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The Nigerian Environment Sector at 60 and the way forward


Professor Idris

By Professor Nasiru Medugu Idris

Nigeria is located between latitudes 4oN and 14oN and longitudes 2o 2 and 14o 30 East and it has a total land area of 923,773 km2 and with a population of about 200 million people based on the current annual projection. Thus, Nigeria today accounts for about a quarter of the total population of the African countries south of the Sahara and its people consist of over 200 ethnic groups, speaking about 395 languages and dialects. By virtue of its spatial extent, the country encompasses various climatic regimes and physiographical units that give rise to a wide variety of ecological zones. These zones range from flush forest vegetation in the south to Guinea savanna in the middle belt region, Sudan savanna in the north and Sahelian vegetation in the extreme northern part of the country.
As expected, the large number of Nigerians will leave an indelible mark on the countrys landscape due to their activities.

Ogoni land clean up has been a challenge to the Nigerian government

Urbanization, deforestation, desertification, over population and other human activities are some of the resultant effects of mans interaction with his environment. Mans basic need of life include food, shelter and clothing and the demand for these will naturally affect the mans immediate environment leading to the changes in it landscape. Well, mans needs and desires contribute to the development of the country, the unwise use of the land and its resources produce negative impacts on the environment.
For example, excessive cultivation has resulted in loss of soil fertility. Increased cutting of timber has made inroads into forest resources, exceeding replanting. Nigeria is currently losing large part of its forest and woodland areas due to human activities. With the discovery of oil in Nigeria around independence year together with the burning of toxic wastes, oil spills and urban air pollution have now become part of our landscape. Nigerias carbon dioxide emission is increasing at faster rate and water pollution is also a problem due to improper handling of sewage. Nigerias endangered species are threatened on daily basis especially in rural communities where poverty and environmental degradation works hand-in-hand.

Gas flaring has not been addressed

Hence, from independence to date, Nigeria has an organized system of nature preserves, game reserves, and national parks in addition to a forest management system, but most management is carried on at the state level. Law enforcement and protected system infrastructure are lacking, and abuses of protected land are common which further leads to the destruction of the countrys fragile ecosystems.
In many parts of the country, farmers have practiced environmental protection for centuries which include planting several different crops in a single field at once to cover the ground more evenly and thereby reduce erosion and increase fertility; planting and maintaining farmland trees and hedgerows to reduce erosion; applying manure to farmland to maintain soil fertility.
However, the global attention has been shifted from general global environmental issues to a new global term Climate Change this climate change poses a significant threat to socio-economic and environmental development in Nigeria as most of the reports from Climate Change conferences across the globe shows strong evidence that warming in Africa has increased significantly over the past 50 to 100 years, with clear effects on the health, livelihoods and food security of people.
With these, Nigerias environment sector has a major challenge in the area of food security, water scarcity, crop and animal productivity as well as outbreak of diseases coupled with extreme weather event as a result of drought, floods and heat waves which it will be more frequent in the country and might likely has severe negative impact on crop yield.
Nigeria faces significant environmental challenges due to deforestation, soil erosion, desertification, air pollution, drought, loss of biodiversity, rising sea level among others. However, Nigeria is currently promoting economic activities which also pose challenges for the country in reducing its emissions level as it strives to address adequate adaptation to changing climatic conditions. Though, the active participation of Nigeria at the High level meetings of United Nations Climate Change Conference annually has recently given hope that we are on the path way to success especially with the current team of Ministers appointed by Mr. President, no doubt plans are under way with improvements in the countries working documents on the environment sector most especially the Climate Change bill which is supposed to get a nod from the Presidency through the National Assembly.
The Ministers of Environment in Nigeria should make sure that the country should always be represented by competent Team of Negotiators that are well trained ahead of time before every annual Climate Change events and also, those negotiators should have a strong voice on Nigeria and African interest for example on adequate financing for adaptation and other issues such as loss and damage, Technology transfer, Climate finance, and Capacity development.
All these efforts are for the purpose of combating climate change problems which will have significant impact on Nigerians as majority of the countrys population lived in rural areas and they normally depend on Agriculture-based livelihood systems that are already vulnerable to food insecurity and slightest change in weather and climate will seriously affect all four dimensions of food security namely: food availability, food accessibility, food utilization and food systems stability. Therefore it will have an impact on human health, livelihood assets, food production and distribution channels, as well as changing purchasing power and market flows.
Food systems will also be affected through possible internal and international migration, resource based conflicts and civil unrest triggered by climate change and its impacts. Agriculture, forestry and fisheries will not only be affected by climate change, but also contribute to it through emitting greenhouse gases.
At the same time, it is necessary to strengthen the resilience of rural people and to help them cope with this additional threat to food security. Particularly in the agriculture sector, climate change adaptation can go hand-in-hand with mitigation. Climate change adaptation and mitigation measures need to be integrated into the overall development approaches and agenda of government.
In conclusion, global climate change needs an urgent attention and something needs to be done about the global environmental change. The negative impacts of climate change such as temperature rise, erratic rainfall, sand storms, desertification, low agricultural yield; drying up of water bodies and flooding are real in the country. Environmental degradation and attendant desertification are major threats to the livelihoods of the inhabitants of the northern part of the country. This leads to increasing population pressure, intensive agricultural land use, overgrazing, bush burning, extraction of fuel wood and other biotic resources. Women and children are particularly the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Climate change is really of great concern to our Nation. Government should improve their financial status towards the solution of findings on this issue. Inadequate funds hamper progress in achieving Nigerias objectives on climate change. The Nigerian Government and all the stakeholders involves in the global phenomenon needs to increase public awareness, promote research and get a Technical Team of experts that will be a standing Advisory Committee to the President of Nigeria on issues related to global climate change just as what we have as Economic Team.

Professor Idris is Dean, Faculty of Environmental Science
Nasarawa State University, Keffi
Email: nasiru@nsuk.edu.ng

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