By Jude Njoku
The scenarios are frightening but they represent the reality. Lagos may be submerged in the event of sea level rise. An estimated 87 million Nigerian farmers face food insecurity as a result of frequent climatic disasters. This is due to the changing rainfall patterns, increased desertification and flooding which pose the greatest challenge to farmers, and continue to deepen rural poverty. This puts 42 per cent of the GDP currently contributed by agriculture at a great risk.
Besides, climate change represents a clear and present danger to Nigeria’s national interests. The world’s leading economies are taking action on climate change by reducing their use of fossil fuel, mostly petroleum products. Nigeria cannot shy away from this emerging trend hence experts posit that the country must diversify its economy away from fossil fuel dependence, consistent with Vision 20: 2020.
Against the prevailing background, the National Assembly devoted almost two years to debate and pass the bill to establish a Climate Change Commission.
The harmonised version of the bill was sent to President Goodluck Jonathan last December, and many Nigerians had expected that, as a scientist who understands the implications of climate change on the economy, the president would promptly sign the bill into law. But those who held that view have been proved wrong as Jonathan is yet to sign the bill into law. What this implies is that with the expiration of this legislative session in a few days time, the bill may require re-introduction in both houses of the National Assembly for another round of exhaustive debate and passage.
Worried by this development, concerned legislators and civil society groups, as well as other environment stakeholders, have been lobbying Mr. President to sign the bill into law.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Environment, Senator Grace Bent, who promised quick signing of the bill, was shocked that the president is still withholding his assent.
“Is the environment conducive enough for the health of the Nigerian people? No! Is the environment conducive enough to build our educational institutions? The answer is no! Until and unless the Nigerian environment, which remains the bedrock of other sectors, is looked into, we will just be perambulating,” she said.
Continuing, the Adamawa State senator noted: “Climate change is one of the greatest challenges faced by Nigeria today. It is a matter of life and death for millions of Nigerians. The world has acclaimed the work done by the National Assembly in passing the Climate Commission Bill. President Goodluck Jonathan should not fail Nigerians”.
Her counterpart in the House of Representatives, Mr. Eziuche Ubani, charged Jonathan to “give Nigerians this favour by signing the Climate Change Bill into law”. According to the Abia born journalist cum legislator, “climate change represents a clear and present danger to Nigeria’s national interests. By signing the bill, the president will continue to demonstrate visionary leadership in addressing the climate crisis”.
The proposed Climate Commission will be a strong and independent body under the Presidency charged with the coordination of existing institutions, setting of our priorities, development of action plans and expansion of international cooperation.
It will bring together several agencies of government currently working on climate change and reduce the cost of governance. The commission will be chaired by the vice-president.
The National Assembly forwarded the Climate Change Commission Bill to the president since December 2010. That Jonathan has not signed the bill into law is difficult for the coordinator of the Nigeria Climate Action Network NIGERIACAN, Mr. Ewah Otu Eleri, to understand, considering the president’s academic background in the sciences. Said he: “Nigeria needs a champion to tackle the climate threat to agriculture, diversify the economy away from oil and end gas flaring in the Niger Delta. By establishing the Climate Change Commission, the president will begin to deliver on the promise of a breath of fresh air to Nigerians. Signing the bill into law is the number one challenge. This is our time and the time has come for us as a country to show leadership.”
Besides a national strategy on climate change, the establishment of the Climate Change Commission, which the bill proposes, is expected to help deal with greenhouse emission and regulate the carbon market in the country – the first in Africa, according to experts.
There are no more important issues for our country than climate change, Eleri insists. “ What we are doing is to raise the awareness level among key stakeholders that there are no more important challenges facing our country today than the challenge of climate change. When people think of climate change, they think about environmental disasters that climate change brings. “They forget to think that climate change will decide the future of our economy in two fundamental ways.
Number one: we are 90 per cent dependent on the export of petroleum for our income from external trade. We are depending on the export of petroleum for about 80 percent of the federal budget and 40 percent of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP).