The recent report that there are over 3,500 active erosion sites in 10 states in Southern Nigeria is something to worry about. The development underscores the enormity of the problem. The affected states are Anambra, Imo, Enugu, Ebonyi, Abia, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Edo, Ogun and Ondo.
According to World Igbo Environmental Foundation (WIFE), there are over 2,800 active erosion sites in the South East geo-political zone. The chairman of the Foundation, Odili Ojukwu, disclosed that the menace might sack many communities in the zone from their ancestral lands. However, other sources reveal that Nigeria has over 3,000 active erosion sites.
Available figures show that there are over 1,000 active erosion sites in Anambra State, 300 in Imo and 500 each in Abia, Enugu and Ebonyi, respectively. Although erosion affects almost all the geo-political zones in the South, it is more pronounced in the South East.
Anambra State appears to be the worst hit with over 1,000 erosion sites. The most affected communities in Anambra are Nkpor, Obosi, Oko, Nanka, Agulu and Ekwulobia, Umuchu and others. Similarly, many communities in Imo, Abia, Enugu and Ebonyi states also suffer the same fate.
Erosion, especially soil erosion, according to experts, is the displacement of the upper layer of the soil. While water, wind, climate change and other factors can cause soil erosion, human activities have increased by 10-15 times the rate at which soil erosion is occurring globally.
We bemoan the threat of gully erosion in many states of the federation. The fact that 10 states are seriously affected by the menace shows that government should do more to check it before more harm is done. Although the recurring erosion menace across the country has been with us for some time, it appears that the situation is becoming worse with this year’s persistent rainfall.
Therefore, we believe that if urgent action is not taken by the government to remedy the situation, many communities in the affected zones may be cut off from the rest of the country. It is sad that past efforts to check erosion in the affected areas did not yield the desired results.
We recall that in 2010, the then President Goodluck Jonathan asked the World Bank to assist his government to tackle the challenges of gully erosion, emerging land degradation and environmental insecurity in the country. That presidential intervention led to the formation of the Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP), an eight-year multi-sectoral project aimed at addressing gully erosion in Southern Nigeria and land degradation in northern Nigeria.
Even though the intervention might have contributed to checking the menace of erosion in the affected states, we believe that there is still a lot to be done. Therefore, we urge the federal, state and local governments to redouble their efforts to check soil erosion.
Nigerians and other stakeholders should also work together with the government to combat the threatening erosion in the affected states.
It should be noted that the ecological fund was set up to check natural disasters, including soil erosion. This is the right time to use the fund to check the menace in the affected states.
All the same, the Federal Government can still seek the assistance of foreign countries and global institutions to address the challenge once and for all. Considering that human activities and climate change contribute a lot to soil erosion, there is need for a change of attitude in the management of the environment.
Nigerians are enjoined to plant more trees and engage in activities aimed at protecting the environment. They should increase the vegetative cover on the land in order to prevent both wind and water erosion. Since terracing and windbreaks can be used to check erosion, Nigerians should use them to solve the problem of erosion. It is commendable that Anambra and Edo states have sought the support of international financial institutions to tackle the problem. We urge the other affected states to emulate them. The government, corporate bodies and individuals should be more committed in tackling the erosion challenge.