Why an Eye on the Environment Must be Kept as Nigeria Strives to Diversify its Economy

The prolonged drop in the global prices of crude oil and allied products has significantly changed the fortune of Nigeria and her economy which for decades relied majorly from their proceeds. A focused and purposeful government knows better than to rely on one resource at the expense of many others such as agriculture and solid minerals which have hitherto contributed immensely to the economy and development of the nation. It is a fact that Nigeria is heavily endowed with natural resources spanning the lengths and breadths of its territories and everything in-between. It is rather unfortunate that the country finds itself in its current situation.

The oil is nonrenewable. Overdependence on this commodity has consistently undermined the performance of the non-oil sector of the Nigerian economy. In 2010, the Central Bank reported that oil alone contributed over 80% of the foreign exchange earning with the non-oil sector bagging a meager 20%. Presently, the situation remains the same. Oil contributes about 25% of the GDP with around 80 – 90% foreign exchange contribution.

The present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is looking to diversify the economy, explore the many areas that will boost the economy and consequently, generate more revenue for a sustainable development. The focal points being agriculture and solid minerals development. This idea was welcomed passionately by majority of Nigerians. Indeed, the time is nigh for economic diversification.

The big question is how will the Nigerian environment fare if the government of the day begins implementing its plan for this radical diversification of the economy?

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One invaluable advice will be never to confuse rashness with radicalism. This economic diversification ought to be radically planned as it was thoughtfully conceived, diligently and duly thought through and effectively implemented with only sustainable practices adopted. This would no doubt be a turning point for Nigeria both economically and otherwise.

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Agriculture

The rich fertile soils have the capacity to feed the nation and even with surplus to create foreign exchange and boost the GDP base. To achieve this, the federal and state governments must invest massively in mechanized commercial agriculture and also create an enabling environment for private individuals to do the same. In all, both the public and private farmers must be compelled to adopt and practice sustainable agriculture.

Unsustainable farming practices result in the loss of critical habitat, soil erosion, land degradation, loss of watershed to irrigation, and low water quality. Agricultural developments also results in the release of greenhouse gases on the environment, primarily the carbon dioxide and methane gases. Tillage practices and application of fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides release ammonia, phosphorous and nitrates capable of polluting the atmosphere and the water table.

Deforestation is another problem that will be almost inevitable. The lands must be cleared to give way for crops and pasture. In the process, trees will be cut down potentially endangering and even displacing several of species within the ecosystem and reduce the quantity of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which serves to sink and balance greenhouse gases.

A robust commercialization of the agricultural sector requires irrigation practices for a year round production. Irrigation generally depletes underground aquifers. Over-irrigation and under-irrigation result from careless practices of the irrigation procedure. Under-irrigation produces low and poor crop yields while over-irrigation could raise the water tables and even wash off some chemicals off the lands and deposit elsewhere due to poor uniformity in the distribution of the water.

It is important that the agricultural processes be thoroughly thought through and sustainable farming practices blueprints implemented.

Mining and Solid minerals development

 Nigeria is naturally a blessed country. Every state in this country is uniquely and wonderfully blessed with economic minerals capable of turning the fortunes of the country around if well managed. In the south, lead, zinc, coal, limestone, bitumen, dolomite, crude oil and marble are found in abundance, with traces of uranium. Feldspar, tin, lead, gem stones, glass stones, granite, bauxite, marble, sapphire, quartz, gold, talc, mica, iron ore and very many others abound abundantly in the north.

Despite being home to all of these economic resources, the industry is characterized by underdevelopment leaving us at the mercy of importation of these minerals and its finished products that we could produce locally generate wealth and develop the country.

As this administration plans to invest in this area, the ecological and environmental impacts of the attendant effects must be considered in the equation. Recall the infamous lead poisoning in Zamfara which has claimed so many lives and the tin mines in Jos which also poisoned over 2 million people in Plateau state. Other mining hazards such as collapse of mines and leaching of heavy metals into the underground water aquifers, indiscriminate dumping of heavy mine tailings, mine proliferation and unsustainable practices must be avoided.

Mining activities are relatively temporal owing to the finite nature of the resources available. It is therefore important that this activity is made to comport to global environmental best practices in order that the ecosystem is preserved. This can be made possible by reducing the quantities of the energy-intensive inputs (such as coal and diesel for heavy machineries – generators, trucks, conveyor belts and excavators), and outputs (wastes). Effective waste management strategies, material and waste reusability will potentially reduce the volume and concentration of waste water, acid rock drainage and fossil fuels produced. Land reclamation, removal of toxic wastes, site inspection, restoring vegetation and ground cover, planting trees and reshaping the lands are other activities that will rejuvenate and replenish the environment.

Land disruptive practices must be kept within acceptable limits. The government must close down illegal and unregulated mines; outlaw illegal mining, set up laws with strict and stringent conditions for carrying out mining activities as well as investing massively in research and developments in green mining technology.

The oil boom in the 1970s has left the region worse than in has found it environmentally. The once lush lands and the aquatic life rich waters quickly disappeared to oblivion rendering the region an eyesore. The creeks are some of the most underdeveloped and poverty stricken with little to no government presence despite being the oil base to the world’s seventh largest producer of crude oil. The mines boom in Plateau state resulted in tailing poisoning of millions of people. It is safe to say that the big issue with economic plans in Nigeria is that of implementation. Unless and until the government displays the true attributes of vision, thought, plan and action the economic diversification might just end up another white elephant project. The big question remains, how will the environment fare?

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Blog written by

IMG_0004 copyAbdulmumin Tanko has a master’s degree in Civil Engineering with an insatiable desire for research and writing. A staunch environmental enthusiast and a fervent campaigner for environmental consciousness, he works to break the silence and end the nescience, largely responsible for environmental indiscretion. . He believes that a serene and safer environment begins with YOU. Follow him on Twitter @Tikaysmalls

 

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About ABDULMUMIN

Abdulmumin holds a MSc in Geotechnical Engineering and is a practicing Civil Engineer. He is also the co-founder of Green Habitat, a registered NGO in Nigeria campaigning on environmental sustainability. He is quite well-rounded and with particular interests in governance, politics, environment and his trained engineering.
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4 Responses to Why an Eye on the Environment Must be Kept as Nigeria Strives to Diversify its Economy

  1. Pingback: What is next for Nigeria after Signing the Paris Agreement? | Green Habitat Sustainable Development Initiative

  2. Saurab says:

    I cannot stress how important these points you have raised are. It is extremely imperative that the Nigerian government does not blindly go for mass agricultural production and mass extraction of minerals. It is very, very easy to get caught up in the windfall that will happen once these activities are actively pursued. The authorities need to keep their wits, and focus more on doing this correctly. India and China are already facing the repercussions of unsustainable practices in both these sectors. Let Nigeria learn from these mistakes, not repeat them.

    Liked by 1 person

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