When the population of Nigeria is considered, the statistics regarding deforestation ceases to be surprising. From Nigeria’s independence in 1960 to 2021, the population of Nigeria increased from 45.14 million to over 200 million people. The consequence of this is multi-pronged. As the population continues to explode, more towns will have to be developed and civilization will have to expand to places that have not been inhabited before. In the case of Nigeria, new houses have been built and new roads have been paved.
All these affect the environment in many ways. One major example is deforestation. This is the systematic removal of forest coverage due to human activities and natural occurrences. In other words, it is the removal of a forest or stand of trees from land which is converted to non-forest use. The land can be converted to farms, ranches, or living areas. This is understandable as the growing population necessitates the use of trees for building houses and other household items. In some remote areas, trees are felled for cooking.
Nigeria’s problematic statistics should concern the government.
The United Nations (UN) has reported that Nigeria has the highest deforestation rate in the world. According to the agency, Nigeria loses an estimated 3.7 percent of its forest yearly. Additionally, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) also confirms that Nigeria has the world’s highest rate of losses of primary forests. In fact, the country has lost more than half of its primary forests in five years. Staggeringly, the country also lost 55.7 percent of her primary forests between 2000 and 2005, while it lost 97.8 kilohectare (kg/ha) of natural forest in 2020.
This should concern the Federal Government, the state governments and the local governments in the country. A primary factor for this situation has been identified as the immense pressure mounted on the natural forest cover by a growing population. Expectedly, the exponential increase in Nigeria’s population meant that more forests would be cleared for the purpose of farming and other agricultural activities. Of course, Nigeria is still yet to explore beyond the traditional practices of farming. This results in less yield compared to the expanse of land being used. In more developed countries, the same amount of land would produce more output.
Several factors also contribute to deforestation in Nigeria.
Admittedly, due to rapid urbanization and industrialization, the pressure for more space and wood for housing needs, manufacturing and construction of infrastructure for social amenities like schools and hospitals have been more significant. However, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has confirmed that more than half of Nigerians are multidimensionally poor. A source is also quoted as saying that about 133 million people live below the poverty line. This means that the households that these people make up would be unable to afford clean energy like cooking gas, kerosene and even electricity.
It should also be noted that Nigeria does not even have a 100-percent electricity penetration. Thus, some remote places do not have access to this clean energy. As a result, they depend on traditional alternatives for cooking. Also very significant is the fact that practically all bakeries run on wood as fuel. Logging companies and individuals contribute their quota as well to the statistics, although their activities can be linked to weak enforcement and corruption.
Nigeria has introduced a number of policies unsuccessfully.
The country launched the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) strategy in 2021. It was to curtail the issue in Nigeria with the assistance of the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility as well as UN Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (UN-REDD) program. There was also technical assistance from other bodies such as FAO, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). However, the latest data shows that Nigeria leads in deforestation hardly lends credence to the effectiveness of the policies. Of course, it is also doubtful that FG’s pledge at COP26 to end this major problem by 2030 will be achieved.