There are over 250 ethnic groups in Nigeria with a population of some greater than others. By population size, the top three are Hausa (30%), Yoruba (15.5%) and Igbo (15.2%). The indigenous people in Nigeria are the country’s original inhabitants belonging to these ethnic groups which are present across the entire country. One can typically find the Hausa people in the northern part of Nigeria, Yoruba people in the southwest and Igbo people in the southeast. Other tribes like the Ijaw (1.8%) and Ibibio (1.8%) are found in the Niger Delta regions. This does not mean that there is a clear divide in the location of these groups in these parts of the country. Factors like migration have led to different groups living and working in parts of the country that are different from where they predominantly live.
Ethnic people in the Niger Delta are arguably the most vocal group on matters relating to the environment. This is connected to the fact that the actions of multinational oil companies in the region have affected lives, property, and income sources from activities like farming and fishing in the region’s nine oil-producing states. The Niger Delta has experienced decades of oil exploration and exploitation which has had devastating consequences on the ecosystem in the region and harmed people’s ability to live there. These matters have also often been the subject of litigation. It is therefore understandable why this region has a noticeable worldview on the environment – they depend on the environment for their immediate and continued survival.
Climate change as a significant environmental challenge generally has severely impacted the Niger Delta and Northern regions of Nigeria. In the Niger Delta region, hundreds of thousands of residents are impacted, especially the most vulnerable and those who depend on traditional jobs like farming and fishing. In northern Nigeria, agriculture is the primary economic activity, yet the region is becoming more and more desertified because of climate change. Extreme weather events like floods and droughts have become more frequent and severe due to climate change, which has caused crop production and food supplies to fluctuate. In response to these environmental challenges, communities in the Niger Delta region expanded their source of income outside of agriculture.
Mitigation efforts have also been undertaken with communities in the region. For example, educating the Bumaji Clan of Cross River State about the influences, impacts, and mitigation of climate change; enabling people to build effective cookstoves to minimize carbon emissions, and encouraging reforestation.
Northern Nigeria has responded to climate change by migrating from areas near the desert to central areas. Climate activism is another way in which some communities in the north have responded to climate change. This involves promoting the need to plant and protect trees and reducing the use of vehicles. While it may be difficult to properly assess the impact of these responses on individuals and communities, every effort towards mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change remains laudable.
The federal government of Nigeria partners with indigenous communities to combat the effects of climate change in different ways. The Department of Climate Change (DCC) and the Federal Ministry of Environment have frameworks to encourage the participation of women and young people in the creation of the nation’s adaptation strategies. For instance, there are youth engagement programmes which include things like creating a climate change youth action manual, setting up national youth climate innovation hubs, and supporting youth organizations at international climate events like the UNFCCC COP conferences. At the state and federal levels, Nigeria’s National Adaptation Plan (NAP) Framework advises the creation of a unit in charge of adaptation and Indigenous knowledge. The policy document does not, however, offer a thorough action plan for how this applies in practice. While these are great efforts, continuous monitoring of the progress of these initiatives is important to ensure that they achieve their objectives.
This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Nigeria Country Manager Juwonlo Michael
Learn More References
- https://www.abdn.ac.uk/law/blog/triumph-for-farmers-and-fisherfolks-the-hague-court-of-appeal-finds-shell-liable-for-oil-spills-in-nigeria/ ; https://www.theguardian.com/environment/ng-interactive/2022/jun/01/oil-pollution-spill-nigeria-shell-lawsuit