The approach adopted by Nigeria to tackle climate change impacts on sustainable growth has increasingly generated concerns among stakeholders over the trillions of Naira that is being lost annually to environmental problems such as erosion and desertification. Etta Michael Bisong examines this problem with special focus on why the nation is yet to take advantage of alternative funding sources to address some of these setbacks.
The N19 billion Nigerian Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP) planned to commence later this month clearly reinforces the aforementioned concerns. Stakeholders as well as host communities are worried over the proper execution of the program as proposed.
The project which will be funded by the federal government in collaboration with the World Bank under the auspices of International Development Association (IDA), the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF) was set up in response to calls to address the wide spread gully erosion ravaging communities across the country.
Although 21 core regions have been earmarked by the investing organisations, seven states namely Abia, Anambra, Cross River, Ebonyi, Edo, Enugu and Imo have been programmed to benefit from the first phase of the project which will span an eighteen year timeline.
Addressing journalists at the media parley hosted by NEWMAP, ChikeloNwune, the national project coordinator revealed that the 8-year loan granted by the international ecological community consisted of “$508.9 million cumulative credit which will be made available only to state governments willing to participate in financing the projects.”
The intervention is a meteoric rise from the N2.8 billion budgeted as ecological funds by the government – with 2 percent allotted for general ecological problems in any part of the country and 3 percent specifically for the Niger Delta region to be derived from mineral revenue as well as the federation account.
The laws guiding the eco-fund which was established in 1981 through the Federation Account Act with the prime objective of pooling finances for the execution of environmental projects was modified as Decree 36 in 1984, 106 in 1992 and 2002 as a sub-unit of the Federation Account Modification Order.
Although the modification saw an upward re-evaluation of the allocation from the Federation Account from one-per cent in 1987 to three percent at the turn of the new millennium, the allotted capital stipulated for environmental schemes has been deemed insufficient.
Out of the total money to be disbursed at the national level, 48.5 per cent is being managed by the federal arm while 24 and 20 percent are distributed between the states and local governments respectively.
Since the institution of the eco-fund, rather than acting as a viable tool for solving the environmental challenges, the projects has been steeped in continual controversies with gross financial indiscipline stymieing the completion of approved programs.
Only recently cases of fiscal impropriety were raised by officials of the Federal Ministry of Environment as they stated that only about half of the erosion projects awarded last year were completed due to lack of funding and misappropriation.
Also in 2010, an inquiry launched by the House of Representatives and headed by Hon. UcheEkwunife, the chairman of the committee on environment, exposed cases of fraud worth $2.06 billion as contractors awarded projects abandoned them mid-way without giving account for the money handed they received.
While the nation battles the frequent breach in conduct and trust by officials assigned to preserve the environment, the impact of land degradation is taking immense toll on inhabitants of affected communities.
As revealed by a United Nations Commission Sustainable Development report, “Human lives and properties, especially buildings are endangered as they collapse into gullies as there are currently over 2,000 active gully erosion sites spread across the country.”
In Anambra State alone, the ministry of environment states more than one-third of the entire landscape has been lost to gully erosion with Ekwulobia being the worst hit and 1000 other erosion sites undergoing further damage from climate and human activities.
The devastating effect on agricultural and economic activities which has led to an accumulated loss of over N11.8 billion in less than a decade is largely attributed to the illegal dredging of sand and the unavailability of proper drainage systems across the state.
Special adviser to the president on New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and APRM, Amb.FideliaNjeze, while commenting on the matter noted that Nigeria is yet to benefit from the Climate Change Fund put in place by NEPAD to support implementation of programmes and projects on climate change and environmental degradation by member states.
Njeze, who stated this in a keynote address at a national workshop on climate change and environmental degradation organised by the Centre for the Study of the Economies of Africa, CSEA in Abuja, lamented that climate change had become a recurrent phenomenon with a cumulative effect on natural resources and the environment, resulting in an enormous increase in weather conditions, which bring adverse effects on man and ecosystems, causing abrupt and harmful changes on the seasonal cycles.
She added that these changes had shown adverse effects on agriculture, water supply, food supply, food production and also resulted in loss of lives and property especially in the coastal Niger-Delta region of the country.
Meanwhile, the survey conducted by the CSEA, revealed that large percentage of Nigerian population lacks science-based knowledge on climate change; temperature and rainfall amount are gradually increasing; housing for the vast majority of the households is poorly built which makes them vulnerable to any violent or extreme climate change occurrences such as flooding, erosion and thunderstorm.
Other findings in the survey showed that access to water for bathing and other uses is not a major problem to most communities in the region but the quality is so poor that some of the water available may not be safe for bathing and that the continued exploitation of forest for cooking fuel contributes to the reduction of carbon sinks among others.
Consequent upon this, Njeze said the federal government had decided to tap into the NEPAD funding and had requested for some funds to build capacity of communities on Climate Smart Agriculture in the affected parts of the country.
According to her, the funding became necessary in view of the fact that climate change and environmental degradation posed serious threats to the global economy and the well-being of citizens around the world.
She observed that developing countries, including Nigeria are mainly susceptible to the effects of climate change because a large part of their economies depend on natural resources which are particularly vulnerable to these changes.
“As we move on with the presentations and discussions, let us bear in mind that this is an issue that affects every one of us with virtually all sectors of the economy inevitably vulnerable to the changes in climate as well as environmental degradation. “it is imperative that stakeholders work jointly in clusters involving the private sector, civil society organizations, development partners and of course relevant public sector to tackle these challenges and provide a safe environment for now and future generations.”
“We must embark on the actions which will secure a healthy and safe ecosystem towards achieving sustainable development in sectors such as agriculture and water which are directly affected by climate change and environmental degradation,” she posited.
As the agitation for rapid solutions to the environmental difficulties experienced continues, stakeholders believes that only improved water catchment techniques, conservative agricultural and construction practices as well as the implementation of soil protection programmes can effectively mitigate and enhance adaption measures to climate change impacts. They also craves evidence based recommendations that will proffer solutions to the challenges of climate change and suggest ways to adequately manage the associated risks and impact on man and the environment in Nigeria.