How do recent population trends in Nigeria matter to climate change
17 December 2020
Abdulrahman Olagunju and Michael Chukwudi
Climate change, as a result of human activities, has become a defining issue of the 21st century. Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa with an approximate population of about 200 million people currently ranks 4th as the most climate vulnerable country followed by Haiti, Bangladesh, Senegal and Sudan. Philippines top the list with Cambodia, Vietnam, at second and third respectively.
As global climate conditions worsen, the geographical landscape of the country is changing. It is becoming increasingly difficult for the environment to provide sustenance and for individuals and communities to protect themselves and adapt.
The impact of climate change in Nigeria is not farfetched as evidenced in: increase in temperature, more intense and frequent extreme weather events, sea level rise and, especially, increased health risks. As a result of these changes, the population has been prone to increased water and food insecurity, changes in infectious and vector-borne disease transmission patterns, increased threat to coastal communities facing sea level rise and increased health risks such as cardiovascular and respiratory disorders, malaria, high blood pressure etc. (Ilevbare 2019)
The challenges associated with climate change are not the same across the country. Nigeria has a tropical climate with two precipitation regimes: low precipitation in the North and high precipitation in parts of the Southwest and Southeast (Akande et al., 2017; Federal Ministry of Environment, 2014).
Lagos and Climate Change
Lagos state is regarded as the smallest state in Nigeria, yet it has the highest urban population which is 27.4% of the National estimate (UN-HABITAT) and is currently ranked 10th most vulnerable coastal city since 2014. In 2015, the UN-HABITAT and other international development agencies estimated Lagos to have about 24.6 million inhabitants with the current growth rate. The population is growing 10 times faster than that of New York & Los Angeles, and more than the population of 32 African Nations combined. The population is expected to hit 35 million marks by 2050.
According to the Lagos State Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (LAS-CCAS) report, the exponential increase in the population contributed to the increasingly manifesting impact of climate change which is currently being felt in every sector of the state. These impacts include: Loss of land to the sea; Loss of livelihood; Loss of Physical Infrastructure (transportation, industrial, water storage/supply, real estate etc.), Displacement of settlement and population; Increased risk of waterborne diseases and ultimately, the rapid spread (community transmission) of covid-19 disease in the state.
In recent times, the impact is increasing, as seen in the gradual disappearance of the Lagos Bar Beach; an extension of the Atlantic Ocean, which has been known as a place of recreation and tourism since the pre-independence era. According to the authorities, the continuous frequent disaster and loss of lives have forced them to place the beach on close surveillance with the installation of shoreline protection bricks (see Figure 1).
Moreover, residents in areas like Ikorodu, Lekki, and other parts of Lagos close to the Ocean have suffered several flooding especially during the raining season. "It's not a good experience at all. The rainy season usually gives us problems. Everything got disrupted, people are stranded, and there's usually a hike in transportation fare during the rainy season," Akinbile Ibrahim, a resident of Ikorodu decried. (See Figure 2)
Though several reasons like shallow drainage system, building of structures in floodplains, and inadequate infrastructural provision of waste collection and handling facilities have been ascribed to the cause of this incident. "It's not as if there has been increased rainfall in recent years compared to like 10 years ago, the government just needs to do the needful and put in more infrastructure. If rain falls for just one hour, everywhere gets flooded as if it has been raining for consecutive weeks," PA Akinbile, a man who has been living in Lagos for over 20 years recounted.
In order to minimize the negative impact of climate change on the ecosystems, water resources, and socioeconomic domains, a number of adaptation measures are open to Nigeria and particularly, Lagos state. They range from education to inform and encourage behavioural change to changing location and use, preventing effects, modifying threats, and sharing loss.
"At city level, there's an increased need for improved meteorological forecasts and proper dissemination of flood warnings and awareness of flood risks among the public. This will contribute immensely towards flood preparedness. For example, although the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) suggests that it is possible to predict 3 days ahead how heavy an expected rainfall would be, however, such specific forecasts are usually not communicated to the understanding of the wider public. Government should provide competent hydrological authority/agency in various states that will use forecasts provided by NIMET as input and convert it to flows/runoff, forecasts, inundation extent etc. for the city catchment. This will be highly beneficial as this information will assist both government and resident of the cities [especially Lagos] to prepare and manage floods more effectively." Prof Adelekan, an expert in climate change at the Department of Geography, University of Ibadan, explained.
Furthermore in Nigeria, in addition to autonomous adaptation, there must also be planned adaptation and adoption of adaptation strategies, as keenly summarised from the LAS-CCAS report and an extensive research done by Ibidun (2016).
These include among others: Policy making and planning; Awareness raising, capacity development; Information management (including early warning systems); design and decision-making for investments; flood insurance; specific practices in the areas of risk reduction, livelihood development and resource management. A typical example is the adoption of climate-smart structures in the urban planning system.
"More attention is also needed to be given to the enforcement of urban planning guidelines, development and building control as well as social participation of citizens to enable efficient and successful management of flood risks," Adelekan added.
The mitigation and adaptation measures against the effects of climate change are very critical for Nigeria to reduce the risks brought about by this global threat. The risks associated with climate change in Nigeria cannot be overemphasized, as all populations are affected by climate change.
Moreover, the impacts of climate change are also expected to increase over the years, which mean that some existing health challenges will increase. Therefore, it is very important for everyone to have a better knowledge and perception about climate change as it affects human health. This is expected to inform people’s decision-making about how to reduce the impact of the amount of climate change in the nearest future.
Hence, effective adaptive strategies should involve collaboration among diverse government sectors, research institutes, various disciplines and communities.