Climate Change, Conflict, and Insecurity in Nigeria

Effects of Climate Change in Nigeria: Conflict and Insecurity

Climatic change may likely have effects on human security at from individual to global levels.

First, climate change has increased the struggle for diminishing resources. Often, this has led to communal clashes over who owns land and other resources such as water, and solid mineral deposits.

In Nigeria’s northern region, the cereal-productive Sudan savannah is fast changing to pure Sahel and the influence of the Sahara is increasing southwards. Similarly, the root and tuber productive Guinea Savannah of the middle belts zone is rapidly giving way to Sudan Savannah grassland.

The predominant Fulani herdsmen of the northern fringes are now migrating southward to the middle belts and the South in search of greener pasture for their herd. The migration has brought about violent clashes between herdsmen and farmers over right to the land and water resources.

In the Southern region, oil exploration activities on productive lands coupled with widespread depletion of resources due to pollution has brought about communal clashes over who owns the lands yet to be polluted by oil spills.

In the post, we take a look at the possible impact of climate change on conflict patterns over land resources across Nigeria.

In order to reduce climate change-induced conflicts and communal clashes in Nigeria, there is the need to come up with policies and programs that will make more arable lands available through restoration of already degraded lands.

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Climate Change

Globally, climate change manifestations are mainly due to man’s assault on the environment.

Indeed, most disasters (including droughts, desertification, floods, etc) are manifestations of climate change secondary effects.


Climate change results from both natural and human factors. Human activities that emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere are partly responsible for the change we are experiencing in climate today. Examples of greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, methane, chlorofluorocarbon, etc.


Climate change and its manifestations lead to changes in vegetation (land surface), water resources, soil texture and fertility, and atmosphere which are necessary for sustainability of life on earth.

Furthermore, it affects the social and economic life, and by implication survival, of people.  Recently, researchers have established a strong link between climate change and human security.

Nigeria and it’s Climate

Nigeria is a unique country that cut across all tropical ecological zones. From southern border to the edge of the northern region, all tropical ecological zones are found.

These include: the southern zone of Mangrove swamp, the Tropical rainforest stretching from the southwest to the southeast, the Guinea Savannah belt, the Sudan Savannah belt, and the Sahel Savannah.

The unique location of Nigeria makes the country particularly vulnerable to climatic change.

Considering climate change driven land degradation, Nigeria is being ‘attacked’ in all fronts – serious erosion in the coastal region, the extensive gully erosion in eastern parts of the country and parts of the middle belt zone, and the extreme wind erosion and desertification in the northern region.


Rainfall decreases from the coast to the interior with some exceptions in areas such as the Jos Plateau area of the north central and highlands.

Mean annual rainfall varies from about 2500mm to above 4000mm in the southern mangrove swamp near the coast, and decreases to between 380mm and 700mm in the Sahel.

Furthermore, the number of rainy days also decreases from the coast to the interior.


Mean annual temperature (between 27°c and 29°c) is generally higher in northern Nigeria and the middle belt than the western upland, coastal lowland of the Niger Delta and the north central plateau and highlands.

The highland of Jos plateau has the lowest mean annual temperature of about 21°C.

Climate Change and Conflict/Insecurity in Nigeria

Climate change induced environmental degradation has been responsible for some of the violent clashes witnessed in the country.

The core northern region of the country represents the area of extensive grazing with cereal and vegetable cultivation through irrigation farming.

The middle belt is the food basket of the nation. Here, root and tuber crops, cereals and other arable crops are cultivated. This region is the main exporter of food items such as Yam, Potatoes, Cassava, Guinea Corn, and millet to other regions of Nigeria.

The southwest and parts of the southsouth region represents the only region where commercial tree crops like oil palm and cocoa are grown.

In recent years, climate change has brought about a steady decline in rainfall with a gradual rise in surface temperature. These changes, over the years, have now resulted in the struggle for land in the middle belt and parts of the east.

Most of these pressure resulted from migration of the Fulani herdsmen from northern fringes to the middle belt, and now the southern region.

Four decades ago, the Fulanis with their herds only migrated down-south when grasses are no longer ‘green’ in the Sudan and Sahel, and make the return migration with the onset of rainy season in the north. However, today, many of the herdsmen are found permanently settled or roaming within the middle belt and southern parts of the country.

The result of this pressure on land is conflict, especially between the nomadic herdsmen and the host crop growing natives of the middle belt over the right to the land.

The densely peopled south east region of Nigeria is witnessing inter-community struggle for dominance and control of land resources.

The Niger Delta region combines the struggle for control of land and oil activities.

Though the conflict around the Niger Delta occurs due to environmental degradation, farmland losses, and water pollution due to oil exploration activities; most of the agriculture related land conflicts recorded in the middle belt and parts of the east indicates the influence of climate change induced pressure on this zone.

Scramble for declining land resources in the middle belt and parts of the east of Nigeria are increasing due to climate change.

The fast pace of land cover changes have led to loss of arable lands and opening up of new virgin forested lands especially in the middle belt of Nigeria.

Normally, the middle belt farmer attempts to resist the ‘herdsmen invasion’. This leads to communal clashes between natives and immigrants.

The herdsmen-farmers conflict presents a classical case for the effect of climate change at communal clashes in Nigeria.

Conclusion and Recommendations

The post examined the role of climate change in triggering and reinforcing conflict and insecurity in Nigeria. In order to reduce communal clashes and conflicts in Nigeria, there is the need to make more arable lands available through restoration of already degraded and lands.

There is the need to control the pace of desertification by intensifying afforestation.

There is the need to develop intensive small area grazing where these areas are equipped with facilities that can ensure quick re-growth and regeneration of grasses to ensure continuous feed for animals. This might be the solution to the migration agriculture of the Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria.


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