Tuesday, December 5, 2023


Tinubu’s faulty knowledge of climate change

Tinubu’s faulty knowledge of climate change
October 20
15:59 2022


“We are a poor nation… They said we need to plant more trees and they are not giving us money. We need to open our eyes, shine them and tell the West, “if you don’t guarantee our finances and work with us to stop this, we are not going to comply with your climate change,” — Bola Ahmed Tinubu at the interactive session with the Joint Arewa Committee on October 17, 2022.

The above is an excerpt from APC presidential candidate in the 2023 elections, Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s reply to a question he was asked during the interactive session organised by ACF for presidential candidates. The reply, which received sparing applause from a few people, is quite embarrassing and comical coming from a presidential candidate whose ambition is to govern a country badly affected by the impact of climate change. The statement smacks of insensitivity to the current plights of millions of Nigerians affected by the recent floods which are occasioned by the impact of climate change. As usual, the spin doctors were ready on hand to rationalise the absurdity of the statement.

Before I foray further, let me first point out and make it clear to Tinubu and his team that no one country or region owns climate change. Therefore, he cannot choose not to comply with “their climate change”. Climate change is a global phenomenon that affects everyone as a result of human activities. Even though Nigeria and Africa contribute little to climate change and less than 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions, we are not insulated from the effect and impact of climate change. As a matter of fact, we are the worst hit by climate change because, unlike the highly industrialised and developed western world, we do not have the capacity (materially, science, technology, knowledge and techniques) to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Western countries, who are the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, have put in place measures and infrastructures that mitigate the impact of climate change, due to their advancement in technological development and industrialization.


As a former governor of Lagos state, one would naturally expect that Tinubu would appreciate the effects and impact of climate change more than the display of ignorance at the Arewa House. Apparently, Tinubu does not know that the reason why Lagos is submerged in water whenever it rains every year is because of the rising sea level. Every year, the global sea level rises by 0.14 inches which is caused by melting ice sheets and glaciers as a result of global warming. Lagos, being a coastal city, experiences devastating floods that get worse each year as a result of this. According to a report by K4D (Knowledge, evidence and learning for Development), Lagos, which is barely two metres above sea level, in 2100, could face the same fate as Indonesia’s capital city of Jakarta which is sinking fast into the ocean. This has necessitated the government of Indonesia to move its capital to Borneo, a small island in East Kalimantan.

It will be well within reasonable thinking to conclude that Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu is not aware that the shrinking of Lake Chad and the encroachment of the desert in the Sahel region of Nigeria are a result of climate change. As a presidential candidate and an experienced politician, Tinubu is expected to know that the Lake Chad basin which used to hold over 40,000 square metres of water body has shrunk by over 90% to a mere 1,303 square metres and how this has adversely impacted the economy, peace and security of Nigeria, especially for those living around the Lake Chad basin. In its heyday, Lake Chad used to be an economic hub for fishing and other agricultural activities. Even farmers around the lake had to depend on the water from the lake for irrigation to their farms.

On the other hand, desertification in the Sahel region accounts for approximately 580,841km2 of Nigeria’s landmass, accounting for up to 63.8% of the country’s landmass. About 30 million Nigerians are affected and impacted by desertification. Desertification continues to spread towards the southern parts of Nigeria at a rate of 0.6km per annum. This has resulted in forced human migrations, increased erosion, alteration of geochemical composition of soils, surface and groundwater depletion, biodiversity loss and species extinction, reduced agricultural yields, higher unemployment and rural poverty rates, as well as a rise in social vices and civil conflicts (e.g., kidnapping, armed robbery, religious extremism, insurgency, land/territory grabbing, etc). Thus, it’s quite a shame that a presidential candidate and his supporters would think that climate change is not an existential threat to Nigeria but a western concept not worthy of complying with.


On financing for climate action, Tinubu said that if the west does not guarantee our finances, we will not comply with their climate change. The statement further exposed Tinubu’s lack of depth in climate issues as it concerns the country he aims to govern. Is he aware that in 2022 alone, Nigeria received $700 million from the World Bank for climate adaptation projects? By virtue of being a signatory to several climate conventions such as the UNFCCC, BCD, SDGs, The Paris Agreement, the Kyoto Protocol, etc., Nigeria has access to several funding aids to support its programmes on climate change. Even on the home front, Nigeria is committed to several institutional policy frameworks and initiatives (some of which overlap with already international obligations) on climate change such as Climate Change Policy Response and Strategy (2012), the National Policy on Climate Change (2013), Nigeria’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution of 2015 and the National Adaptation Programme of Action. If Tinubu, unfortunately, wins the election, will he do away with all these obligations just because the west cannot guarantee our finances?

Furthermore, on the issue of funding, a government which appreciates the gravity of climate change and how disastrous its impact can be will prioritise investment in climate change mitigation and adaptation. Other than financial aid for climate mitigation action from foreign organisations, financing of climate action projects can also be done through exploring innovative funding for climate action, partnership with the private sector, fund or budget earmarking and even borrowing to fund climate mitigation and adaptation actions. Tinubu’s disposition on climate change is antithetical to that of the current president. President Buhari has taken giant strides in tackling climate change. One such stride is the passage of the climate change act into law in 2021 which commits Nigeria to make annual carbon budgets reach net zero.

It seems that Tinubu is the only leading presidential candidate that does not appreciate the existential threat that climate change poses to the security, peace, economy, and food security of Nigerians. The APC presidential candidate needs to know and understand that the change in climate over the years contributed to the exacerbation of the violent conflict between farmers and herders, leading to a shortage of food, loss of livelihood, and loss of over 8,300 precious Nigerian lives. He also needs to know and understand that climate change is responsible for drying up of Lake Chad, leaving over 30 million Nigerians living in the Lake Chad region to compete for scarce water and other resources, which has resulted in forced migration, violent conflicts, land degradation, biodiversity loss, etc.

On a final note, while it is the yearning of many well-meaning Nigerians that this election campaign season is issue-based so that voters are able to assess the candidates on the strength and merit of their ideas and intended policies, the APC candidate has not lived up to this expectation. Aside from the incoherency in his speech most times, I think he needs to de-romanticise his affection for “agbado and cassava” as they can’t seriously be the economic policy upon which he wants to rely on to take Nigeria out of its current economic quandary. Also, climate change is not a veritable diplomatic tool that he can use to hold the west to ransom.


Terhemba is a civil society advocate and writes from Abuja. He can be reached via @Victor_Terhemba on Twitter.

Views expressed by contributors are strictly personal and not of TheCable.

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