‘It’s never been this bad’: Floods in Nigeria submerge entire communities

A photo posted on Twitter on October 18 shows flood-impacted communities in Bayelsa State, Nigeria, who depend on canoes to travel around.
A photo posted on Twitter on October 18 shows flood-impacted communities in Bayelsa State, Nigeria, who depend on canoes to travel around. © Twitter/@YeriDekumo

Nigeria experienced its worst flooding in a decade this October, resulting in the deaths of at least 600 people. With homes and public buildings inundated, more than a million people have been displaced. According to our Observer, who has been helping impacted communities, the floods have had wide-ranging effects  –from food insecurity to fuel shortages.


More than 2 million people and 200,000 homes have been affected by the severe floods, according to Nigeria’s humanitarian affairs ministry. Communities along the River Niger and River Benue have been particularly impacted as water levels rose up to 13 metres.

Videos show homes and businesses entirely submerged, as well as people wading through waist-high water or using canoes to travel around.

‘I had to pack my things and leave’

Layefa Oboh is a student and entrepreneur from Yenagoa, located in Bayelsa State, in the heart of the Niger Delta region. At least 700,000 people in the state have been displaced. 

It started with the schools closing down and then the flooding reached the homes and farmlands. The water reached storage places where people were storing their produce: cassava, plantains, harvested peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, everything. My own house was flooded, I had to pack my things and leave. There are a lot of people displaced from their homes. They can’t live there anymore because the floods have taken over. They are staying in schools that weren’t taken over by the floods, or setting up tents on high lands. 

Some parts of Nigeria experience yearly floods, brought on by heavy rains as well as the release of water from a dam in neighbouring Cameroon. In mid-September, Cameroonian authorities began releasing excess water from the reservoir, causing it to flow through the River Benue into Nigeria. Nigeria planned to build a buffer dam downstream in 1982, but it has yet to be completed.

There is a memorandum of understanding between the two countries which aims to prevent flooding disasters related to the opening of the dam, but many argue that authorities aren’t doing enough to avert risk. 

Climate change, which disproportionately affects sub-Saharan Africa, has also been blamed for the particularly heavy rainfall this year, coming at the end of Nigeria’s rainy season.

Oboh continued:

We have experienced floods before but it has never been this bad. You can’t use a vehicle anymore, you have to use boats to come and go. It’s very dangerous. I even knew someone who tried it and the floods took her away and she is dead now. When you’re in a canoe you see a lot of death on the water. You see dangerous reptiles, sometimes even dead bodies. There have been reports of people missing and then a day or two later their bodies float back. 

Numerous people have died trying to escape the floods. In the state of Anambra, 76 people died when their boat capsized on October 7. 

The disaster has also raised concerns of impending health and humanitarian crises, as communities are dealing with shortages of basic goods and clean water. Corpses, trash and sewage in the water present further health risks to people who have to wade through flooded streets.

With 110,00 hectares of farmland destroyed, Nigeria’s farmers have warned of price increases.

‘The little we have in this state is being hoarded’

Oboh says the floods had an immediate effect on prices:

It has brought about outrageous inflation in the prices of foodstuffs and water. We normally have [drinking] water coming in from other states but now goods can’t be brought in. The flood has destroyed the road from Delta State into Bayelsa State. The little we have in this state is being hoarded. People sell things to you at outrageous prices. We’re also facing a scarcity of fuel. Before we could get petrol at 180 nairas per litre [0.42 euros], but today I bought fuel for 550 per litre [1.28 euros]. It’s outrageous.

‘We have not seen any help from anybody or received any form of relief materials’

The government says they have released money, they have bought things, but the people have not received any of this. We have not seen any help from anybody or received any form of relief materials. My friends and I and some other individuals are using the little money we have and what we have got from public donations to buy things and go to the makeshift IDP camps and share relief materials.

The last time that Nigeria experienced flooding on this scale was in 2012. The estimated cost of the damage caused by floods that year was at least 17 billion euros.