Why Lai Mohammed’s statement about climate change and Boko Haram is both right and wrong

Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, blamed climate change for the increase in the activities of Boko Haram as well as the herdsmen-farmers conflict in the country, while addressing the House of Representatives Committee in Abuja on December 14. The committee met to discuss the effects of climate change on the country and the Federal Government’s efforts towards improving this.

According to the minister, the current desertification in the north, which is responsible for a lack of sufficient grazing land for cattle, culminated in the ongoing conflict between the farmers and the herdsmen in the area. Also, he listed the shrinking of Lake Chad as one of the reasons for the growth of the militant group, Boko Haram, and called for inter-agency collaboration to tackle the unpleasant developments.

“There is insufficient information about climate change. People just know that there is a change in weather. Climate change is more fundamental than that. It affects our economy, security and other ways of life. The conflicts between herdsmen and farmers are as a result of climate change.”

The minister’s comments fall off the back of the recent conference in Paris on climate change and he expressed his concerns about how little Nigerians knew on the subject. During the speech, he emphasised that citizens were aware of a change in weather patterns, but not about how it affects our economy, security and way of life. He then recommended an extensive dissemination of information in order to improve the situation and create awareness for a generally better environment in Nigeria.

“In the past, there were grasses to feed on. But today, we do not have that in the north. The Lake Chad that shrunk is also responsible for the growth of Boko Haram. It is responsible for a number of things that have gone wrong. It is the number one cause of natural disasters in the country. No part of Nigeria is insulated from the effects of climate change. In the south eastern part of the country, we have erosion problems. In the north, there is desertification. In the south-western part, we have ocean surge.”

Boko Haram gradually came into the limelight as a radical group in Maiduguri in 2002, even though their activities in the country can be traced back to as early as 1972, albeit on a much smaller scale. However, the defining year for the sect in Nigerian history occurred in 2009 following the deaths of a couple of their leaders, including Mohammed Yusuf. The existence of Boko Haram revolves around an aversion to corrupt society and leaders, as well as Western civilization and culture.

To blame climate change for their growth is a bit hyperbolic on the part of the Nigerian government and confuses causality with correlation. Of course, desertification is relevant to the growth of the terrorist sect, but climate change is just one of many factors which has led to their expansion through the north east, and into Chad and Cameroon.

However, what can be termed as the most valid statement made by Lai Mohammed, during his speech, is his mention of the fact that Nigerians live in denial. This statement highlights how his climate change claims do not do justice to the current security and stability problems that the country is battling with and government response thus far.

This is not the first time that the Nigerian Federal Government has made an attempt to identify the root cause of Boko Haram’s activities. In 2012, General Yakubu Gowon, former Head of State of Nigeria, responded to the claim that poverty was responsible for the bomb attacks carried out by the group.

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