By Loius Effiong

Today peace faces a new danger: the climate emergency, which threatens our security, our livelihoods and our lives. That is why it is the focus of this year’s International Day of Peace. And it’s why I am convening a Climate Action Summit.” These words of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres cannot be more apt than the Nigerian situation.

Threats of climate change impact to sustainable development abound in all phases of human life and one major impact of climate change in Nigeria is the devastating security situation it has caused especially between Fulani herders and farmers especially in the Northern part of the country, said Programme Head at Africa Development Studies Centre in Abuja, Mr. Toba Akinleye.

Mr. Akinleye said: “Many Nigerians tend to see climate change as something that does not affect them in any way. When we are talking about climate change, we are talking about peace and security. When our environment is in danger, we suffer insecurity, food scarcity, and widespread diseases among other things.”

“The one bad example of how climate change impacts have caused insecurity in Nigeria is the Herder/Farmer crisis. We always view this crisis from the ethnic and religious lens; however, the fundamental cause of the crisis is the negative impacts of climate change in northern Nigeria, which includes cases of desert encroachment, Lake Chad shrinking and menace of erosion.”

Having realised the magnitude of climate change impact on world peace, the United Nations’ draws attention to the importance of combating climate change as a way to protect and promote peace throughout the world in this year’s International Day of Peace. The Day, observed annually on September 21, is set to educate the public on issues of concern, addressing global problems and to reinforce the ideals of world peace and achievements of humanity.

The efforts of those who have worked hard to end the conflict and promote peace are recognized and appraised. This day dedicated to enhancing cohesion and peace across the globe was first celebrated in 1982, the aim was to have an International Day of Peace devoted to strengthening peace among people.

Speaking to our correspondent on the theme of this year’s World Peace Day; Climate Action for Peace, Executive Director of Social Accountability and Environmental Sustainability Initiative, Mr. Oswald Rinkat acknowledged the relevance of this year’s theme and stressed that actions needed by the government to tackle climate change-related security challenges.

He said: “The fact that the UN chose SDG 13, that is, climate action for this year’s peace signifies the importance of climate change mitigation to world peace building. What the world is doing today is making people know how their individual actions can help in saving the planet and in building peace around the world. The insecurity in terms of herder-farmer crisis is something that is directly linked to climate change impact.  As far back as 1996, a report had highlighted the possible herder-farmer crisis in central Nigeria citing the worsening climate conditions in the far north. He further added: “Because of unfavourable weather, the herdsmen are compelled to leave their original habitation to another area for greener pastures; climate change has been tipped as the greatest single factor to induce migration and population displacement.”

According to a report titled Nigeria’s Herder-Farmer Violence in Numbers by the Crisis Group International: “The conflict between herders and farmers in Nigeria centred in the Middle Belt but spreading southward. Since September 2017, at least 1,500 people have been killed, over 1300 of them from January to June 2018, roughly six times the number of civilians killed by Boko Haram over the same period.”

Moreover, the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN, also claimed thousands of its members are victims of the conflicts.

Owing to climate change; peaceful coexistence have eluded many Nigerians caught in the crossfire of farmers-herder crises over remaining scare natural resources especially in the North-central and the entire North and snowballing  southward.  Desert encroachment in northern Nigeria according to experts contributed more than sixty percent of the cause of the farmers and herders clashes,  the shrinking of the Lake Chad poses a major security threat. Vegetation and water, the traditional staples of livelihood for the Lake Chad community dwellers, are vanishing. Vultures feast on dead cows as drought and desertification take toll on them. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, FAO, has called the situation an “ecological catastrophe,” predicting that the lake could disappear in near time.

According to FAO Director of Land and Water Parviz Koohafkan, the Lake Chad basin is one of the most important agricultural heritage sites in the world, providing a lifeline to nearly 30 million people in four countries – Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger. Yet, the Lake has shrunk off ninety per cent of its size since the 1960s till date according to the United Nations, failing to provide nature essential services to people and the environment of the region.

In an attempt to develop appropriate strategies in mitigating the impacts of this vulnerability to climate change which has affected sustainable  development in Nigeria, solid engagement on the part of the Nigerian federal government is key to achieving the best outcomes, even if most adaptation is done privately.

Speaking to AljazirahNigeria, an economic expert who prefers anonymity says: “So far in Nigeria official response in the adverse effect of climate change in Nigeria has been weak. Along with better information and discussion, Nigeria needs a main federal oversight body to coordinate research and policy, larger roles for sister agencies, and an implementation plan. The country also needs and deserves the help of more developed nations in the form of both adaptation funding and technical assistance”

“Still emphasising, the Nigerian government, for instance, could fund the construction of dams to protect communities or farmlands from flooding. Adaptation could provide new resources. Officials could resettle a flooded agricultural community along the coast to some uncontested, upland area. Farmers could also be provided with seeds that thrive in saline, less mineral-rich soil. The government should offer new rules and models for managing shared resources. This approach could include introducing cooperative or commons-based land-use models on contested turf or setting up new dispute resolution mechanisms.”

Despite efforts of the Nigerian Government to curb this menace tearing down sustainable development in the country, Nigeria still needs the help of more developed nations on climate change. The world’s rich nations are also obligated, under the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate, UNFCCC, to help countries like Nigeria.

Natural disasters displace three times as many people as conflicts, forcing millions to leave their homes and seek safety elsewhere.

AljazirahNigeria in a tour to most cities in the North went to many villages affected by the farmers-herders clashes as a result of climate change especially the shrinking of Lake Chad and desert encroachment which resulted in mass movement of herders to the more favourable areas of Benue and Plateau. In Torkura, AljazirahNigeria in interaction with Mrs. Mngusuun  Tsegba who lost almost everything but herself to the herders invasion of their village and farm lands. According to her, it was one early morning around 4:30am, marauding herders attacked their homes killed her husband, four children, inclusive of a two year old baby who cried profusely before succumbing to his death. I am finished. At age 38 where, how do I begin again? These were many questions she was posing before us. Her situation was so pathetic that she lost everything even her husband house and farms were completely razed. Asked if government have come to their aid? She said “We are on our own, it was at the initial time, the state government assembled us in a displaced camp but later nothing was coming, hunger, rape was growing in the camp I and few women left the camp. Another woman about 28 years lost her newly married husband to the killer herders. For Mrs. Yaukwase, life has cheated her. All her plans with her late husband have come to nothing. She caused the day and those boys that attacked them. She was rape by four Fulani killers for over two hours in front of her husband and at the end, I begged them to spare my husband but they still killed him. In Nasarawa IDP camp, Mariah Ihuma narrated her story which is not different from the others. According to her, she was raped, two her kids shot dead by the marauders and her 11 years old daughter still missing. She prayed to see her one day even if it is the dead body so as to be at rest. When asked how she feeds? She said government and some NGO’s have been coming around but survival is very difficult as sex for food was trending.”If you want to eat food here, be ready to go sex hawking, very bad our condition worsened day by day”.

From the North to the South, the story remains the same as people have lost their lives, communities deserted, and no signs of living in those communities. The news across affected areas is very damning with similar fate suffered by victims.

Owing to these, peace has eluded most communities affected by herders’ crisis mostly caused by climate change.

Peace can only be achieved if concrete action is taken to combat climate change. Speaking to young Māoris and people of the Pacific Islands in New Zealand in May, António Guterres said “nature does not negotiate” and emphasised four key measures that governments should prioritise in order to reach carbon neutrality by 2050: tax pollution, not people; stop subsidising fossil fuels; stop building new coal plants by 2020; focus on a green economy, not a grey economy.

The solution in achieving environmental stability and sustainable development in the Nigerian society is progressive decisions, political will and transformation policies will enable the society to stay in peace with our climate.

In the wake of global climate action, security is better to tackle through climate change mitigation and adaptation than using military might and unwarranted laws to enforce peace; said Dr Musa Idris of National Alliance for Sustainable Action. “Nigeria should address most of its security challenges through sustainable development that imbibes climate-friendly methods.”

Tackling issues associated with climate change according to a consensus among climate scientists has a direct effect on sustainable development. The Brundtland Report of 1987 defined sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

SDGs are designed to address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice.

So, this year’s theme, “Climate Action for Peace,” draws attention to the importance of combating climate change as a way to protect and promote peace throughout the world. Climate change causes clear threats to international peace and security.

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