“This is the seventh time we are relocating from one location to another due to this flood problem… Our cash crops, food items, and property are destroyed anytime it occurred; this situation had made it difficult for us to garner enough financial muscle to erect comfortable and permanent structures to live in”. The words of some leaders of the affected communities, in and around Patigi -an agrarian settlement on the bank of the River Niger- in an interview with Sunday Vanguard.
It was 2012, heavy rainfall of which its kind has not been witnessed in long periods, had led to the flood. It affected up to 14 states of the federation, resulting in the loss of lives and properties. According to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), 363 lives were lost, 5851 injured, 3,891,314 affected and 3,871,053 displaced as a result of the flood.
An apparent feature of the whole disaster was that the poor, both in the affected urban and rural areas were the most hit. These are people who lack adequate access to social, economic and political resources. Limiting their ability to prevent or reduce the impact and form adaptive measures.
Fast forward 5 years, (in 2017) similar to previous cases of flood, Inequality, and Poverty continues to play determining roles in events of climate hazards in the country.
Inequality and Climate Change
In our society, people face unequal access to economic resources, such as physical and financial assets. Social resources in form of education, quality health care, among others. And also, political resources in terms of an active voice in policy formation, decision making, and overall institutional representation. This Inequality results in poverty.
The situation has led to cases of socioeconomic and political exclusion of certain parts of the population. This has entrenched poverty into the fabric of the society.
Meanwhile, science has revealed that the earth is currently undergoing a long term variation in the distribution of weather patterns. This is as a result of both natural and human processes, therefore, giving rise to climate change. In practical terms, it is resulting in an increased frequency of the occurrence of extreme climate phenomena.
For example, places already experiencing low levels of rainfall will experience even lower levels, resulting in hazards such as drought. Whereas, places with high rainfall levels will experience higher levels resulting in floods.
The impacts of these climate extremes are wrecking a lot of havoc on both lives and livelihoods in the country.
While a part of the population, have access to the resources required to live a comfortable, safe and secure life, many more lack even the most basic of needs. This forms a basis on which the level of climate change impact on the society is defined.
Disproportionate Impact of Climate Hazards
According to a recent report by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA), titled Climate Change Resilience: An Opportunity for Reducing Inequalities; ‘The area of residence and livelihood of people at disadvantage often expose them to mud slides, periods of abnormally hot weather, water contamination, flooding and other climate hazards’.
In Nigeria, millions live in areas that expose them to extreme climate hazards. Such as along major water ways and in areas with poor drainage systems. Coupled with poor housing structures, infrastructural facilities, and protective mechanisms, these people are left exposed in event of flood. This, therefore, increases their vulnerability to flood and its impacts.
Meanwhile, about 70% of Nigerians earn their livelihood through climate-sensitive activities, which is mainly agriculture and other related activities. This means that, in cases of major fast-onset climate hazards such as flood and drought or a slow-onset climate hazards such as desertification. Many people are affected, especially the poor farmers, herders, and fishermen.
This is worsened by their inability to diversify sources of livelihoods into climate resilient activities.
The occurrence of these climate hazards, exacerbate poverty and social conflicts, resulting in obliteration of human settlements and forced migration.
The Way Out
The way out involves an integrated approach to policy formation and decision making. This includes measures to eradicate poverty and reduce inequality. Also, the introduction of innovative techniques and technologies to reduce vulnerability or increase adaption to climate hazards, among others.
These measures involve the provision of access to necessary resources, improved infrastructure, resistant crop varieties and water management techniques. Together with overall environmental management practices.
Obviously, inequality is a factor that has a far reaching effect on a society. It must be tackled heads on. This is pivotal to achieving a sustainable development in Nigeria. And gain the ability to deal with a ‘menace’ that threatens the whole planet.