How climate change is fueling conflicts in Nigeria

Climate change is the latest challenge to sustainable human development.

“It is no longer a question of whether the earth‘s climate will change but rather when, where and by how much,” says Robert T. Watson, Chairman of the United Nations Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change.

Arguably, Nigeria is the African state of greatest strategic importance to the global world. It is home to about 20 percent of the people living in Africa south of the Sahara. However, Nigeria is currently under siege. Its security challenges include a radical, Islamist insurrection in the northeast of the country called Boko Haram, restiveness in the Niger Delta, the heartland of Nigeria’s petroleum-based wealth, and ethnic and religious conflict centered in the middle belt but found elsewhere as well. Nigeria’s present security challenges are related, directly and indirectly, to the consequences of climate change.

Adequate adaptation and mitigation could help to protect public health, development, security, and land and water resources from the potential threats posed by climate change.

The risk to humans being displaced through sudden natural disasters is 60 percent higher today than it was 40 years ago.

Lagos is now one of the largest cities in the world, and its population is exploding; it grew from 5.3 million in 1991 to 16 million in 2006, and reached 21.3 million in 2015 (These figures are estimates only.). Much of the Lagos metropolitan area is only slightly above sea level and several neighborhoods consist entirely of shacks built on stilts in the lagoon. As sea levels rise, millions of inhabitants and millions of dollars in assets will be threatened by flooding.

The flooding in 2012 also had a serious economic impact.  It disrupted petroleum production in the Niger Delta by about 500,000 barrels per day, causing a substantial loss in government revenue just when it was most needed for humanitarian relief.

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Consideration of the social and political consequences of climate change are often based on future projections. In the case of Nigeria, however, the effects of climate change are already visible. It is an important contributing factor in ethnic and religious conflict, quarrels over land use, and the disaffection of at least some Nigerians from their government.

Trouble ‘Looms’ for the Nation’s security

According to an estimate, communal violence, mostly involving contest for resources, killed at least 10,000 Nigerians in less than a decade and this is strongly linked to climate change. A case is the frequent farmer-fulani herdsman clash, which has to do with the contest of resources which is greatly affected by climate change.

Clashes between Fulani herdsmen and farmers over land claim hundreds of lives in Nigeria’s central region every year.

The largely agrarian Christian communities in the state maintain the predominantly Muslim Fulani herdsmen are engaged in a prolonged battle to take over land from the areas of so-called indigenous people.

Desertification, which has Nigeria’s northern neighbour, Niger, firmly in its grip, is also forcing herdsmen in Nigeria to migrate southwards. This has made herdsmen who used to depend on the green pasture they had in past had to start moving down to the Middle Belt areas

The Middle Belt is a loosely defined area between the Muslim and Hausa-dominated north and the predominately Christian Igbo and Yoruba areas of the southeast and southwest of Nigeria.

Earlier this year heavy rains and thunderstorms caused havoc in Benue state. The aftermath of the torrential rainfalls in Makurdi left close to 3,000 houses submerged and thousands of residents were rendered homeless and had to flee. Also in Lagos, Nigeria’s economic nerve centre and one of Africa’s most populous cities. Residents woke up in many parts of the city to find their streets and homes flooded and their property, including cars and other valuables, submerged.

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Lagos and Benue states were not alone. Suleja, a town near the capital city Abuja, suffered its own flooding challenge in early July. Heavy rains washed houses away and caused others to collapse, trapping occupants. Thirteen people were said to have died. Other states that affected  by flooding this year includes, Ekiti, Osun, Akwa Ibom, Kebbi, Niger, Kwara, Ebonyi, Enugu, Abia, Oyo, Plateau, Sokoto, Edo and Bayelsa.

Some of the worst flooding in recent memory happened five years ago in March 2012 when 32 of Nigeria’s 36 states were affected, 24 severely. More than 360 people were killed and almost two million people were displaced.

The first factor aggravating flooding is climate change, which has been shown to contribute to more extreme storms and rainfall. Another factor contributing to flooding in cities is that Nigeria has experienced rapid urban growth and planning is poor.

Climate change and its effect on agriculture

The concern with climate change is heightened given the linkage of the agricultural sector to poverty. It is anticipated that adverse impacts on the agricultural sector will exacerbate the incidence of rural poverty. Climate change has the potential to affect Nigeria agriculture in a range of ways leading to an overall reduction of productivity which could result to a loss in GDP.

Over 80% of Nigeria’s population depends on rain-fed agriculture and fishing as their primary occupation leading to a high risk of food production system being adversely affected by the variability in timing and amount of rainfall. Climate change degrades yields from agriculture, cattle rearing and fisheries, many people are left unemployed, with few economic opportunities and low levels of education.

The agricultural sector contributes some percentage of the Nigerian Gross National Product and majority of the rural populace are employed in this sector. The dominant role of agriculture makes it obvious that even minor climate deterioration can cause devastating socioeconomic consequences. Policies to curb the climate change by reducing the consumption of fossil fuels like oil, gas or carbon, have significant economical impacts on the producers or rather the suppliers of these fuels.

Read this also:  To sustain the infrastructure renewal in Lagos

 Climate change and its effect on health

 Nigeria is experiencing adverse climate conditions with negative impacts on the welfare of millions of people. In addition, climate change also negatively affect human health in developing country like Nigeria. Climate change affects human health directly or indirectly in many ways. Changes in temperature, precipitation, rising sea levels, increasing frequencies have great implications on human health in the area of injury, illness, morbidity and mortality. Rising sea level is anticipated as a result of climate change Hence flooding may result which is likely to increase the vulnerability of the poor to malaria, typhoid, cholera and pneumonia. Also, temperature and rainfall dynamics may increase the distribution of disease vectors such as dengue, malaria and incidence of diarrhea disease.

‘Wider implications of climate change’

The conflict between herdsmen and farmers is one of the wider implications of climate change in Nigeria.

Climate change does not create terrorists or insurgents, but it does create an environment that lets them thrive and grow. In areas where the state lacks the authority or the capacity to provide security and basic services, non-state armed groups operate more freely. They use the weaknesses of the state to undermine it further.

Another implication is the encroachment of the Sahara, which also fuels the insurgency by the jihadist group Boko Haram, while the rise in ocean levels and flooding were also affecting the south of Nigeria.

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