Managing Disaster . Disaster is defined as: “A sudden accident or natural catastrophe that causes a great damage or loss of life”.
Humanity has existed with disaster and has therefore devised coping and mitigating strategies for dealing with its impact, from wars, earthquakes, volcanoes and floods. It can be argued that the Biblical Noah’s Ark provided the blueprint for the principles contained in the modern (DRM) processes, namely prevention/mitigation and preparedness in the pre-disaster stage and response/reconstruction in the post-disaster stage. Noah did prepare by first providing a shelter which maintained the survivors, till they could resettle on a new land to continue living. Preparation is key to success of any plan, which depends on the inputs and information available or envisaged to achieve an expected outcome. All successful management programs as a minimum include information on how to achieve resettlement of the affected persons, in the long term. The outcomes of mitigation efforts by our governments seem to fall short of full rehabilitation, as one of. The actions of the government so far suggest that a key tool for achieving full reconstruction and rebuilding, land/property value information, are not part of pre pre-disaster preparation process.
Encounter with disaster: The January 27, 2002 Ikeja cantonment bomb explosion, was my first conscious participation in a major disaster, (sans my civil war experience) this disaster which falls under the category of technological, chemical disaster, is one of many disasters that Nigeria experiences on a daily basis, from terrorism, to riots, pipeline explosions, oil spills and floods.
In the 2002 explosion, in the process of convincing clients that they needed a valuation of their property to aid their negotiation with the government for a fair compensation, I observed a great reluctance to agree to a valuation of their property as the basis for obtaining compensation/damages from the government. This reluctance was, partly due to lack of a precedence as Nigeria did not have many natural/man made disasters as at then. The lack of proper title/approval documents, added to a general belief and lack of trust in the government willingness to take responsibility were militating factors.
I can report that indeed only my clients armed with their valuation report did get some substantial claims from the government. I will also add that most of my clients did have access to government which may have given them leverage, but the reports were the negotiating tools, and not the same outcome for others who had nothing to negotiate with.
We now live daily with some form of disaster or other and it is a cause of concern that the governments whose responsibility it is to protect the people, when they fail offer relief, and not reconstruction or rehabilitation.
The measures operated in Nigeria do not fully comply with FAO/WHO disaster management protocols. There is poor land governance, making it difficult to identify boundaries and titles of impacted properties.
Types of and effects of Disaster
Nigeria is now home to the three types of disaster classification, natural (floods) technological/chemical (oil/gas pipeline explosions and oil spills, power outages to man made (terror attacks and riots). Their effects are felt not only by the impacted persons, but the extended families due the absence of regulatory safety nets, like insurance.
When a disaster occurs, the inhabitants are forced to flee their homes and source of livelihood, while some would suffer some form of physical injury, or loss of life, leading to health challenges as a result of stress from homelessness in particular; the government suffers loss of property/business tax income.
Importance of Land in Disaster Management
Land is THE natural capital, and access to land provides opportunity for use for shelter, agriculture or commerce. There is an established relationship between land and livelihood for survival and economic growth. This is why information on land/property values is key in the pre disaster preparation stage of any DRM program. It is expected that governments maintain proper land administration records, that contain information on, land tenure, ownership, use, planning permits and valuation. This is vital information that must be factored into any mitigating policy, if it is to be meaningful. It therefore follows that any long lasting and impactful intervention, must key in the value of replacing the land ( or requisitioning an existing structure) and its improvement, and restoring the community.
Poor land administration, amongst other negatives, falls short of meeting the compensation or resettlement and reconstruction needs, of the impacted community.
In confirmation of our 2002, earlier mentioned experience, the survivors of the March 15, 2020 Abule-Ado Lagos gas explosion, were equally reluctant to make any claims from government, for lost properties, because most of them as often with rural and urban slum dwellers (the usual victims of disasters), rarely have property title document nor approvals but were allowed to build, live and work, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation by government operatives and rich individuals, a loophole government has exploited in its unfair dealing with affected citizens. It is no surprise then, that the government was able to announce with glee on Wednesday 22 April, 2020 that it had presented relief cheques to 53 family members of the dead. You don’t offer relief to people, you inadvertently caused harm due policy failures, they are entitled to damages and or compensation.
Responsibility for recovery after disaster
It is wholly the governments’ responsibility to aid the resettlement and recovery of affected persons through a fair value supported compensation. The compensation should not further depreciate the lives of the living, but should be fair enough to enable them to become productive, having placed the citizens at high risk, by granting them building approvals, and or a lack of planning to prevent the development of such high risk communities in the first place.
The objective of DRM is mitigation through preparedness, and the government can not be said to be prepared if it has no financial input for alternative temporary or long term shelter (IDP Camps) or value of properties it may requisition for emergencies. A good land administration database is to the benefit of the government. Valuation information prior disasters incorporated in the DRM is a useful tool for property taxation, and allows the government to calculate its loss from this head.
It is an error to believe that the lack of property values information, loss of documents, renders a property valuation post disaster impossible. Valuation in such circumstances is only more challenging as it requires a valuation expert equipped with knowledge and expertise who can employ technology using geospatial data information and applying appropriate valuation methods, to estimate the retrospective values before disaster.
The values arrived at will support estimates of damages and assist informed decision, on relevant, appropriate and acceptable compensation approach, through, derived benefit, revealed preference, stated preference or cost methods.
In conclusion, it must be emphasized that all disasters negatively impact land resources, agricultural, commercial, industrial and residential, and its values should form the nucleus in the preparation for and rebuilding of affected persons and communities, without which, they can neither be fully resettled or recover.
David Mitchell, Matt Myers, Donald Grant. 2015. Land Valuation: a Key Tool for Disaster Risk Management.
FAO Voluntary Guidance. 2012
World Bank land governance assessment framework.