From every angle, Nigerians treat earth’s natural resources as infinite gifts to mankind. In the 1970s, there was a proactive forestry agency throughout the federation, with special concentration in the northern region.
The police-like forest officers were very strict and diligent in the discharge of their responsibilities, which included afforestation, granting approval to loggers of wood —a select, registered timber traders. Designated, conserved forests spread all over northern Nigeria.
Illegal logging of a single mahogany or an Iroko tree could lead to severe punishments, including jail term. Northern Nigeria was green with sporadic, large areas of purposely plantedtrees at every nook and cranny. Cows and their guardians—the Fulani herdsmen, had little to worry about foods. There were grazing lands for ranching. Sadly, today, the orchestrated trees by the forestry department are no more.
There is no visible sign that even the ministry of environment is concerned about how these resources disappeared. It is all about making money now. But, without research, development, and projections with keen interest on how to manage our environment, it won’t be long before the unnoticed signs become dangerous and destructive.
Can anyone imagine what would have happened if genetically manipulated chickens, foods, and fishes are unavailable to feed the rapidly overgrown population? It’s estimated that by 2025, Nigeria’s population could exceed200m people. For a country whose major export is fossil fuels, abused during and after extraction, the perils of fracking will soon expose themselves. Gradually, our ecosystems are spoiled with constant environmental degradation.
Already, grass lands suitable for pasturage have become a major catastrophe— which has led to the death of thousands of innocent citizens. The pastural northern lands have become unhealthy, due to lack of surface soil nutrients to spur vegetation for the cattle.
The Herdsmen, who thrive in the number of cows owned, have been on migration and grazing journeys through the Middle -Belt to the Southern part of the country. The movement has created undue conflicts between the predominantly middle-belt farmers and the cattle herders that graze the farmlands.
From January of this year to date, more than 1500 innocent farmers have been killed in Benue, Plateau,Taraba, Nasarawa, and Kogi states. The realm of dispute is the pastural farm lands meant for agriculture, which are being grazed and destroyed by the herdsmen’s cattle.
While the farm owners dare to accommodate the Fulani cattle ranchers whose cattle destroy the farmers’ only available assets, the Fulani herders see nothing wrong in the wanton destruction of the predominantly subsistence crops. The moral of the story is that there are very few grazing lands in the far north; over -grazing without replenishing the soils has taken a toll; northern fields have become very dry, and inhabitable for the herd. It is as simple as that.
If the large number of cows that roam the streets in majornorthern cities in search of food (mainly grasses) can’t get enough of it, the obvious answer is to destroy any lawn, or more so, find food anywhere possible.
It has taken hundreds of lives before the federal government deemed it necessary to propose 94 pilotranches, 90 pasture lands, and established cattle colonies.The costs to life and property are unquantifiable, but why did it take such a long time to realize that biosphere’s resources are finite?
Another question of interest is: who will manage the designated areas without complacency? This is a very corrupt country whose leaders and those trusted with national assets loot with impunity. It wouldn’tsurprise me to learn in the near future that the ranches have gone dry; funds meant to enrich the soil have beenstolen.
For more than 40 years, the Ogoni lands have been robbed, raped, and the ecosystem destroyed through incessant oil explorations. The financial compensations by the multi-national oil firms have gone to private pockets. It is impossible to quantify the costs to the biodiversity (marine, terrestrial) and even human lives. Does anyone one in this government really care? What will be the outcome of the continued exploitation of the oil beds in the region?
After reading “The Tragedy of the Commons” by Garrett Hardin, it has done on me that Nigeria’s leaders are ignorant of the approaching perils. But there must be a starting point, or, call it a leverage point. This is the point at which something must give way, if we are sincere about the future generations. It is not just a social responsibility, but a moral one, which must be coerced on every Nigerian.
Coercion is a dirty word to most liberals now, but it need not forever be so. The only kind of coercion I recommend is mutual coercion, mutually agreed upon by the majority of the people affected.
In reality, the tragedy of the commons reappears in the problems of pollution. Polluting the water, we drink, or the air we breathe does not affect a Nigeria. In this country, most of the tap water systems are not purified; it is an acceptable way of life. Analysis of the pollution problem as a function of population density uncovers a not generally recognized principle of morality, namely: the morality of an act is a function of the state of the system at the time it is performed (Hardin,1968).
There are no data to illustrate the magnitude of destructions to our environment in this country, but even if such data exist, who bothers? Nigerians are extreme capitalists, who are pretentious on the environmental issues to lure foreign financial assistance. At that instant, everyone becomes an environmentally responsible citizen.
As Herman Daly and other ecological economists have pointed out, the economy is embedded in the natural world and constantly relies on nature to provide essential inputs such as clean air, clean water, food, fiber, and other raw materials. Since the earth and its resources are finite, there is a limit to the possible expansion of production; after a certain point, economic growth must become resource-conserving rather than resource-intensive.
Last week, my son and I went to investigate the nearest residential areas to Kaduna Refinery and Petrol Chemical company (KRPC). It is quite amazing how the refinery has been surrounded by hundreds of legal residents, who are unaware of the danger of such closeness. The fumes/smokes, and carbon dioxide expelled through the various exhaust outlets have an unparalleled destructive force to human health. There is no one within 2Km of the refinery that will not suffer from some form of ailment. It is an unhealthy coexistence between humans and the dangerous pollutant. Again, who cares? The hilarious anecdote by one of the residents is an example of how the authorities do not understand the meaning of life, and healthy living.
Every month, whenever the refinery is in active production, neighbours to the plant are given a litre of pasteurized milk to drink, to avoid any inherent health issues. But, sadly, due to the level of poverty in the area, the residents collect the milk and sell it in the markets. The pittance is more valuable than their life.
Nigerians are environmentally irresponsible because their leaders lack the rational values of protecting the finite resources of the earth.
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