In the northeast, tens of thousands of people have been killed and whole communities and public infrastructure have been decimated in the Boko Haram conflict, one of the most deadly and the most devastating during the past decade.
Thousands of young girls and women have been abducted and serially raped. Over three million people have been internally displaced while others have fled to neighbouring countries. There is also the problem of massive starvation as farms have been abandoned and camps for internally displaced persons are not adequately catered for with food, medicines and other supplies despite the commendable humanitarian assistance by international organization, foreign governments and the Nigerian national and state governments.
During the past decade also, there has been the problems of wars and massacres involving herdsmen and farming communities in different parts of Nigeria.
The Social Development Integrated Center (Social Action) in conjunction with Development and Peace Caritas, Canada; in a new report claimed that there are similarities in all of these conflicts and advocate for the need to promote a common civic understanding of the genesis of these problems. Hitherto, discourses around these unfortunate developments have had an overwhelming ethnic and religious colouration, which have contributed to dividing Nigeria along those lines.
While delivering welcome address by the Director of the Social Development Integrated Center (Social Action), Dr. Isaac ‘Asume’ Osuoka at the official launch and panel discussion on the report titled BOILING OVER: GLOBAL WARMING, HUNGER AND VIOLENCE IN THE LAKE CHAD BASIN, said that “What we have realized in our engagements and associated research is that there are intersections of an ongoing ecological crisis and violent conflicts in the Lake Chad Basin and the Sahel region generally.
“In the other areas of Nigeria such as the Niger Delta, decades of environmental damage caused by the petroleum industry created local impoverishment and unemployment that encourage armed insurgency and banditry.
Therefore, both in the north and the south of the country, as agencies deal with the immediate challenges of insecurity, we need also to have a conversation about how to address the underlying ecological and governance problems that created the vulnerability in the first place.”
Osuoka also said that, “the findings of their research in northeast Nigeria is in accord with the view expressed by the Nigerian government that climate change is responsible for decades of drought and desertification in the Sahel region.”
Before the advent of Boko Haram in 2009, the Lake Chad Basin had undergone dramatic climate changes, resulting in the near-total drying up of the lake. Between 1963 and 2019, the Lake Chad had lost over 95% of its original size of over 22,000km2 to just a little above 1,000km2 impacting adversely on the livelihoods and the altering of migration patterns. It impacts include reductions in the pasture for livestock and fertile land for food production.
The near total loss of Lake Chad has had profoundly negatively impacts on fishing and agricultural livelihoods as the Lake used to serve as a lifeline for millions of people. By 2009, many young and able men in the Lake Chad Basin were unemployed!
The droughts of the 1970s and 1980s put pressure on the Nigerian government to build several dams and irrigation projects, sometimes with international credit facilities. Many of these projects started without adequate assessment of environment and social impacts, the report revealed that, in many cases, gains from such projects were overshadowed by massive dislocation of poor farmers and herdsmen who were removed from irrigated land in favour of politically connected persons. This was responsible for the peasant protestation against displacement by dams, which resulted in the Bakolori Massacre of 1980. The Maitasine revolt and massacre also happened in the same year. It is instructive to note that in the case of Maitasine, it was an Islamic sect that led the poor to revolt. “We can only imagine the social conditions in northeastern Nigeria that turned young men into butchers of fellow men under the banner of Boko Haram years later.”
“What the report we are presenting today shows is that understanding the social ecology of violence is imperative to sustainable peace in northeast Nigeria and elsewhere.” Osuoka reiterated.
In all of these, the reality of poor governance cannot be ruled out.
Osuaoka said, “However, if we say that climate change is a causative factor for the situation of insecurity, we do not suggest that it is the only cause. The reality of poor governance, the looting of funds by officials and contractors and the resultant abandonment of ecological restoration and development projects, many of which have been implemented without adequate consideration of environmental impacts, have all provided triggers for the crises.
So far, there have been reports, and widespread public perception of mismanagement of funds voted for humanitarian assistance in northeast Nigeria. When the state officials act with little regard for the human rights of citizens, the result is a germination of a culture of impunity.”
Now we have a crisis that the government alone cannot address without the support of the civic leadership. Our shared understanding of the urgency of the challenges at hand and the necessity for concerted actions to achieve peacebuilding, national development goals and a sense of global justice is key to solving the problem we found ourselves in.
- Prince Abdulrahman Obaje is a Media and ICT Consultant, Journalist, online marketer, social media strategist, Mathematician and Computer Scientist based in Abuja, Nigeria. He is the Founder and the Publisher of The Informavores!. You can reach me on +234 908 6937 780 or send i-witness report directly to me on email@example.com.