Displacement, Climate Change… And The Rise of Terrorism In Northern Nigeria
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IT was another day. It was the Cassava Festival Day in Bunachor, a village in Cross River State where Drill ranch is located. Though it was supposed to be a day of celebration, tragedy, however, struck: The floods came. The rivers around had overflowed their banks as a result of an unprecedented rainfall measuring 23 cm. It was the highest in 15 years, according to Peter Jenkins and Liza Gadsby, two Americans helping in the protection of drills and other endangered monkeys.
The fast animals sought refuge on treetops and avoided being swept away as some of the earth on Afi Mountain collapsed under the torrential rainfall.
Unable to escape the unusual heavy rainfall, Ekki, an old drill, looked on helplessly. She was already 25 years old and was not as agile and swift as the younger ones who escaped to the top of the tree. Ekki was swept away.
If animals could talk, maybe they would have told the world the rains were unusual. Perhaps too, if they had written documents from their ancestors, they would have likened the events to Noah’s days in the Bible. But they don’t talk, neither do they have recorded documents of the past.
In a village lacking preservation techniques, there was shortage of food. The 400 drills and chimpanzees being taken care of by Pandrillus Foundation also suffered.
It was the same terrible news of flooding and ecological nightmare across the country, especially in the coastal areas. Rivers Niger and Benue — two major rivers in West Africa, with sources from Fouta Djalon Mountain in Sierra Leone and Cameroun Mountains — overflowed their banks in Lokoja, the confluence city. The situation was so bad that animals were swept from forest into cities and reptiles into streams.
Even Otueke, Bayelsa State, President Goodluck Jonathan’s hometown, was almost submerged. Roads were cut off same way the Northern part of Nigeria was cut off from the south by the over flowing rivers.
For the first time, disasters associated with climate change stared government officials, politicians, policy makers and people in the face. The years of erratic weather and warm earth have finally manifested in Nigeria.
Mr. Nnimmo Bassey, renowned environmentalist, told The Guardian that the Middle Belt would likely be the region of conflicts when converging ethnic groups want to outsmart one another as a result of global warming and climate change.
Bassey noted that the environmental degradation has led to many of the crises in Niger Delta. He particularly regretted government’s inability to implement the UNEP report of 2011 on the clean up of contaminated land in Ogoni, Rivers State.
He also confirmed that the conflicts in Niger Delta region of Nigeria have their roots in ecological disasters resulting from crude oil prospecting, extraction and production.
UNEP, in the report, had noted that Ogoniland had been polluted by crude on to a depth of five metres. Thus, the water in the area is not fit for human consumption.
According to climate experts, in the last two decades, there have been a series of conflicts, which many overlook, not knowing they have relationship with climate change. The last 10 hottest years were found from 2000. Coincidentally, it began with Nigeria’s democratic rule.
Ironically, the extreme weather and degradation of the environment have fertilised militant and terror groups in the far North Eastern part of the country common as well as the creeks in the Niger Delta.
TWO weeks ago, the world celebrated the World Environment Day under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The theme of this celebration was, Think. Eat. Save.
The theme embraced the entire ideals of environmental protection and climate change seen from inter disciplinary approach.
Studies in the archives of Nigeria Environment Study Action Team (NEST) based in Ibadan showed that birds such as Arabian Bustard, Savile Bustard, Cream Coloured Couiser, African Coloured Dove/ European Turtle Doves, Double Breasted Barfet, which are known as bio-indicators (who give signal of impending ecological problems) have migrated when they began to feel the dry spells, unusual and erratic weather and struggle over water in the dry river beds.
Last year was one of the 10 hottest years on record. The year 2011 was also in the league of hottest years, with 2010 tieing with 2005. The year 2009 was also a hot year. And as a result of ecological problems, migration and displacement have been taking place steadily.
Dr. Daniel Gwari, one of Nigeria’s Climate Change negotiators at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties (COP), told The Guardian that fishermen who depend on Lake Chad had to move when the water on their side in Nigerian dried up.
According to Gwari, some former fishermen have shifted to farming. He said water in riverbeds is found not enough to cultivate their crops, they moved again.
He noted that the population of some communities has been reduced due to migration of people in search of water, arable lands and means of livelihood.
The nomads and those migrating as a result of ecological problems are also found in Western and Eastern states too.
For Dr. Victor Fodeke, who was Advisor, African Union (AU) Climate Change Office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the consequences and implication of extreme weather that is being felt in Africa is that there would be more flooding, drought and migration of people and animals in search of water and pasture.
Fodeke warned that unless Nigerians took decisive steps to combat climate change, critical infrastructures such as roads, rails and other forms of transformation would be affected.
According to him, food production in many parts of Nigerian will be affected, and there will be forced migration. This also has security implication.
SOURCES say that the ingredients to fertilise the religious zealots can be traced to environmental imbalance and climate variations, which occurred many decades ago. These were the remote causes, though, the immediate cause can be found in the past eight years of democracy where some politicians who were looking for votes and allies in religious terror machines made pledges of establishing theocratic institutions based on Islam.
It will be recalled that the unpleasant environment in the North had genesis in the drought and rinderpest epidemics, which affected agriculture in Northern part of Nigeria.
Experts also traced problem of availability of terror to the Almajiri system, which the expert Bako recalled in his report was contained in the Justice Aniagolu report, Bulunkutu El-Badawy Report, Jimeta – Yola Uwais Report and Gombe Report. This region has become a breeding ground for desperate and willing religious zealots and extremists.
During the military era, NEST organised a workshop to enlighten everybody on sustainable development and environment.
Held in Kano, in 1990, the workshop, which was supported by Fredrich Ebert Foundation, a German non-governmental organisation, was entitled, Sustainable development in Nigerian’s Dry Belt-Problems and Prospects. Professor K.O. Ologe edited proceeding of the workshop.
At the NEST workshop, an expert, Sabo Bako, of the Department of Political Science, Ahmadu Bello, Zaria presented a paper on Ecological Crises and Social Conflict in Northern Nigeria’s Dry Belt.
In his paper, Bako traced the emergence of the notorious Maitasine sect, the group that can be tagged as the ‘forerunner’ of the now dreaded Boko Haram to the same geo political zone of current terror and bombings.
The political scientist linked together the social groups that participated in the Maitatsine urban revolts, which broke out in Kano in 1980 Maiduguri in 1982, Kaduna, 1982, Jimeta Yola in 1984 and Gombe in 1985.
He noted that these groups are found in predominantly Muslim Sahelian towns, which hosted the victims of ecological disasters brought by desertification and rinderpest epidemics, which ravaged the rural areas of the semi – arid and arid parts of Nigeria and West Africa in the 1970s and 1980s killing the cattle of millions of people.
The social scientist spent four years on the study and he found that most of the persons who took part in the religions riots were originally peasant farmers and pastoralists, who were impoverished, devastated and dispossessed of their means of subsistence and production such as farmland and livestock, in the course of the long and severe ecological crises which debilitated their environment.
Many of them were found to have migrated to other towns in “a chaotic state of absolute poverty and social dislocation in search of food, water, shelter, jobs and means of livelihood.”
Today, regrettably, many people wonder how the North became a fertile ground for this dastardly and evil level of religious extremism.
At the time Bako carried out his study, he emphasised that the complete separation imposed by the introduction and intensification of large-scale commodity production such as World Bank Agricultural Projects, Agro-allied industries and the River Basin Development Authorities (RDAs) fuelled commoditisation of labour, land and the movement of labour from rural areas to urban industrialisation.
Studies carried out on the Maitasine rioters showed that some of them were from Chad, Cameroun, Niger, Mali, Sudan, Morocco and Upper Volta. It is pertinent to mention that of those questioned about the reasons for their migration, about 80 per cent laid claim to drought.
Fodeke: Some African States Will Cease To Exist
Dr. Victor Fodeke worked at the Climate Change office of the African Union as Advisor. He was also Head of Special Climate Change Unit, Federal Ministry of Environment before his retirement. Fodeke, who led negotiation from Nigeria in the past to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference, spoke to TUNDE AKINGBADE on consequences of climate change.
What are the consequences of climate change?
The implications are that there will be more flooding, drought and migration. According to a scenario painted by one of the consultant of an America government’s agency, some states will cease to exist and economic infrastructure will be affected. Incase of Nigeria, sea level rise will affect the economic underbelly of the nation. If we cannot sell off as fast as we can in a period of one year, things will be terrible. In some states with critical infrastructures such as road and rail transportation, and the land people farm is filled with water, food production will be affected. There will be forced migration and the security implication could be mind-boggling. I think that was what led to the African Union Risk Capacity, which is taking care of drought and food security right now. There is need to include other consequences such as flood implication on human health, sea and others, which can remove same states from existence. Some states will definitely cease to exist, especially those in the coastal areas.
Lands will be inundated. People will be rendered harmless and you know the attendant crisis where dangerous reptiles can be swept into human habitation. Disease will also be on the increase and people will not be able to eat. You can imagine the number of people who died last year in Nigeria during the flooding across the country. Some states within the African continent will cease to exist.
The flood of last year affected the Afi Mountain. There was a particular gorilla that could not climb the tree to escape like the others. That appears to portend so much danger to animals in the face of Climate Change?
The biggest animals that will be affected are human beings, especially women who will begin to give birth on trees. Women and children are at the epicenter of problems caused by climate change. Now, when you talk about the consideration, the natural resources and the biodiversity there, they will be wiped off. It will be a big loss to conservation efforts and plant planet because that place is one of the Bio-diversity hot spots in the world.
Kupi: Our Plight, Migration, Relocation And Erratic Weather
Alhaji Usman Nga Kupi is Sapeyi of Garki, Abuja. He has been on the throne since 1990. He witnessed the evolution and growth of Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Kupi spoke with TUNDE AKINGBADE on the indigenous people of Abuja, displacement, migration and climate change.
How long has Garki been in existence? It has been in existence for a long time now. The original inhabitants are Gbagyi. Hausa people call them Gwari. The ethnic Gbagyis’ brief history shows that their ancestors migrated from the Middle East and moved towards Borno State in search of pastoral life. They moved down to a base in Zaria, Kaduna State. Not known to be lazy, the Gbagyi man moved on in search of food. We were great hunters as well as great farmers. In search of a better place to settle, our people moved away from Zaria to a certain place that is now called the Gwari Area Council. Our people stayed there for some time. Again, as a result of the inter-tribal wars, some of our people moved from that village to settle on that field (pointing outside the palace) over there. It was a thick forest. The place served as defence fortress against enemy attack. However, there were attacks from Hausa people.
The battle went on for a while and it got to a point that our people said, Sis geri to gagara chi (this territory is unconquerable) Wanageri ya gagara chi! This is what has been shortened to ‘Garki!’ Since then, we have been living here.
From historical records, we find that during those periods of Hausa raids and inter-tribal wars, there was also a form of slave trade. So, people had to stay uphill because they did not want to be captured and sold to slave raiders. When there was no longer slave trade and inter-tribal wars ceased, they came down and settled at the foot of the hill. The Hausa also came and mingled with them. Before the amalgamation of Northern and Southern protectorates, this palace where we are and the entire area was where the white men settled. We were all answerable to the Emir of Abuja. That was before the creation of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT. There, we had a district called Garki. It was created in February 1913.
At that time, only Gbagyi people were owners of the land. Later, the Hausa people came. However, since the Federal Capital Territory was carved out, we have continually been displaced.
The United Nations is really concerned about indigenous people, environment and natural disasters. When the government displaces you, takes your land and now declares your building again illegal; that’s big challenge?
When you are displaced by the state, you are turned into a menace in the society. I keep asking government, when you take land away from the people, why can’t you give them alternative?
At the same time, we suffer from cultural erosion. Our culture is going extinct; our traditional religion is being destroyed. There were places I knew when I was a kid where our fathers used to perform traditional rites. These places have been pulled down or demolished. This has psychological effect on the indigenous people. Other ethnic groups have moved here with their own cultural values and they have infused them into our people. The small population of the indigenous people in Abuja will have to bear the weight of other 165 million who come here regularly or settle here. When they come with their own culture, if care is not taken, the local culture will disappear. There is also impact of modern religion – Christianity and Islam on our people’s culture, values and religion.
How can government protect the people and the environment?
The Nigerian government is one of the problems. It must carry people along. Let us take for instance, the Niger Delta people, a lot of oil exploration took place there and people felt that they were being exploited and short changed. This led to the agitation by the youths there. Sadly, this led to the death of Ken Saro-Wiwa and some people. Why I am saying that the problem is with the Nigerian government is that whenever they begin a project, the communities there are not taken care of. So, what I am saying is that the government must change because we need peace to prevail in this country. We must change so as to get better things in this country. We need peace. Whenever projects are cited, let the government carry people along.
What do you see in all these in relationship to the problem of Climate Change, which the United Nations through the United Nations framework convention on climate change (UNFCCC) has been championing ?
The issue of Climate Change is real. When it happens, it affects the production of crops that have been planted. It has affected some of our people who still have land to farm. Some of us have to go out of our way to get products, whenever there is heavy rain. It affects our farming system and products. If you relate this to problems facing the country, as I have said earlier, unemployment, youth’s restiveness and other challenges, your mind will not be at rest. When there is security in the land, every thing will be okay, but with insecurity, no one can say he has peace of mind and development cannot happen.
Gwari: Conflicts In North Is Due To Dwindling Agricultural Production
Dr. Daniel Gwari, one of Nigeria’s Climate Change negotiators at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), is a lecturer at the University of Maiduguri. He spoke with TUNDE AKINGBADE on problems of desertification, climate change, loss of water and biodiversity and ecological conflicts in Borno area of the country.
What is the situation in Borno State as regards Climate Change?
The climate has been changing over the years to the extent that rainfall has decreased considerably. Except for the last two years when there was a little improvement, rainfall pattern has recorded a steady decline. The drying up of Lake Chad on the Nigerian side evidences this. And Nigerians whose livelihood depended on that part of the lake had had to move to the other side. This is not a good experience. It has resulted in a lot of conflicts. Those who could not move to the other side had to look for other means of livelihood. It has led more people into poverty. The issue of climate change is very glaring in that region. It’s impacting on the population seriously, in different ways.
Can you explain the migration in the region as a result of climate change?
To start with, around Lake Chad, people who depended on fishing had to move when water was no longer on their side. Some went into farming. And when the same scenario played out, they moved on too. Everybody moved south wards in Sudan Savannah where the situation is more palatable. There are communities that have moved completely or their population reduced due to migration.
There are places where ground water has been reduced by the heat?
The ground water, to some extent, depends on rainwater. If rain is not falling normally, certainly the ground water will reduce because of poor recharge. Also, increased extraction of ground water by the population definitely has become noticeable too. People have sunk bole holes that are so deep and they extract water at great depth and you cannot use such sources for agriculture except for some small-scale farming.
What about rivers that are drying up?
You know most of the rivers in the area are seasonal rivers and they depend on rainfall. As soon as rain falls, demand on water from such rivers is always on the increase, and within a very short time, they are exhausted. Human beings and livestock exhaust the water within a few months.
If you look at the issue of food security, is this not a disaster waiting to happen?
It’s a potential disaster for Nigeria because the region is a rich source of food — not just for people who live there, not for the North, but for all parts of the country. Over the years, it has supplied vegetable, fish, cereals and beans to other places. These food items are produced in large quantities in this region and taken to other parts of the country. Because of Climate Change, people are not able to produce enough for their consumption, let alone export. The south had depended for a long time on vegetables from the region. And without good rainfall, people cannot do anything. The agriculture they now carry out is just for local consumption.
A hungry man is an angry man. When people have nothing to do, no food to eat or no future, there is tension. Is this not linked to the tension in the region?
That’s correct. You know that agriculture employs majority of population in the region. When they are affected by weather or climate, these people would lose their jobs. When people have no jobs or anything that can bring food to their table, they become targets for those who perpetrate evil and conflicts. In a way, the conflicts in the North East can be attributed to the lack of employment due to the dwindling nature of agriculture in the region caused by erratic weather pattern.
Author of this article: By Tunde Akingbade