Climate Change, Human Security and Communal Clashes in Nigeria.

Fasona, M.J ; Omojola, A.S (2005)

Proceedings of International Workshop on Human Security and Climate Change, Holmen Fjord Hotel, Asker, near Oslo, 22–23 June 2005


The debate on climatic change and variability as it is now concentrate more on likely global and regional futuristic occurrences which may be triggered off by the climatic anomalies of the past and present. Much as this is valid, the vulnerability and (likely) adjustments or coping mechanisms of people to the vagaries of climate is best understood at micro and meso levels. More importantly, the global chain-effects of macro climate variability may not give clue to how climate change affects human security at individual and communal levels. Struggle for diminishing resources has increased as a result of climate variability. communal and ethic clashes over who owns the land and the struggle for control of exploitation of mineral resources has indeed increase especially in the highly populated countries of the developing world. In Nigeria, many communal clashes (often mis-interpreted or mis-represented as ethnic and religious clashes) are actually struggle over either the control of land or mineral resources or both. In the northern and middle parts of the country, the cereal-productive Sudan savannah ecology is transiting to pure Sahel and the influence of the Sahara is increasing southwards. In the same vein, the root and tuber productive ecology of the Guinea Savannah is giving way to Sudan Savannah grassland. The predominant Fulani herdsman of the lower Sahel and Sudan savannah ecologies is now moving South - to the Guinea Savannah and Forest belt of the South - to find greener pasture for his herds. This is not acceptable to the root and tuber farmers of the Guinea Savannah that is already farming close to the climatic margin of cultivation. He has the fears that Fulani herds will destroy his farmlands. The natural result is clash over right to the lands. The Southern Nigeria scenario is a little different but plays out the same. By nature, 50% of the lands in the Niger Delta are not workable due to the edaphic and physiographic limitations imposed by drainage. Secondly, all the lands in the south including the 50% agriculturally productive lands have been parceled to Multinational Oil Corporations as Oil Mining Leases (OML) and/or Oil Prospecting Leases (OPL) by the government. By implication, the real owners - the natives - are only farming on the lands for a moment. Oil exploration activities on productive lands coupled with widespread depletion of resources from both natural and anthropogenic factors drive the people to the margin of survival. Hence, the recourse to communal clashes over who owns the lands yet to be taken over and then arm struggle with oil companies and the government for a better deal. This paper presented a picture of rainfall changes (which is a critical element of climate and climatic changes in tropical Africa) in the guinea-sudan-sahel (GSS) zone of Nigeria. Virtually all the stations in the Sahel region recorded deficit (less than average) rainfall over a 6 decade (1940-2000) period. The decade 1950s recorded the highest rainfall while the decade 1980s had the least rainfall from the total decadal mean. The pattern of land cover changes between 1976 and 1995 strongly indicated loss of prime arable lands resulting from climate change, which is in turn leading to opening up of new virgin lands towards the south. This correlated with the pattern of communal clashes and conflicts over land resources which are more common in the guinea savannah zone, rainforest belt and the mangrove ecology. Of the 37 cases of communal clashes reviewed, 19 cases representing about 51% were basically crisis/clashes triggered by land resources. 13 of them were basically agricultural land related, 4 on oil and environment and 2 on urban lands. The spatial perspectives of these clashes show more cases around the guinea savannah zone, the rain forest belt and the mangrove ecology of the Niger Delta. No land related clashes occurred in the Sahel and upper Sudan savannah zone. It is recommended that any policy aim at reducing ethnic conflicts and communal clashes in Nigeria must necessarily be imbued with programmes that have objectives of making more arable lands available through restoration of already degraded and impoverished lands. Alternative solution to the long and short range transhumance agriculture of the cattle Fulanis in Nigeria through the development of intensive small area grazing which are equipped with facilities that can ensure quick re-growth and regeneration of grasses to ensure continuous feed for animals is also necessary. The spate of oil and environment related crisis which is endemic to the mangrove ecology of the Niger Delta can be reduced through sound proactive land use and resource planning with the view to locate local coastal resources that will provide alternative viable income and livelihood sources to the inhabitants in areas where less oil related ecological risks are involved