Source: The Guardian Unlimited
Islamist militancy in Nigeria is being strengthened by western and regional fossil fuel interests
The kidnapping of over 200 Nigerian school girls, and the massacre of as many as 300 civilians in the town of Gamboru Ngala, by the militant al-Qaeda affiliated group, Boko Haram, has shocked the world.
But while condemnations have rightly been forthcoming from a whole range of senior figures from celebrities to government officials, less attention has been paid to the roots of the crisis.
Instability in Nigeria, however, has been growing steadily over the last decade – and one reason is climate change. In 2009, a UK Department for International Development (Dfid) study warned that climate change could contribute to increasing resource shortages in the country due to land scarcity from desertification, water shortages, and mounting crop failures.
A more recent study by the Congressionally-funded US Institute for Peace confirmed a “basic causal mechanism” that “links climate change with violence in Nigeria.” The report concludes:
“…poor responses to climatic shifts create shortages of resources such as land and water. Shortages are followed by negative secondary impacts, such as more sickness, hunger, and joblessness. Poor responses to these, in turn, open the door to conflict.”
Unfortunately, a business-as-usual scenario sees Nigeria’s climate undergoing “growing shifts in temperature, rainfall, storms, and sea levels throughout the twenty-first century. Poor adaptive responses to these shifts could help fuel violent conflict in some areas of the country.”
According to the late Prof Sabo Bako of Ahmadu Bello University, the 1980s “forerunner” to Boko Haram was the Maitatsine sect in northern Nigeria, whose members included many victims of ecological disasters leaving them in “a chaotic state of absolute poverty and social dislocation in search of food, water, shelter, jobs, and means of livelihood.”
A year after the USIP study, Africa Review reported that many Boko Haram foot soldiers happen to be people displaced by severe drought and food shortages in neighbouring Niger and Chad. Some 200,000 farmers and herdsman had lost their livelihoods and, facing starvation, crossed the border to Nigeria.
“While a good number of these men were found in major cities like Lagos, pushing water carts and repatriating their earnings to the families they left behind,” said Africa Review, “others were believed to have been lured by the Boko Haram.”