In the recent times, due to the increasing rate of global warming, Nigeria has been experiencing continuous climatic change characterized by drastic weather changes. The northern region of the country is experiencing drastic reduction in rainfall, increase in the rate of dryness, heat and desertification, and depletion in the amount of water, plant and animal resources on the land which makes it a fast growing arid environment. In the southern region of the country, there is increasing rate of flooding (especially in the coastal areas) probably due to rising sea level. In this article, we take a look at some of the major effects of climate change in Nigeria.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, (IPCC) in 2007 defined climate change as a change in the state of the climate that can be identified by changes in the mean and /or the variability of its properties, and that persists for an extended period typically decades or longer.
Climate change usually takes place over a long period of time of at least 150 years with clear and permanent impacts on the ecosystem. Climate change is different from climatic fluctuations or climatic variability. Climatic variations could be monthly, seasonal, annual, decadal, periodic, quasi-periodic or non-periodic.
The main factor responsible for climate change is human activities (anthropogenic) that either emit large amount of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere that depletes the ozone layer or activities that reduce the amount of carbons absorbed from the atmosphere. These include industrialization, burning of fossil fuel, gas flaring, urbanization and agriculture, deforestation, alterations in land use, water pollution and agricultural practices.
Global warming and decreasing rainfall in most parts of Nigeria are the greatest impacts of climate change. These have brought about some negative ecological impacts in different parts Nigeria.
The increasing temperature has led to increased land-based ice and its melting. The thawing of the Arctic, cool and cold temperate ice, coupled with the increasing rainfall in coastal areas across Nigeria and expansion of the oceans as water warms has caused rise in sea level, with consequent coastal flooding and erosion.
The implication of sea level rise is flooding of the coastal region of Nigeria. Coastal settlements like Bonny, Eket, Forcados, Lagos, PortHarcourt, Warri and Calabar among others would be seriously threatened by a metre rise of sea-level.
The worst impact of the floods is population displacement, which may result in communal crisis. The coastal flooding and erosion with their associated population displacement are currently major environmental problems in Eket, Nembe, and other coastal settlements in Bayelsa, Delta, Cross River, Rivers, and Lagos States of Nigeria.
The increasing temperature and decreasing rainfall have led to frequent drought and desertification. The Sahara desert is observed to be expanding to all directions trying to engulf the Sahellian region of Africa.
A large portion of northern Nigeria is under severe threat of desert encroachment and sand dunes are now common features of desertification in states like Yobe, Borno, Sokoto, Jigawa and Katsina. The migrating sand dunes have buried large expanse of arable lands, thus reducing crop production.
This has prompted massive emigration and resettlement of people to areas less threatened by desertification. Such emigration gives rise to social effects like loss of dignity and social values. It often results in increasing spate of communal clashes among herdsmen and farmers and such clashes resulted in the death of 186 people in six northern states of Nigeria between 1998 and 2006.
The global warming and decreasing rainfall together with the erratic pattern of rainfall produce a minimal recharge of ground water resources, wells, lakes and rivers thereby creating water crisis. In Nigeria, many rivers have been reported to have dried up or are becoming more seasonal.
According to Awake publication of 2009, Lake Chad has shrunk by 95% since the1960s. Lake Chad and so many rivers in Nigeria, especially in Northern Nigeria, are in the danger of disappearing. The water scarcity will create the tendency for concentration of users around the remaining limited sources of water.
Under such circumstances, there is increased possibility of additional contamination of the limited sources of water and transmission of water borne diseases like cholera, typhoid fever, guinea worm infection and river blindness.
Climate change will continue to impact negatively on agriculture and food security in Nigeria because greenhouse gas emissions would increase the risk of hunger by additional. Climate change has led to a shift in crops cultivated in northern Nigeria. A major problem to agriculture in Nigeria due to climate change is the reduction of arable lands. While the sea incursion is reducing the arable land of the coastal plains, the desert encroachment with its associated sand dunes is depriving farmers of their agricultural farmlands and grazing rangelands. Moreover, the frequent droughts and lesser rains have started shortening the growing season thereby causing crops failure and food shortage. Drought, desert encroachment and coastal flooding have started affecting the country’s ecosystem leading to ecological destabilization due to climate change impact in the semi-arid region of Northern Nigeria.
In this section, we examine the relationship between climate change, population drift, and violent conflict over land resources in northern region of Nigeria.
Due to the impacts of global warming, the northern region of Nigeria has been experiencing persistent climate change-induced desertification due to drastic reduction in rainfall, and increase in the rate of dryness and heat.
In search for grazing land and arable land, the people continuously drift southward where there are more plant, animal, and water resources. The pressure over scarce resources consequent to climatic change has led to communal civil violent conflict in the area.
The conflict situation is likely to continue in a progressive manner due to the increasing down-south march of the Sahara desert through the Sahelian zone of the northeast Nigeria is leading to opening up of more agrarian land to grazing, which usually marks the beginning of hostile contact between the arable agriculturists and the nomadic herdsmen.
In Northern Nigeria, environmentally-induced conflicts include armed struggle over grazing land, over cattle, over water points and over cultivable land.
Although these conflicts go back a long way, in some cases to the pre-colonial period, it is important to note that climate change induced changes have led to a considerable competition for the scarce resources of land (cultivable and grazing, including water). Furthermore, environmental deterioration in land productivity and scarcity of water has contributed to the intensity of the competition.
Among pastoral societies in particular, the system of grazing, which involves movement of large cattle herds to water points and in search of pasture, has created a serious problem.
Different cases and examples of violent conflict over land resources in northern Nigeria in the recent time include those that have been occurring in different states of that region of Nigeria.
The particular worrying situation is the ongoing conflict between the Jukuns and the Tivs, and related tensions between other groups, in the central states of Benue, Taraba and Nasarawa. This conflict culminated in the killing of more than 200 civilians by the military in Benue in October 2001.
The case of Tiv-Jukun crises is deep rooted in the issue of traditional homelands, which is deep in Nigerian culture and it is a typical case of between two sedentary cultivator groups from different ethnic groups.
Indeed, many parts of northern Nigeria have recorded many violent disputes between indigenous farming communities and nomads in recent years, due to increasing desertification and consequent population pressure over land in the Nigeria’s northern fringes which forces herdsmen away from their original abode.
As a result, many pastoral people have started pushing southwards in search of grazing land, accounting to a large extent for the conflict between Tivs and the pastoral Hausa-Fulani people in June 2001.
Also in March 2003, many people were killed when a group of heavily armed men attacked the town of Dumne, Bornu state in northeastern Nigeria. The attackers, thought to be nomadic herdsmen from neighboring Chad, attacked the rural town. According to reports from the area, some of the residents believed the attack were not unrelated to a violent dispute over grazing land in September 2002 between local people, who are mainly farmers, and nomadic herdsmen.
The guinea savannah farmer who is already farming close to the margins of cultivation would naturally resist any attempt of invasion of his farmland by the cattle herdsmen who are continually in search of greener pastures that are only in existence within the limit of arable land.
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