Nigeria’s president restates readiness to combat climate change

President Muhammadu Buhari during the oath-taking ceremony
President Muhammadu Buhari during the oath-taking ceremony

By Atâyi Babs

For the second time after his election on the 28th of March 2015, Nigeria’s new president, Muhammadu Buhari has restated the readiness of his administration to combat climate change amidst other 21st century challenges.

Addressing the nation after his swearing-in ceremony which took place today in the capital city of Abuja, President Buhari declared his readiness to cooperate with other stakeholders in the fight against climate change.

“I also wish to assure the wider international community of our readiness to cooperate and help to combat threats of cross-border terrorism, sea piracy, refugees and financial crime, cyber crime, climate change, the spread of communicable diseases and other challenges of the 21st century,” Buhari said.

At the ceremony which was witnessed by nearly 50 Heads of state and Presidents from Africa and beyond, President Buhari assured Nigeria’s neighbours in the Sub-region and the Africa continent  of his administration’s readiness to play any leadership role that Africa expects of it. On cross-border terrorism and insurgency, the new president thanked the governments and people of Cameroon, Chad and Niger for committing their armed forces to fight Boko Haram in Nigeria. “At home we face enormous challenges. Insecurity, pervasive corruption, the hitherto unending and seemingly impossible fuel and power shortages are the immediate concerns. We are going to tackle them head on,” he added.

It may be recalled that President Buhari first declared his readiness to radically confront global issues such as climate change and terrorism affecting the country. Shortly after his election, the president in his acceptance speech promised to make addressing global warming a priority when he assumes power on the 29th of May 2015.

Buhari while confirming that his government would play a more active role in diplomatic efforts to craft a global response to climate change stated “I assure all foreign governments that Nigeria will become a more forceful and constructive player in the global fight against terrorism and in other matters of collective concern, such as the fight against drugs, climate change, financial fraud, communicable diseases and other issues requiring global response.”

Nigeria  and climate change
Nigeria’s link with climate change is manifestly seen through prolonged droughts, shifting seasons, rising sea water levels, flooding and the emergent issue of climate refugees and diseases which continue to vitiate the country’s quest for sustainable development and poverty reduction aspirations.
According to a 2013 World Bank report, if climate change is not addressed in time, “it will exacerbate Nigeria’s current vulnerability to weather swings and limit its ability to achieve sustainable development.”
“The likely impacts are long-term reduction in crop yields of 20-30 percent, declining productivity of livestock, with adverse consequences on livelihoods, increase in food imports, worsening prospects for food security particularly in the north and the southwest, and a long-term decline in GDP of up to 4.5 percent,” the report observed.
Agriculture accounts for about 40 percent of Nigeria’s GDP and employs 70 percent of its people. As virtually all production is rain-fed, agriculture is highly vulnerable to weather swings. Stagnating yields in the presence of a growing population are causing dependency on food imports to increase. In large parts of the country, especially in the northern states, livelihoods depend on livestock which accounts for 5 percent of GDP.
Livestock in Nigeria is already exposed to thermal stress and declining pasture productivity.
Climate vulnerability is also undermining Nigeria’s efforts at achieving energy security. Recently, the country was nearly shut down due to disagreements between government, oil marketers and labour unions in the oil and gas sector of the economy. The face-off led to shortages in fuel and gas supplies to major telecom service providers and gas-fired power-plants and the country was thrown into darkness with national electricity distribution reaching an all-time low of 722MW.
Though dominated by thermal power, Nigeria’s energy mix is complemented by hydropower, which accounts for one-third of grid supply. Because dams are poorly maintained, current variability in rainfall results in power outages that affect both Nigeria’s energy security and its growth potential.
Absence of political will
President Buhari today takes charge of a Nigeria that wobbles under insufficient support for climate change efforts, deficit of political will, and

President Muhammadu Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari

insufficient clarity of intent. Regulatory reforms, policies, related national development plans and investment priorities are non-existent, where they exist, lack of strategic coherence and official denunciation reign supreme.

A Climate Change Commission bill that was passed by the National Assembly awaited presidential assent almost three years and the immediate past president left office yesterday without signing the bill into law.
Environment-related agencies of government still struggle with governance and coordination ocassioned by limited transparency and accountability, poor stakeholder participation, and alignment to global best practices.According to Usman Inuwa, the North-East Coordinator of Climate and Sustainable Development Network (CSDevNet), “these and many more obvious governmental lapses including the absence of capacity to meet standards and eligibility requirements for climate finance particularly with reference to direct access, transparency and accountability make the fight against climate change a weak one in Nigeria.”

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