Date Published: 12/09/09
CLIMATE CHANGE AND THE NIGERIAN CHARACTER By Emmanuel Onwubiko
Nigerian delegation headed by Mr. John Odey, the minister of Environment should be in Copenhagen, Denmark, now, to participate in one of the world’s most strategic dialogues on building a binding global policy on the strategies for checking, mitigating and tackling the adverse consequences of climate change on humanity.
Even as Nigerians wish that the outcome of the United Nations framework convention on climate change would be favourable to us in our daily lives, one fact we cannot run away from is the ugly presence of the typical poor preparations that usually characterize virtually all Nigeria’s participations at international meetings. I will return to this topic very soon.
Suffice it to say that even our international friends have raised alarm regarding the shoddy preparations and total lack of climate change policy in Nigeria even as Nigeria’s team to the talk departed for the Copenhagen climate change summit. Prior to the departure of the delegation to the climate change summit in Denmark, the officials of the Federal ministry of Environment were swimming in huge donor funds with which they staged series of meaningless talk shops or shows to acquaint some selected Nigerian audience with what and how they want to represent our interest in Copenhagen. Those of us who got multiple invitations to witness the long winding discussions staged by the Environment ministry with sponsorship from development partners were left with no option but to conclude that officials of Government are really viewing the entire matter of climate change summit as avenue to make money from traveling allowances.
Back to the important issue of the total lack of any verifiable national policy on climate change in Nigeria as observed by one of the foreign friends of Nigeria, it will be good to just relay the entire report the way it was reported. The Guardian of Monday, December 7 th 2009 captured the unfortunate scenario in a captivating headline thus; “report decries absence of climate change policy in Nigeria”.
The question to be asked is why will Nigeria’s tax payers’ money be wasted in the Copenhagen summit when Nigeria does not have a national policy on climate change?
Better still, patriotic Nigerians who read the Guardian story will automatically ask, why should Nigerian political office holders take every serious international parley as a bonanza going by the series of uncoordinated pre-conference talks that took place in Abuja last week including a certain monologue session wrongly titled media round table with the minister of environment on the issue of climate change and the Copenhagen summit? I do not want to believe that it is the Nigerian character not to prepare sincerely for any international meetings to be attended on our behalf by the Federal Government. The attitudes showed by the government officials prior to this Copenhagen summit may have vindicated the assertion by some observers that the whole thing about Nigeria’s participation is a huge charade and a business as usual show.
Before I am accused of working to undermine the ‘effort’ of the ministry of Environment headed by John Odey to secure favorable “pay outs” from the industrialized nations in the West to Nigeria for the mitigation of the effects of climate change on Nigeria which is a third world, under-developed and poorly industrialized country, let me reproduce the report cited by The Guardian which indicted the federal government of Nigeria of not working out a national policy on climate change before the commencement of the Copenhagen climate change summit.
The report stated thus; “ahead of the Copenhagen climate change summit the head of press and public affairs (Political), British High Commission, Mr. Jonathan Bacon, has expressed concern that Nigeria stands the risk of being one of the adversely affected countries by climate change resulting from global warning.”
“According to Bacon, the concern is more disturbing because “Nigeria does not have a climate change policy or an adaptation plan to be integrated into the general development strategy. Data on climate change issues is lacking and such information as is available is often not accessible. Also, Nigeria’s capacity to analyse climate change trends is poorly coordinated and under funded.”
“The report prepared by the Environmental Resources Management for DFID (Department for International Development) based its findings on international climate change modeling, recent research results and specific context of Nigeria.”
“As there is uncertainty over the extent of impacts, there are low and high assumptions and projections, comparing them with no state modeling techniques; it, however, shows that there is a wide range of possibility. Temperatures could rise by between 1.0 degree Celsius low and 3.2 degree Celsius high in 2050. Sea level could rise by between 0.2m low and 1.0m high by 2050. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) loss per year by 2050 could be between six per cent of GDP low and 30 per cent high, with a loss and high of value between $100 and 460 billion respectively.”
“Sequel to the statistical projection, the report shows that there would be huge impact on sectors, regions and development in the country. It states that “All economic sectors are expected to be affected, with agriculture, water and power heavily hit, causing contractions compared with no climate change, in wholesale retail trade.”
“All regions will bear the impact of climate change, with coastal areas and the far north worst hit. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to reduce hunger and poverty and to establish environmental sustainability will be much more difficult to achieve. The poor, the old, women, children and those in agriculture will be most vulnerable with relatively more severe outcomes,” the report added.
The questions for the government are what and how transparently it will commit what ever resources that accrues to Nigeria to mitigate the effects of climate change? Lastly, Nigerians want the Federal government to stop the dangerous dillydallying on the deadline for gas flares in the oil producing communities in the Niger Delta because he who goes to equity must go with clean hands. Most importantly, why did the Federal Government’s delegation not include representatives of the majority of Nigerians who would be at the receiving end of the consequences of climate change? Why did the ministry of Environment handle the composition of the list of delegates’ o the Copenhagen summit as if it is an internal affair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party [PDP] even when groups like the Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria was prepared to foot our bills if nominated to attend the global climate change summit?.
* Onwubiko heads Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria