Rising Temperatures might be responsible for the Southern Kaduna Killings

Opinion

In Nigeria, there have been about an average of one violent, noteworthy event, every year. But the spate of massacres by Fulani herdsmen on small crop-farming communities and villages, which has claimed over 4000 lives, in recent months, is disquieting even for a country used to violence. And this time, something more malevolent than ethno-religious or regional strife has been identified as one of the causes:  climate change.

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To many Nigerians, the phrase ‘Southern Kaduna killings’ conjures macabre images. ‘Global Warming’, however, create an image of intellectuals in the west spewing academic-speak that are of no consequence to them — or so they think.

Violence is old story to many Nigerians. From the militants in Niger Delta, to the violence between Indigenous and Hausa people in Osun. to religious conflicts in Kano and Kaduna to Boko Haram’s bloody campaigns in Borno and to the Farmer-Herdsmen crises in the Benue, Nigerians have become desensitized — if it does not affect them personally — to violence. Most of my life has been dotted by violence in the Nigeria, usually of the ethno-religious and regional kind.

In Nigeria, there have been about an average of one violent, noteworthy event, every year. But the spate of massacres by Fulani herdsmen on small crop-farming communities and villages, which has claimed over 4000 lives, in recent months, is disquieting even for a country used to violence. And this time, something more malevolent than ethno-religious or regional strife has been identified as one of the causes:  climate change.

One of the deadliest of these bloody escapades was the Agatu Masscare. It took place in Benue state on the 24th of February 2016 leaving over 300 dead and displaced thousands. In a December 2016 report by Vanguard Newspapers the Catholic Diocese of Kafanchan in Kaduna State stated that over 808 people have been killed by the Fulani Herdsmen and over ₦5.5 billion of farm produce have been destroyed.

Now, most of Nigeria’s food, in terms of crops and meat are provided by these two group of people. The Fulani Herdsmen produce the at least 30% of the meat most Nigerians consume while the crop farmers in the North Central part of the country produce about 80% of Nigeria’s food crops. In fact, the slogan for Benue state — located in that part of that country — is “Food Basket of The Nation”.

Therefore, this perennial conflict that has taken on a very dangerous turn must be addressed for the sake of security (food and national) and the unity of the country.

Due to Nigeria’s history of ethno-religious and regional conflicts, many have blamed the recent violent escapades on sectarian strife. I do not dismiss this at all. Nigeria is a polity of over 250 ethnic nationalities speaking over 500 languages and dialects, hence its political landscape is extremely complex and only through a careful consideration of the intersectionality of its socio-economic and socio-political issues, colonial history, ethnic makeup, its patronage culture, its geo-religious divide and to mention a few, can one truly understand the violence between the Fulani Herdsmen and the crop farmers. But to dismiss the effect of global warming in the escalation of the current communal violence is at best ignorant and dangerous at worst.

A June 2016 report published by Sahara reporters was summarized as thus: “Nigeria has 22 million cows that consume about 1 billion gallons per day of water and 500 million kilograms of grass and forage crops. The stock value of Nigeria’s cattle population is about N3.4 trillion or $16.2 billion at N150,000 per head. The intensification of the Boko Haram crisis in the last five years has caused nomadic Fulani herdsmen to abandon their foraging grounds in the North East”.

“For decades, climate change has slowly changed the landscape of Northern Nigeria. Much of the far north has been inundated by desertification. The northern tip of the foraging grounds of Nigeria’s cattle have disappeared. Watering grounds are disappearing. Lake Chad, once a massive oasis in the North-Eastern tip of Nigeria has lost 95% of its volume over the last 50 years.” The report states.

In the face of all these, the Nigerian state has continued to ignore the potential devastation global warming could cause to the country in the coming years. But we can’t continue to deceive ourselves.

Nigeria already records high temperatures, and an increase is not in any way helpful. High temperatures rarely have anything good attached to them.

Higher temperatures have been linked to natural disasters and proliferation of disease, especially those with insect vectors. According to a 2015 report by the United Nations “diarrhoeal deaths attributable to climate change in children under 15 years old are projected to be about 9.8% of the over 76,000 diarrhoeal deaths projected in 2030” in Nigeria.

In 2006 report “Economics of Climate Change” by Nicholas Stern, a former chief economist of the World Bank postulated that “higher temperatures will increase the chance of triggering abrupt and large-scale changes that lead to regional disruption, migration and conflict.”

Marshall Burke, a Stanford professor, who researches the correlation between climate change and conflict said, “In sub-Saharan Africa, when temperatures are a degree warmer, we see 20 to 30 percent increase in civil conflict. That’s a huge number.”

One thing we must understand is that with the current political instability in Nigeria — Boko Haram, Herdsmen and Crop-farmer’s violence and Niger Delta militants (Avengers) — we might be “less able to cope with dramatic environmental shifts…” caused by climate change, causing untold suffering to Nigerians.

The 2016 Climate Change Vulnerability Index published annually by the U.K based global risk analysis firm, Maplecroft which “tries to calculate the vulnerability of 170 countries to the impacts of climate change over the next 30 years,” presents a very pessimistic picture of Africa.

Figures for the 2016 Climate Change Vulnerability Index Report

In August 2009, a poll reported by American Security Project reported that most Americans agreed that global warming could “destabilize developing countries, creating the conditions for war and a breeding ground for terrorism.”

Do you agree with them?

A version of this article was originally published on The Resilient and Cynical Nigerian.

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