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Nigerian coastal areas and climate change

The Guardian

THE natural disasters that occurred in parts of the world this August simply torpedoed, or at best turned topsy-turvy the beliefs and phrases associating the month with greatness, goodness and distinctiveness. Rather than live to the billing of such virtues like, “August visitor” or “August assembly”, it witnessed floods in Pakistan affecting some 20 million people, about 1,600 of whom were killed; unrepentant wild fires in Russia; mudslide in China; Colombian aircraft broken into three parts having been hit by lightning, etc. Not being comfortable to leave Nigeria out, the month also witnessed the rage of natural disasters as the fabled “August break” refused to come and heavy rains claimed six lives in Onitsha, Anambra State, with property worth millions destroyed.

Makurdi, Benue State, was pummelled by the rains with floods taking charge of such areas as Demekpe, Gyado Villa, Bernada Quarters, etc. Ditto Shanono LGA of Kano and Jahun Jahun LGA of Jigawa states.

They all became victims of severe flooding following heavy rains. In Akwa Ibom State, the Ibeno people, hosts to Mobil Producing Nigeria, had their own bitter experience with floods on 12 and 13 August, leaving six of its indigenes dead, 17 missing, 40 fishing boats vanishing and many houses submerged, as the Atlantic Ocean, their neighbour, went Irredentist and expansionist sacking Itakabasi, Iwuo Okpom, Ikpotuwa and Okoroita communities.

About 2000 of the communities population of 10,000 persons are said to have been displaced by the floods. Responding true to his administration’s DNA, Governor Godswill Akpabio promptly reported the matter to the Presidency, and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). Promptly NEMA released relief materials to the affected people barely 48 hours after the incident.

The governor personally, in company of NEMA DG, Charles Agbo, and others, visited the affected areas, commiserated with them and thanked the President for promptly responding to the yells and wails of the displaced people. He promised to find a lasting solution to the crisis. The Ibeno incident only reminds us of the threat of rising atmospheric temperatures resulting in rise in sea and ocean waters pose to our littoral communities.

Mid-August, the Special Climate Change Unit of the Federal Ministry of Environment raised an alarm that four islands in Delta State are in danger of being swallowed up by rising sea water. This has been blamed on climate change, an issue that is today of global concern. Addressing a delegation from Zamfara State, who sought the Federal Government’s assistance against desertification, President Jonathan, represented by his Deputy, Namadi Sambo, said that the Federal Government, having been quite aware of the triple challenges of desertification, land and coastal erosions, would be spending a greater portion of the ecological fund on those ecological issues.

This is perhaps why he promptly responded to the distress call Governor Akpabio sent to him on the Ibeno disaster.  Environmental scholars generally agree that climate change is basically a consequence of man’s mismanagement and abuse of the environment. In the course of industrialisation, industrial oxidants and pollutants have been unleashed on the environment with little mitigation to enthrone balance of the eco-system. For instance, in the same August, the VP of Green Energy Society of Nigeria (GESON), Felix Obada, warned that gas flaring be checked in the country, and green energy policies and programmes be pursued. A recent statistic shows that gas flaring accounts for 31.4 per cent of a total of 54.9 per cent of emissions from the country’s energy sector.

This affects the Niger Delta terribly. Ibeno, for instance, lies along part of the country’s 853 kilometres coastline, and is situated close to the Stubbs Creek forest reserve. It is also host to Mobil Producing Nigeria, which has had its fair contributions to the gas flare and oil spills in the delta. With oil exploration, part of which take place in the marginal oil fields in the Stubbs forest area, carbon emissions threaten and impact on ocean beds, aquatic life,  and coastlines.  Tackling flooding in the coastal areas of Akwa Ibom, especially in the areas neighbouring the Stubbs forest reserve ¬ Mbo and Esit Eket LGAs ¬requires national, nay a global engagement, especially as oil exploration and exploitation activities, which are worsening the eco-stability of the region, fall under federal jurisdiction and global politics.  The forest, one of Nigeria’s 445 forest reserves, when first placed in government gazette in the late 1950s, had an area of 310 square kilometers.

By the 1990s, owing to logging, farming and oil exploration, it had shrunk to about 90 square kilometers. It is the only natural coastal swamp forest of any significant size still standing in Akwa Ibom. Its gradual loss exposes coastal communities to the unmitigated bashing of sea waters, since the forest had been a natural buffer between the sea and the communities along its coast. This has resulted in fishing settlements around the Eket/Oron/Mbo axis shrinking steadily over the years with little notice from the authorities. Efforts should be launched and intensified to reclaim much of the nation’s coastlines, enforce Environmental Impact Assessment laws, and check unbridled logging if much of the coastal communities are to be saved. Nigeria cannot afford to be losing land in the North to desertification and land in the coastal communities to ocean surges. The consequences of these are too frightening to even be contemplated. 

El contenido de las noticias que se presentan en esta sección es responsabilidad directa de las agencias emisoras de noticias y no necesariamente reflejan la posición del Gobierno de México en este u otros temas relacionados.


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