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date: 21 May 2018

Natural Hazards Governance in Nigeria

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Natural Hazard Science. Please check back later for the full article.

Nigeria, like many other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, is exposed to natural hazards and disaster events. The most prominent ones are soil and coastal erosion, flooding, desertification, drought, air pollution as a result of gas flaring, heat wave, deforestation, and soil degradation due to oil spillage. These events have caused serious disasters across the country. In the southeast region, flooding and gully erosion have led to displacement of communities. In the Niger Delta region, oil exploration has destroyed the mangrove forests as well as the natural habitat for fish and other aquatic species and flora. In Northern Nigeria, desert encroachment, deforestation, and drought have adversely affected agricultural production, thereby threatening national food security.

The federal government through its agencies has produced and adopted policies, and enacted laws and regulations geared toward containing the disastrous effects of natural hazards on the environment. These include establishment of the National Environmental Standards and Regulatory Enforcement Agency (NESREA) as the main agency responsible for the enforcement of all environmental laws, guidelines, policies, and regulation as well as the provisions of international agreements, protocols, conventions and treaties on the environment to which Nigeria is a signatory. The creation of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) at the national level, State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) at the state level, and LEMA at the local government level are efforts geared toward responding to disasters arising from natural hazards across the country. The federal government partners/collaborates with some international organizations such as the World Bank, IAEA, IFAD, CIDR, UNDO, UNEP, UNIDO, UNHCR, and NGOs to address disaster-related problems induced by natural hazards.

However, efforts of the government have not yielded the desired results due to interagency conflicts of jurisdiction and functions. For example, SEMA officials are always in conflict with NEMA officials over jurisdiction on issues of emergency response and recovery.

However, the level of commitment at the regional, local, and community levels has been very low. Other major challenges to natural hazard governance in Nigeria include corruption on the part of government agencies and politicians, low political will, lack of technical manpower and capacity on disaster management, inadequate training and competence for quick response to disaster, conflict among government agencies at all levels, and poor funding of disaster and hazard management agencies. Available evidence is bound to show that many erosion contacts were either not executed or abandoned. The utilization of ecological funds (a fund set aside to address disaster issues) in many states has come under scrutiny due to allegations of diversion, misappropriation, or misapplication of funds released to affected states to tackle disasters and hazards.

However, there is need for a good governance system for natural hazard prevention and reduction in the country. This requires interagency synergy, increased funding of agencies, capacity building, and public awareness/participation.