AnalysesEnvironment & Climate Change

Are Climate Change-Related Security Risks A Priority In Nigeria’s 2023 Elections?

The election will lead to the forming of a new government responsible for developing policies and influencing investments to mitigate climate change-related security risks.

Whoever emerges victorious in Nigeria’s 2023 general elections will be saddled with the responsibility of confronting increasingly environmental security challenges, whose root cause includes climate change.

The tasks ahead will range from addressing resource conflicts, food insecurity, and the economic cost of the global push to cut oil dependence.  

The current government however, has told international allies that Nigeria needs to continue to extract and use oil and gas so it can meet other environmental and development goals. 

Despite being regarded as one of the least contributing countries to greenhouse emissions, Nigeria is highly vulnerable to global warming and extreme weather events due to many factors such as widespread poverty, infrastructure deficit, weak management of environmental resources and unresolved conflicts. 

This makes the outcome of the federal and state elections in February and March next year important for tackling these vulnerabilities. The federal government will have to adopt policies and push forward investment opportunities to implement the Climate Change Act, the ambitious energy transition and nationally determined contribution (NDC) targets. 

Last year, the Nigerian government submitted an updated NDC, which also included a commitment to unconditionally reduce emissions by 20 per cent below business-as-usual by 2030, and now has a 47 per cent contribution conditional on international support. The political fallout of the elections will determine the ability of the country to negotiate funding and investments to achieve the NDC and sustainable socioeconomic development. 

The climate change-related security risks facing Nigeria are both direct and indirect, with potential impacts on different segments of the country. These include the environment, energy and economy sectors, in addition to stability and peace.

Energy and Economic Security 

Nigeria’s energy and economic security are exposed to the impact of global decarbonisation policies, especially actions by developed countries to wade off dependence on oil. This race towards cutting down emissions creates risk for the country because oil revenues are critical for running the government and meeting the population’s needs. 

The situation is further complicated by the need to harness the country’s natural gas reserves for domestic use and international export, which has influenced the 2.8 billion dollars Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano (AKK) pipeline project already marred by funding and security challenges. Nigeria is also exploring gas exporting pipeline projects with Morocco and Algeria that would potentially deliver gas to Europe. 

The size of Nigeria’s resources puts them in an enviable position among oil and gas producing countries, according to industry insiders. But the way the government is preparing for the future could be better.

“Even in this era of the global energy transition, the oil and gas sector remains pivotal to the Nigerian economy since it provides the needed cash flow for the functioning of other sectors of the economy, but for how long?” Farouk Ahmed, Chief Executive Officer of Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority was quoted as telling the 2022 Nigeria International Energy Summit in the capital, Abuja.

The harnessing of the estimated 209.5 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves is not immune to obstacles associated with the drive for clean energy. Farouk also spoke on this risk and the need for strategies such as the “adoption of low carbon technologies  across all operations in the oil and gas value chain, deepening and penetration of natural gas utilisation domestically to increase energy sufficiency and reduce energy poverty and invest conscientiously in cleaner fuels and renewables.”

Speaking at a meeting with US Special Presidential Envoy on Climate Change John Kerry, Nigeria’s Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said Nigeria needs to continue the exploration and use of gas as a “transition fuel” that would give the government time to do other things it needs to do. Arresting deforestation by people burning wood for cooking, and transiting away from dirtier fuels like diesel, kerosene and petrol, while providing the energy baseload for industrialisation, would be helped by continuing to extract and burn natural gas, the Vice President said. 

Extreme weather events and environmental disasters.

Last month the Nigerian government announced that flooding since the beginning of the rainy season swept through several states and the capital affecting more than half a million people, destroying or severely damaging 37,633 houses and displacing 73,379 people. The Hydrological Agency’s Annual Flood Outlook predicts that 233 local government areas in 32 states and the Capital were within high “probable” flood risk areas, while 212 local government areas in 35 states, including the capital, were in moderately “probable” flood risk areas.

This form of environmental disaster demonstrates the effects of extreme weather conditions such as flooding on the country and the ramifications of having weak flood mitigation infrastructure and adaptive capacity. This situation, particularly in urban areas like Lagos, is amplified by poor environmental management and the destruction of natural flood control systems such as wetlands.

Geospatial mapping of wetland systems depletion in Lagos. Wetlands are essential for biodiversity and flood control. Illustration: Mansir Muhammed/HumAngle.

HumAngle assessment of satellite data and other information sources in March spotlighted the effects of indiscriminate development of wetlands in Lagos, located on the front line of rising sea levels and coastal flooding. The sand filling of natural systems and conversion for housing units to accommodate the growing population continues to hinder the prevention and management of extreme flooding, which the climate crisis could worsen.

 “The risks of disappearing wetland areas are even more troubling because Lagos is near the Atlantic Ocean and is barely a few metres above sea level. With no natural buffers and support infrastructure, the threat of submerging could intensify due to inland and coastal extreme events,” the report stated. 

Triple impacts; Food insecurity,  conflicts and humanitarian crisis 

Farmers and herders in Nigeria endure numerous challenges that affect food production and contribute to deadly resource conflicts between the two communities, particularly in the north of the country. According to an Amnesty International report, attacks and reprisal attacks led to the killing of at least 3,641 people between January 2016 and October 2018, 57 per cent of the number recorded was in 2018 alone.

“The last decade has seen thousands of people killed, and hundreds of thousands displaced, with many fleeing into the Niger Republic next door,” the International Crisis Group said in a 2020 report on the violence in the northwest of the country. The organisation also says the region’s security crisis is due to long-running competition over land and water resources between predominantly Fulani herders and Hausa farmers.

“Climate change-related environmental degradation and high population growth have intensified this struggle. Amid a boom in the trade of small arms and light weapons in the region, organised gangs operating from ungoverned forests have proliferated, engaging in cattle rustling, kidnapping for ransom and armed robbery,” Crisis Group also stated. 

HumAngle observed that farmers struggle between a rock and a hard place in the northeast, especially those suffering from displacement, climate variability, and insecurity amid difficulty accessing agricultural resources and livelihood opportunities. According to a food security assessment, an estimated 4.1 million people in the region could face hunger and severe food insecurity this lean season. 

The “Shoring Up Stability” report by Adelphi highlights the conflict trap in broader  Lake Chad and how climate change and conflict dynamics create a feedback loop where climate change impacts seed more pressures while conflict undermines communities’ coping abilities. The report also concludes that the impacts of climate change must be tackled as part of peacebuilding efforts as well as humanitarian aid and development cooperation if the region is to break free of the conflict trap.

The Great Green Wall is one of the projects with the potential to combat the climate crisis and improve the conditions of farmers and herders. The project is excepted to tackle desert encroachment and desertification in the 11 frontline states of Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, and Zamfara in the Northwest and Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, and Yobe in the Northeast. 

The new government would play an integral role in addressing this form of climate fragility and sourcing the funds for the implementation of projects to strengthen the economy and energy generation. In a speech at the Center for Global Development in Washington DC, the Vice President had discussed the energy transition and the difficulties around accessing investment. 

The remarks were days after the government had revealed that Nigeria’s energy transition plan would require $410 billion by 2060, and an additional $1.9 trillion is required to attain the net zero target in 2060. The ability of the election winner to understand the climate risk facing Nigeria and the opportunities available for economic growth and job creation are important for managing the challenges ahead. 

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Murtala Abdullahi

Abdullahi Murtala is a researcher and reporter. His expertise is in conflict reporting, climate and environmental justice, and charting the security trends in Nigeria and the Lake Chad region. He founded the Goro Initiative and contributes to dialogues, publications and think-tanks that report on climate change and human security. He tweets via @murtalaibin

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