With the poverty in our country and with all the political somersaults crippling the government structures of Nigeria, it is very difficult to tackle climate change in our climate. For those who still doubt this reality, the news from Kaduna State gave it a sound of truth.
On September 24, 2021, the government of Governor Nasir El-Rufai announced the suspension of logging for timber, firewood and charcoal for commercial purposes in seven local government areas – Birnin Gwari , Igabi, Chikun, Giwa, Kachia, Kauru and Kajuru.
The government said it was for security reasons, as the bandits were operating using the forest cover. This means that the activities of tree fellers are significant in the rural areas in question, and by implication, there are hundreds of trees felled per hour in the state. That is why, immediately after the suspension, the residents of Kaduna reacted, claiming that the price of gas for cooking had exceeded the pocket of every household, as the only alternative – firewood and charcoal for the people. low-income and unemployed society – become out of reach.
Since the suspension, the price of kerosene has also increased accordingly, due to increased demand. Therefore, many residents of the state complain of extreme hardship. In a report, some say they now prefer to buy chewable bread rather than ready-made meals. In most cases, others go to nearby restaurants to have a good meal. According to residents of the LGAs of Kajuru, Mararaba, Igabi and Birnin Gwari, they are facing a food crisis.
In one of the reports, a resident said: “What we are going through in Kaduna today is becoming unbearable. It is a state where there are no jobs, even blue-collar work does not exist. Pick up every day. Even if you have a farm, you hardly go there for fear of kidnappers. You go to the market, the prices keep increasing every day. Many people can no longer afford to buy food. Even if you buy, no fire, no firewood, no charcoal. You can’t even ask for gasoline because it’s above the middle level men in the state. “
Another Igabi resident was more paranoid, saying the only reason for the long suspension of logging was that the government wanted people to go through severe famine, poverty and then be subjected to slavery. However, it is evident that the difficulties are severe as many indigenous people depend on artisanal logging for their livelihood. Lamentations are real, and they are widespread.
Yet the essence of this article is not to designate Kaduna for the state’s security and energy crises; the whole nation is drawn into these emergencies. Rather, my intention is to highlight a troubling national reality that is generally ignored or brushed under the rug. It is fuel poverty and government ignorance. We cannot fight climate change when we still depend on polluting energy sources to survive. And our government is not ready to fight climate change because it is not ready to do what is necessary. Our gas is still being burned in the Niger Delta, and no one is talking about converting energy or instilling the right motivation in the oil and gas industry to evolve into efficient and relevant technologies and processes.
Rather, what the government has been busy doing is organizing workshops sponsored by development partners where incomplete data is distributed in order to make the government appear climate friendly. Meanwhile, the key policies to get us on the path to sustainable energy are never implemented. For example, in 2016, the regime of Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retired) promised to make a transition to renewable energies by first making cooking gas available to Nigerian families, but so far this policy did not take off. In fact, it is the opposite of what we are seeing today. Cooking gas is now beyond the reach of most Nigerian families. It is as precious as gold.
The government before this one also tried to make logging a crime, but it withdrew its decision after a few months. States have gone ahead alone but have not been able to formulate a coherent policy in this area. The question now is how can we say that we are fighting climate change when we have not yet stopped the main source of global warming: the cutting of trees? How can we say that we are fighting climate change when we still burn associated gas with impunity? How can we say that we are fighting climate change when we can’t even have a real national energy audit?
That is why, by banning the cutting of trees in Kaduna, El-Rufai has opened a climate Pandora’s box. The people of Kaduna now tell us that the socio-economic atmosphere of the state can never be in balance without the climatic activity known as logging. They tell us that we are actually living in a brown economy that is not going to go away anytime soon; we are continually increasing our carbon footprint if the difficulties in Nigeria persist. It is now obvious that no one will talk about climate change because people are having trouble eating; even those who know how to scavenge and get something to gobble up no longer find the fire to cook it. Our reality is no longer an environmental crisis; it is about hunger.
Worsened by security crises, the government’s inability to tackle climate change has become a yawning crevasse. If you’re lucky enough to find rice or beans, you can’t find the gas to cook them, and when you run around your yard to collect firewood for energy, the government tells you that you can’t do it because it protects you from bandits.
So we have moved to the next level of reality control. Are we really fighting climate change in Nigeria? What is the authenticity of all this data that we disseminate in the world? How many trees do we cut down in a day to feed Nigeria’s starving and teeming people? What is the impact of the rising price of cooking gas on Nigeria’s environment? How far can we go at this speed that we are crawling?
These are all questions that the current regime must answer to see if we are still on the right track. It is not enough to formulate impossible strategies and produce a politically correct climate mantra. Kaduna State is a microcosm of Nigeria. She is battered by insecurity; it depends on dirty energy; it is full of poor people. Yet it is a metropolitan and mobile upward government. Its governor is one of the smartest administrators to boast of.
In fact, I have attended international renewable energy conferences, where I have heard foreign experts discuss renewable energy projects in Kaduna State as if they were discussing ecological advances in Tokyo. Indeed, there is a consensus that Kaduna is going green quickly. But now the reality has dawned on us. Nobody really goes green here, because people are hungry. It doesn’t matter how much a government would like to go green and in fact strive to do so; when people are hungry, they cut down trees for cooking. They will pollute, they will emit carbon. They must first survive.
In healthier climates, governments take all aspects of livelihoods into account when formulating green policies. But here the government is only doing it for political reasons. That’s why when the government leaves office, all the green mileage earned goes with it; the nation is back to square one. Perhaps we can now learn from Kaduna and cleanse our act; or we wait for the impending climate disaster that awaits us all.
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