The imminent disintegration of Nigeria — President Buhari: Part 3

President Muhammadu Buhari made a crucial statement regarding the future of Nigeria on 11th of August. This is basis of our part series.

Here is a portion of that statement again: “Unless developed countries make concerted efforts to complete the feasibility study, mobilize resources and technology to start the water transfer from the Congo Basin, the Lake Chad will dry up.

“The people will go somewhere and they will create problems for those countries,” PMB said.

What we sought to unravel were these:

  1. How may climate change affect Lake Chad?
  2. Can this change exceed the carrying capacity of her growing population?
  3. Can it lead to forced migration?
  4. If yes, what will be the impact?
  5. Is President Buhari’s prediction true?
  6. If yes, what can we do to prevent disintegration?

We answered questions 1. 2 and 3 in previous series. We will be answering question 4 here.

If yes, what will be the impact?

Granted, climate change and resource scarcity pose risks – especially for poor people and fragile states like Nigeria.

We need to tread cautiously in forecasting their effects, particularly in the area of violent conflict.

This is because the impacts of resource scarcity or climate change will in practice blur other risk drivers.

This makes it extremely difficult to attribute particular impacts solely to climate change or resource scarcity.

However, the most far-reaching effects of the Lake Chad issue is the indirect “consequences of consequences.

Some these consequences are political instability, economic weakness, food insecurity or large-scale migration.

All these are currently happening and it is not going away anytime soon.

Simply put: the drying up of Lake Chad alone and reduction in resources that will follow may rarely be sole cause of violent conflict.

However, they are considered as ‘threat multipliers’ that will in practice interact both with other risk drivers, and with diverse sources of vulnerability.

This is not to say that climate and scarcity do not increase the risk of violent conflict.

We will site a classic example here.

In 1986, Senegal experienced population pressure and land degradation.

This led to agricultural shortfalls, which the Mauritanian government decided to tackle through constructing a new dam.

Anticipation of the dam led to a sharp increase in land values along the riverbank.

The elite in Mauritania, then rewrote legislation governing land ownership.

This piece of legislation abolished the rights of poor black Africans to continue farming, herding, and fishing along the Mauritanian riverbank.

This triggered ethnic conflict in both Mauritania and neighboring Senegal.

Mali also witnessed something similar. Farmers were forced to migrate into the “forest” of Samori.

This movement was caused by the quest for new land for farming activities.

Additionally, there has been some migration out of the basin and into the urban areas where jobs are sought.

We can therefore surmise that if Lake Chad dries up, migration is likely to be an option.

If this happens, Nigeria will face more violent ethnic conflicts, since threat multipliers are already rife.

From the ongoing therefore, it seems likely that a predictable pattern of migration is in view.

Since most northern dwellers are rural farmers (herders, fishermen, and subsistence crop growers), sudden shifts in environmental systems such as shortage in water supply may lead to forced migration.

Let’s state this succinctly: there will be a net migration from northern Nigeria to southern Nigeria.

Population densities are likely to be higher in cities and areas with alternative river basins.

There is likely to be inter-tribal conflicts. Population densities along river channels are likely to increase too.

This may lead to a human-induced decline in the quantity and quality of a renewable resource that occurs faster than it is renewed by natural processes.

With forecasted weather extremes within the region, there is every likely hood of these.

Read part two here.