SINCE the President Muhammadu Buhari regime assumed power over three years ago it has tended to pay serious attention to the deleterious effects of climate change in the Northern extremes of the country, especially the rapidly-disappearing Lake Chad. The President has addressed at least two major international fora, calling for urgent measures to resuscitate the lake which was once home to millions of people who have now been displaced.
In the same manner in which we supported wholeheartedly all efforts to rejuvenate Lake Chad and roll back the loss of our territories to desert encroachment, we also draw the attention of the Federal Government to the need to focus equal attention to preventing the ongoing rapid loss of our coastal shorelines due to the same climate change.
Environmentalists under the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) recently held an advocacy forum calling on the Federal Government to join forces with the Lagos State Government (LASG) to save the Lagos shoreline communities and beaches. We are convinced that the same problem faces communities and settlements along the entire 853 kilometre Nigerian coastline. Many of these are oil-producing communities which have direct impacts on our economy.
To illustrate the severity of the coastal erosion problem, the NCF’s Technical Programmes Director, Dr Joseph Onoja, cited a particular case of Okun-Alfa Community in Lagos in which the distance between the shoreline and inhabited areas dropped from 47 metres to 33 metres between 2016 and 2017. It is estimated that unless adequate preventive steps are taken, most of Lagos would be under water by 2030, just twelve years hence. The outlook is even worse for many communities in the Niger Delta, some of which are naturally below sea level.
Apart from the intensified waves due to rising ocean water caused by global warming, experts also blame indiscriminate sand mining, land reclamation and the construction of facilities along the coasts.
Many state governments find it difficult to grapple with coastline erosion ameliorative efforts due to the high cost involved and the fact that the coastline is within the exclusive powers of the Federal Government. Even the LASG’s efforts to construct groynes (structures that prevent beach erosion) have been hampered due to high cost of construction.
We therefore advocate joint efforts between the Federal and State Governments to ensure we do not lose our coastal communities and render their indigenes permanent landless refugees in their own fatherland. We must battle the effects of climate change in both the extreme North and South with equal commitment and zeal because the country will be far poorer if we lose our territory to the elements.
We must closely regulate exploitative activities along the coasts ensuring that firm measures are taken against those who violate the environment. The Federal Government must take the lead.