Climate change, a growing number of voices in media and policy circles warn, is raising the risks of violent conflict in the twenty-first century. Dire futures are predicted for some of the world’s poorest, least prepared countries and their most vulnerable citizens. This report, sponsored by the Centers of Innovation at the U.S. Institute of Peace, evaluates these claims for conflict-prone Nigeria.

274

Summary

  • Nigeria’s climate is likely to see 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.
  • A basic causal mechanism links climate change with violence in Nigeria. Under it, 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.
  • Drawing lines of causation between climate change and conflict in specific areas of Nigeria calls for caution, however, particularly as the scientific, social, economic, and political implications of the country’s changing climate are still poorly understood. President Goodluck Jonathan’s government needs to initiate a serious program of research and policy discussion before taking major adaptive steps.
  • Government and private actors also need to ensure that particular adaptive responses do not themselves fuel violence but actively help build peace. Successful adaptation measures will be crosscutting in design and impact, based on inclusive planning and implementation, steer clear of political patronage traps, and confront political and scientific uncertainty.
  • Solid engagement on the part of the Nigerian federal government is key to achieving the best outcomes, even if most adaptation is done privately. Thus far, official responses have been weak. Along with better information and discussion, Nigeria needs a main federal oversight body to coordinate research and policy, larger roles for sister agencies, and an implementation plan. The country also needs and deserves the help of more developed nations in the form of both adaptation funding and technical assistance.

About this Report

Climate change, a growing number of voices in media and policy circles warn, is raising the risks of violent conflict in the twenty-first century. Dire futures are predicted for some of the world’s poorest, least prepared countries and their most vulnerable citizens. This report, sponsored by the Centers of Innovation at the U.S. Institute of Peace, evaluates these claims for conflict-prone Nigeria. Based on a comprehensive literature survey, interviews with senior government officials, academics, and private sector figures, and the author’s work as a conflict analyst in Nigeria, the report calls for a more nuanced approach to mapping the links between climate change and conflict. It reviews evidence of such links in Nigeria and outlines a process for achieving conflict-sensitive adaptation to the effects of climate change.

About the Author

Aaron Sayne is the West Africa Program Director for the Transnational Crisis Project. Also a practicing attorney, he has worked on oil, conflict, and economic governance issues in Nigeria since 2005.

Related Publications

Protests Test Nigeria’s Democracy and its Leadership in Africa

Protests Test Nigeria’s Democracy and its Leadership in Africa

Thursday, October 22, 2020

By: Oge Onubogu

Nigeria’s protests against police brutality already were the largest in the country’s history before security forces opened fire on a crowd in Lagos on October 20. The protest and bloodshed have only heightened the need for the government in Africa’s most populous country to end the pattern of violence by security forces against civilians. Leaders must finally acknowledge that this brutality has fueled violent extremism. How the Nigerian government will respond to citizens’ insistent demand for accountable governance will influence similar struggles—for democracy, accountability, nonviolence and stability—across much of Africa.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Violent Extremism; Democracy & Governance; Nonviolent Action

Is Insecurity Undermining the Coronavirus Response? Evidence from Nigeria

Is Insecurity Undermining the Coronavirus Response? Evidence from Nigeria

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

By: Aly Verjee

In the United States, there is no shortage of public opinion data on nearly every question imaginable. But in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, such data is more scarce and policymakers often lack detailed insights into citizen perceptions and concerns. Now, new evidence from USIP-commissioned surveys conducted in May and July 2020 of more than 10,000 Nigerians has found new relationships between violent conflict and the coronavirus response. The data shows that victims of violence are more likely to distrust the Nigerian government’s response to coronavirus.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global Health

COVID-19 and Conflict: Nigeria

COVID-19 and Conflict: Nigeria

Thursday, May 28, 2020

By: Oge Onubogu

As Africa’s most populous democracy and largest economy, Nigeria’s ability to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus within its own borders has broader implications for the entire continent. Meanwhile, the virus threatens to exacerbate the country’s existing security challenges, which in turn make an effective pandemic response more difficult. In this #COVIDandConflict video, our Oge Onubogu looks at how the Nigerian government has addressed the virus and what potential takeaways the response to COVID-19 could have for tackling the country’s epidemic of violence.

Type: Blog

Global Health

Nigeria: The Response to Coronavirus is an Opportunity for Reform

Nigeria: The Response to Coronavirus is an Opportunity for Reform

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

By: Nigeria Working Group on Peacebuilding and Governance

Well before the coronavirus emerged, a large majority of Nigerians felt their country was “going in the wrong direction.” Polling shows Nigerians feel the government has struggled to improve the living standards of the poor and is managing the economy badly. Today, while the public health response to head off the pandemic dominates attention, calls from prominent members of Nigerian civil society have renewed debates over wider questions of economic, social, and political reform. In this article, members of the Nigeria Working Group on Peacebuilding and Governance express both their hopes and concerns—in the context of the coronavirus—for Africa’s most populous country.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & Governance; Global Health

View All Publications