, when they have not properly managed the ones they have?” he queried.
Strengthening his argument, Omigbodun said: “They have not been performing their functions well. Though the Ogun River Basin Authority is responsible for what we are experiencing here in Lagos, we will not take them to court because of my unpleasant experiences in Nigeria’s judicial system. The truth is that the flood in Lagos and some parts of Ogun State is entirely avoidable.”
Despite puncturing some of the negative perceptions about the performance of RBDAs, Lucas acknowledged the existence of challenges which, in some ways, militate against the attainment of set objectives.
Policy reversals: “Of-course our challenge is labour. We have a crop of technical men who would be leaving the service soon. They were employed and trained in the early eighties but for a long time, there was no further employment. So, by the time this people retire, we would be faced with manpower crisis. Almost all the river basin authorities are faced with this. The second challenge is the issue of understanding government policies.”
On funding, an issue many agree constitute a major challenge, the RBDA boss said: “It will be too wrong to say that funding is the problem of river basins. But you may say that on the surface but that is not the major challenge; it is actually the appropriation of the fund which makes it difficult for continuity in sustaining projects. We have most projects that are always delayed because of the appropriation of funds.
“There is also need to understand what we are doing, but the Federal Government is helping us in that regard by ensuring that every river basin development authority has an advisory committee.” Giving a breakdown of the composition of the committee, he said: “It is made up of the state government, local government, Agriculture Ministry, Water board and other stakeholders. The Authority was not set up as a revenue generating agency, but that does not mean that we are service providers. We use federal government money to purchase tractors.”