Danger of government ignoring early warning signs of climate change

Posted by Chima Nwafo | 8 February 2020 | 2,007 times

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•Minister of Environment, Muhammad Abubakar

In organised climes, government is perceived as a continuum. Policies stretch from one administration to the other just as projects begun from one government is usually completed by the successor-regime.

But that is not the case in this land of mutual antagonism and self-serving politics. As it is at the centre so it is at the state levels. Make no mistake about it: It has nothing to do with partisan politics, but everything to do with ineptitude and selfish interest.

But given the corrupting influence of civil servants on elected public officers in Nigeria, it is sometimes difficult to draw the line between inefficiency and selfishness as the cause of policy failure and abandonment of noble developmental projects. Instances of such abound in same-party states nationwide. But the issue on the table today is the existential menace of climate change and government’s response.     

Sometime in 2012, the Federal Government embraced and formally commenced a two-year T21 programme. A forum where stakeholders gathered at a two-day brainstorming session offered suggestions as regards critical elements that should go into the model.

The event was supported by the Africa Adaptation Programme (APP) of the Department of Climate Change in the Federal Ministry of Environment as well as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The programme, Threshold 21 or T21, integrates economic, social, environmental, and resources sectors in a single national sustainable development model, which provides national planners with an analytical tool to understand the complex interrelationships among these sectors and to make decisions about where to invest scarce resources.

This was adapted from the seminal work, Global Models of Sustainable Development – Vol. II entitled “The Threshold 21: National Sustainable Development Model” – by Weishuang Qu, Gerald O. Barney, Douglas Symalla, and Leslie Martin.

The forum, as usual, which held at Abuja, the federal capital, shared with participants how T21 helps policy-makers deepen their understanding of the dynamics within their countries and provides an insight into how funds can be allocated to have the greatest impact on climate change strategies, poverty reduction, economic growth and reducing economic inequality. 

“The model has no secrets. A user-friendly interface has been developed for the model to make it easy for decision-makers and users who have only limited experience with either computers or models to begin using the model in a matter of minutes.

It is designed in a modular way, which means that new sectors can be developed and added to the model with ease, and existing sectors can be taken out completely, or taken out, modified, and then put back into the model. It can be used by individuals as a learning tool, or by a group of people as a communication and consensus-building tool.”

The foregoing developmental model was adopted by the Federal Ministry of Environment in 2012. The earlier mentioned training forum was organised by the ministry and the UNDP, with the sole purpose of equipping stakeholders for the onerous task of managing the challenges of the unfolding global threat of climate change. But eight years later, no trace of any implementation or application of the T21 model by the same ministry that embraced it. Besides, Nigeria’s stand on the effects of climate change is very much in the realm of rhetoric.

Recall that in September last year, President Muhammadu Buhari while speaking at the Climate Action Summit at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, the United States, said that the country would mobilise Nigerian youths towards planting 25 million trees to enhance Nigeria’s carbon sink….. He also said that “in the water sector, Nigeria will issue a Green Bond for irrigation and construct multi-purpose dams for power, irrigation, and water supply.”

The submission was reiterated by the Minister of Environment, Muhammad Abubakar, who said the country would soon commence the planting of the 25 million trees to curb deforestation and erosion in the country in the face of worsening climatic conditions. Sadly, these are increasingly becoming mere political statements as no action has been taken, five months down the line

In a recent news report – Why Nigeria Must go Beyond Rhetoric in Addressing Climate Issues – Enviro Nigeria noted: “Responding to the realities of climate change has been more of political rhetoric than real-life action in Nigeria. While this continues to build into a disastrous future for the country, the government appears to be ignoring the early warning signs.”

As at the time Buhari made the above statement in the United States, findings from the National Assembly showed that Nigeria was yet to domesticate the climate change bill, which was still awaiting the president’s assent. That, however, is just one of the contradictions despite government’s utterances on climate change. Another disturbing factor is that even warnings by government agencies are not taken seriously by both federal and state institutions. The truth is that they are not convinced that climate change is an African problem. They see it more as a Western dilemma. That, more than anything else, explains the lip-service, despite the reality of the menace.

Nigerians experienced unprecedented over-flooding rainy season that overwhelmed state administrations. In the Daily Sun of Friday January 31, chairman of Riverview Estate Residents and Stakeholders Association, Abayomi Akinde, in a statement, chided both Lagos and Ogun state governments for allocating lands without considering how water could be channelled in the community, as well as provide basic infrastructure in the area. This call, however, is an afterthought borne of the heavy loss residents sustained during the rainy season as due to flooding, a factor they failed to ponder before investing millions in the estates.

After the 2012 flooding which was unprecedented by expert assessment, the Nigerian Hydrological Services Agency (NHSA) issues warnings yearly, often specifying specific states to be on high alert for severe flooding. Despite this, the governments usually, fail  to take any notable action in climate solutions, leaving thousands of people in the country at risk of climate issues. For example, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHR), “Borno and Adamawa states are currently facing the worst floods in seven years, which have destroyed homes and livelihoods across entire communities in the region. About 300,000 people have been affected by floods so far this year (2019), which is at least five times more than expected in the humanitarian contingency plan.”

Yet, effects of climate change in Nigeria have begun to manifest in the drying of water in Lake Chad, River Niger, etc., overflowing of beaches and ocean shores and excess flooding. Neither the Federal Government nor the uncaring state governors have taken any action in line with climate solutions. Perhaps, only two of the 36 state governors have taken climate issues as seriously as it should, by claiming to have planted trees. But as pointed out in an earlier article, tree planting is not an all-comers’ affair. Without proper soil identification, engagement of experts, adequate nurturing, including watering and monitoring any trees planted the way we plant our flowers, are bound to die and the millions of public funds wasted. And an ally would have pocketed millions in contracts.

As Enviro Nigeria observed, in the light of these inactions by the governments, experts have issued a warning to the authorities, stressing that policies must be immediately put in place and enforcement ensured.

One of such is the technical director, Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF), Dr Joseph Onoja, who in an interview, said the country collectively needs to take immediate action to reduce the growing heat index and plant trees to serve as a shield to flood. He said: “As a government, we need to put policies in place that would ensure that trees are planted, and criminalise indiscriminate tree clearing.”

President of the Society for Environmental Toxicology and Pollution Mitigation (SETPOM), Dr Funmilayo Doherty, highlighted some of the steps the government must take immediately.

She recommended that the government must build defences to protect against sea-level rise, (which residents of coastal towns have consistently complained of, rather than asking them to vacate every rainy season); improving the quality of road surfaces to withstand hotter temperatures, building flood defences and raising the levels of dykes (where there is one).

Professor of Climatology, Olukayode Oladipo, while stressing that more sectoral analysis needs to be done, urged the Federal Government to see the initiative as a national project…He said: “The T21 is a 21st-century model using economic, social and environmental sectors and how they are looped together to see how they influence and determine the impact of climate change. We know that any change in climatic condition would affect agriculture, which contributes 40 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP). It will affect education and housing, among others. It is important to capture a lot of elements that the country can use in planning. It may take up to two years for it to be completed.”

Perhaps, the developmental model was due to fail ab initio given that it was designed to work in a socio-political environment where a country identifies its vision and key goals are determined. In Nigeria, it’s difficult to say what the vision is and if any goals have been identified, especially in the area of climate change and environmental menace.


  • Nwafo, Consulting Editor, News Express and Environmental Analyst, can be reached on: chi_dafo@yahoo.com; +2348029334754.

Source: News Express

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