1.2.1 UNDERSTANDING THE UNDERLYING FACTORS

 

World Rainforest Movement (1999) records show that 70-80% of Nigeria’s original forest has disappeared and presently the area occupied by forests is reduced to 12%. In the period between 2000 and 2005, Nigeria lost about 2, 048, and 000 ha of forest (FAO 2005). Although Nigerian government established several forest reserves for conservation of forest resources, these forest reserves have been seriously neglected and received little or no improvement in terms of investment and management (Pelemo et.al 2011). The implication of these loses is that many plants and animals, including many potentially valuable species are on the fast track to extinction. The USAID Report on Biodiversity and Tropical Forestry Assessment (2002) recorded that there are many – too many environmental threats in Nigeria affecting Biodiversity. A National Assessment (NCF2012) confirmed the reality of high rise and fast tracked increase in biodiversity loss in Nigeria. An analysis of the major underlying factors responsible for the continuous degradation of biodiversity in Nigeria, were categorized as follows:  

 

1.2.1.1 High Population Growth rate

 

Biodiversity loss is a problem in many other countries in the world and most particularly developing countries where poverty is still pervasive. Nigeria is the most populous African country and has one of the highest growth rates in the world. More than 70 percent of Nigerians live in rural areas where they depend on agriculture and other natural resources for their survival (FEPA 1992). Biodiversity supports the growing populations in rural and urban areas but the pressure is becoming increasingly higher due to over-exploitation occasioned by high demand.

 

Small population of people, living at low densities by means of traditional patterns of agriculture, pastorals and hunting-gathering have for many centuries been able to use natural resources sustainably simply by not removing these resources faster than their reproductive or replenishment rates. However, Nigeria’s large population is characterized by high percentages of illiteracy, unemployment and poverty, which act as powerful drivers of increasingly severe demands on the remaining biodiversity in Nigeria. 

 

Evidence based field studies have confirmed that natural processes of regeneration are not able to cope with the over-exploitation in high magnitude (Happold, 1987) Associated with this effect is urbanization. Towns are becoming larger, new villages are being established; farms and wood cutting activities are extending further and further from each settlement. New roads and tracks enable farming, hunting and wood cutting to occur in previously undisturbed habitats.

 

In addition, several socio-economic factors can be reported to be mediating the relationship between population and natural resource depletion or degradation in Nigeria. The role population pressure plays in biodiversity loss in Nigeria could be seen in a larger context that goes beyond the absolute number of people, and their density or rate of increase. Other critical factors such as access to and patterns of production, distribution, and consumption have had significance influence on Nigeria’s biodiversity loss, particularly with the realization that people's perception, attitudes, and values may be more important than sheer numbers of people.

 

1.2.1.2 Poverty

 

According to the Human Development Index Report (UNDP 2008-2009), the number of poor people in Nigeria remains high and the level of poverty rose from 27.2 per cent in 1980 to 65.6 per cent in 1996, an annual average increase of 8.83 per cent over a 16-year period. However, between 1996 and 2004, the level of poverty declined by an annual average of 2.1% to 54.4%.

 

To a large extent, Poverty contributes a major threat to biodiversity and in other ways continues to further deepen the level of poverty in most rural areas. As an underlying factor for biodiversity degradation, poverty causes threats to biodiversity in two ways. First, the poor are pushed by the affluent and influential majority to destroy their own source of livelihoods for meagre financial returns and the poor, due to deprivation find it difficult to secure any other alternative than to erode the very foundation of their own long term survival. Biodiversity is always at the receiving end being the readily available option for food, fibre and minimal commercial gain by the rural poor.

The need for protection of biodiversity is therefore seen as elitist by the rural poor whose deprivation in terms of food and domestic needs have been pushed to the wall.

1.2 1.3 Policy and Legislation Constraints

 

The environment and by implication, biodiversity, lags behind other sectors in policy and legislative reforms. The underpinning value elements of biodiversity as a life support system for millions of Nigerians is yet to receive recognition and serious consideration in national policy and legislative action. The existing laws relating to biodiversity are obsolete, with the exception of the new laws establishing the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA), that on Climate Change and possibly the Grazing Commission. The process of policy review on biodiversity related issues is very slow and given little or no consideration in major policy and strategic national discourse. Biodiversity issues have been relegated into the background and have only been the concern of conservationists, scientists and environmentalists despite its significant contribution to the livelihood and commerce of rural and peri-urban communities.

 

International conventions and treaties are entered into and signed by the Federal Government of Nigeria, but implementation has been slow, with huge backlogs of annual contributions to the respective trust funds of these conventions. Low budgetary allocations to implement decisions of the various conferences and meetings of the Parties to these conventions and agreements, coupled with low capacity have resulted in poor implementation. Poor legislative enforcement has been and still is a glaring setback for biodiversity conservation in Nigeria. The National Parks that are repository of much of Nigeria’s biodiversity have faced serious threats of poaching in recent years, losing not only wildlife but also Rangers to poachers. Everywhere in Nigeria, Biodiversity related laws are broken openly in the face of low public awareness on biodiversity and lack of capacity for law enforcement agents to deal with issues of concern. Poor law enforcement on biodiversity has occasionally caused embarrassment for the Government and people of Nigeria. 

 

Implementing the domestic enforcement of laws is as important as laying emphasis on international conventions. Nigeria Biodiversity laws if well enforced can assist the action of Nigeria on the national obligations to the international treaties signed.

 

Poor institutional cohesion, low capacity of States to manage varied biodiversity related portfolios, the lack of commitment to and investments in the Departments responsible for biodiversity matters characterize the biodiversity conservation policy of most States of Nigeria. Wildlife conservation Departments/Units have either been marginalized or are inactive in many States.

In most States of Nigeria, the Biodiversity related legislations such as the wildlife and forestry laws are obsolete, non-implementable and are totally ignored (or not regarded) by the customary, sharia and other courts. 

 

As a major element of best practice, Nigeria should set up a National Committee on Biodiversity. This Committee should have inter-ministerial composition and cut across gender, civil society, resource use groups and the private sector. The institutional weakness associated with the values attached and the emphasis placed on biodiversity conservation will receive a much more articulate attention as a major focus of the National Biodiversity Committee.

 

1.2.1.4 Poor land use planning

 

USAID (2002) observed that no land use policy exists in Nigeria, despite the existence of a land use Act. Instead, states are encouraged to derive their legislation from the Federal legislative framework. While some states have taken steps to develop legislation to improve (from an environmental perspective) resources management through laws against bush burning and agricultural expansion into forest lands, major impediments to sustainable environmental management still exist.

 

Two key land tenure and land use issues that require future consideration include how to mediate/resolve problems that arise between tenure systems; and how, within the various tenure systems, to support policy/institutional frameworks that are capable of promoting the sustainable use of natural resources. 

 

Land use and land cover change have emerged as a global phenomenon and perhaps the most significant regional anthropogenic disturbance to the environment. As is the case in Nigeria, rapid urbanization/industrialization, large scale agriculture and major changes in human activities have been identified as the major causes of the dramatic changes in land cover and land use patterns globally. Dramatic land cover and land use changes that would have once taken centuries now take place within a few decades.

Africa is said to have the fastest rate of deforestation in the world due mainly to overdependence on primary resources with direct effect on the biodiversity. 

 

For Nigeria, the rate of deforestation due to poor land use planning has been alarming. Bisong (2012) reported that “Nigeria’s forests are threatened as the forest cover declined from approximately 24 million hectares in 1976 to 15 million hectares in 1995 and down to 9.6 million hectares in 2011.” This alarming rate of deforestation was caused by poor land use planning and has made habitat loss one of the most significant threats to biodiversity in Nigeria today.

 

Competing land uses such as agriculture and human settlements are contributing to the decline of forests and woodlands together with the rising demand for fuel wood and charcoal. Over harvesting, agricultural encroachment and unregulated burning are believed to be contributing to the decline of many species in the wild. The depletion and degradation of the natural resource base has extended to less stressed areas in the different ecological zones of Nigeria.

 

Changes in land use policy have resulted in transferring control of land and other natural resources management from the local authorities to the States. This control involves ancestral rights and authority of caring, protecting and managing forest resources, land, water and other such natural resources. Poor land use planning and unclear tenure rights have been identified as a major catalyst to biodiversity degradation and loss in Nigeria. 

 

Poor Land Use Planning has not only affected biodiversity but has also resulted in conflicts which has claimed human lives and further impoverished the Nigerian rural community Major conflicts such as the Jos crisis, the Tiv/Jukun crisis of Benue and Taraba States, the Fulani Herdsmen/Tiv crises of Benue and the Aguleri/Umuleri crisis in Eastern Nigeria are in one way or the other associated with biodiversity and natural resource access and use.

 

1.2.1.5 Governance and Transparency

 

Biodiversity in Nigeria, as is the case in many countries is largely considered a common ‘good’. It is therefore largely affected with the principle of the tragedy of the common which places exploitation with the range of the survival of the fittest. It has been observed that most of the domestic, commercial and industrial activities carried out in the country impacts heavily on the Biodiversity resources. The issue of biodiversity is multi-faceted and control of its exploitation equally complex. The degree of pressure on natural resources has outgrown the current straight-jacketed approach to its management by most States and local authorities. The issue of a National Biodiversity Committee has been mentioned earlier. Extension services on forestry and biodiversity related matters have collapsed, thereby leaving the governance of natural resources in an open loop. There are however exceptional situations, as is the case in Cross River State, where communities have taken the lead in forest protection, royalty and benefit sharing, forest management, NTFP exploitation control and ecotourism planning.

Corruption is another major factor to blame for creating a threatened future for Nigeria’s Biodiversity. The collapse of logging controls in Nigeria is traced to corruption of forestry officials and this indirectly affects all other natural resource based products. Corrupt politicians have aided the de-reservation of many biodiversity rich areas for non-productive reasons, thereby jeopardizing all past efforts at saving and protecting biodiversity.

 

1.2.1.6 Socio-cultural characteristics, food and trade connections

 

As a set of practices or ways of doing things, cultures shape biodiversity through the direct selection of plants and animals and the reworking of whole landscapes (Sauer, 1965). Such landscapes have been described as anthropogenic nature, their composition, whether introduced species, agricultural monocultures or genetically modified crops, being a reflection of local cultures and a product of human history including the context in which individuals and groups live their lives (Milton, 1999).

 

Some cultural practices that existed in Nigeria encouraged the use of specific species for festivals and they often limit the population of species occurring in a narrow ecological range. While it is important to remark that in some Nigerian societies, cultural taboos and their sanctions have helped to check abuse of the environment at least among the local people, the abandonment of these traditional cultural practices have done more harm and posed serious threat to natural environmental structures.

 

Many Nigerians, especially in the southern parts view the consumption of wild resources as normal and in some cases a delicacy. Bush meat consumption is high and has only reduced in the past few years due to scarcity occasioned by pressure on wildlife resources. The situation is a bit better in some parts of northern Nigeria that is dominated by Islam, where consumption of some types of wildlife is prohibited. However, field reports on bush meat trade have confirmed that apart from primate species, other large games and a large variety of flora are used as food and traditional medicines in northern Nigeria. The ‘juju’ market or traditional medicine market is also responsible for a larger percentage of biodiversity in-take from the wild in Nigeria. The current report on the global scarcity of vultures by Birdlife International is a special case for concern. 

 

In Nigeria, field reports continue to support the fact that vultures are mostly harvested and used in traditional medicine. A study of the national status of vulture species in Nigeria (which is on-going at the time of compilation of this report), revealed that there is large scale utilization of vulture body parts for traditional medicine. Until recently, when the activities of the National Environmental Standard Enforcement Agency (NESREA) began to have appreciable impact on control of trade in endangered species, trade in endangered species was not properly controlled. Despite these efforts, parrot species, most particularly the African Grey Parrot – Psittacus eritharcus are still being harvested in large numbers in the country for sale to Asian and Mediterranean markets.

 

1.2.1.7 Effect of Climate change

 

The National Adaptation Strategy and Plan of Action for Climate Change in Nigeria

(NASPA-CCN 2011) revealed that climate change is already having significant impacts on

Nigeria. According to the report, recent estimates suggest that in the absence of adaptation, climate change could result in the loss of between 2% and 11% of Nigeria’s GDP by 2020, rising to between 6%-30% by the year 2050. The impacts of climate change are expected to exacerbate the impacts of human pressure on biodiversity. This will further diminish the ability of natural ecosystems to continue to provide ecosystem services and may cause invasion of strange species that are favoured by climate change.