An Abuja-based water and disaster management expert, Dr. Joachim Ezeji, has proffered a solution to the rising wave of conflicts between herdsmen and farmers in Nigeria, which he attributed to poor water management practices across the country.
In a statement on Friday, he stressed: ‘’Where economic growth is impacted by rainfall, episodes of droughts and floods have generated waves of migration and statistical spikes in violence within countries’’.
He argued that in a globalised and connected world, such problems are impossible to quarantine, adding that “where large inequities prevail, people move from zones of poverty to regions of prosperity which can lead to increased social tensions as is currently the case with herdsmen from the north moving southwards’’.
“I can attribute the root cause of the conflict to the current water management practices in Nigeria, which in my informed judgement is not robust enough to cope with the impacts of climate change, especially water supply reliability, flood risk, health, agriculture, energy and aquatic ecosystems,” he stated.
According to Ezeji, ‘‘in many parts of Nigeria, water management cannot satisfactorily cope even with current climate variability, so that large flood and drought damages occur’.
“As a first step therefore he suggests that the Federal Ministry of Water Resources (FMWR) and its agencies such as the River Basins, should embrace the incorporation of improved information about current climate variability into water –related management because it would assist adaptation to longer-term climate change impacts.”
He said that water is a key element of a country’s security and can be the largest impediment to its development, thus positing that water shortage and droughts are the main constraints for regional development especially for Northern Nigeria, noting that the river discharge in the middle reaches of the Niger River as well as Lake Chad has continuously declined over the last five decades, and that this is mainly due to land use and climate change.
Ezeji further attributed land degradation in Northern Nigeria to low vegetation coverage and long-term intense agricultural activities.
To improve environmental quality and health and increase vegetation coverage, he suggested that the Nigerian government should initiate restoration programmes.
The development expert argued that such restoration programmes, must employ a nexus approach to the management of water and soil.