RE: Before 70 000 Nigerians Perish Overnight..!

NEMA Nigeria

I read the above article written by Adeola Aderounmu which was first published on the Nigeria Village Square (NVS) on Wednesday, 15 July 2009. The writer expressed the fear of an emergency if the volcanic Lake Nyos in Cameroon erupts and further create public consciousness about emergency preparedness when he questioned capability of response agencies, especially the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).

According to him over70,000 may die in Benue State of Nigeria if the Volcanic Lake Nyos in Cameroon erupts. He also pointed out that over 30000 livestock are also at risk in Benue State alone. The Lake as he rightly disclosed is adjacent to Nigeria and its eruption may affect Benue, Kogi, Enugu, Adamawa and Taraba States. By implication about 40m Nigerians may be at risk.

The writer also made some valid references when he disclosed that the Obasanjo administration raised a technical committee in 2006 which submitted a report on the situation. According to the writer: “In January 2009, it was disclosed that a sum of N26 billion has been committed to the construction of a buffer dam at the Nigerian side of the Lake. The buffer dam is supposed to reduce the impact of the eruption.”

Adeola raised some pertinent questions after pointing out the mandates of National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) on an emergency situation when he asked: “What has NEMA done about this current threat to 40m Nigerians? Has NEMA monitored the situation and the reports made by the technical committee set up by Obasanjo? Was NEMA part of the committee? How is NEMA monitoring the state of preparedness of all organizations and agencies which may contribute to this particular disaster management? If the disaster occurs now, what rescue operations are in place? Does NEMA have any comment on the state of the buffer dam that is nothing but a serious national embarrassment to Nigeria? Has any useful information been posted on NEMA’S website relating to this predicted disaster? How do the concerned people get access to such information? I did a quick browse of NEMA’s website and I’d probably missed the information. ”

Being a staff of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), this rejoinder, as a member of NVS is a spontaneous reaction to the piece of Adeola, which is not necessarily the official position of the agency. From a personal experience, visitation and information available to me, I can say that appropriate actions are being taken by the Federal Government to address the situation.

The website of NEMA which provides causes and preventive measures against major disasters, also has a Press Release page where one could have read several news items on some issues including the one published by the agency some months ago to allay the fear of Nigerians and international community over the situation in Lake Nyos.

The story with a title”NEMA Allays Fear Over Poisonous Gas from Lake Nyos” states that: “Though there are possible threats due to past consequences, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has allayed the public fear over the danger of Lake Nyos in Cameroon which in August 21, 1986, suddenly emitted a large cloud of carbon dioxide (CO2) which suffocated and killed 1,700 people and 3,500 livestock in nearby villages in Cameroon.”

The Director General of the NEMA, AVM Mohammed Audu-Bida (rtd) confirmed that Lake Nyos is a crater lake in the Northwest Province of Cameroon, which is a deep lake high on the flank of an inactive volcano along the Cameroon line of volcanic activity. The lake poses a threat due to its weakening natural wall. He also admitted that some experts have warned that a geological tremor could cause the dike to give way, allowing water to rush into downstream villages all the way into Nigeria. But he nevertheless said to address the problem, the Federal Government has approved the construction of a dam in Kassimbilla in Taraba State to contain any excessive flooding and gaseous content from slipping into the country from Lake Nyos in Republic of Cameroon.

The NEMA Boss said the dam being constructed by the government would be utilised for electricity generation and agricultural purposes while serving as a reservoir in the case of any eventuality from Lake Nyos. He added that the agency has been communicating with states that may likely be affected in the likelihood of breakage from the Cameroonian side. He said the agency is also assessing the situation in order to develop early warning mechanisms with regards to the breach of the Lake.

I must add that if readers go to the features or other relevants pages of the website, just like other press releases issued and published by the media, they would realise that the NEMA of today is more concern with adequate public awareness campaign against emergencies rather than waiting for disaster to happen just to deploy relief materials to victims.

In fact in the new thinking of NEMA on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), emphasis is laid on adequate preparedness of response agencies in an event of any disaster for timely and responsive interventions. About a week ago a team from NEMA with other relevant agencies visited the communities that may be affected and monitored the level of progress on the project to ensure that our people and livestock are assured of adequate protection.

I find it necessary to also draw the attention of members of this forum (NVS) to the piece I posted to this group some months ago which may also be useful to understand measures being taken by NEMA in its mandates to address emergencies in Nigeria. The link are indicated at the bottom of this rejoinder.

While appreciating the effort of Adeola in bringing to the fore this debate and the comments made by other members, I can assure you that NEMA, its staff and other response agencies are up to the task… We are proactive in our approach as we believe too that God will protect us. Please help me say AMEEN aloud as I believe there would be NO SHAKING… in our environment.

NOTE: this is a personal position and not necessarily the official position of NEMA.

This article by Yushau A. Shuaib originally appeared in July 2009 on the website of


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Yushau Shuaib

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