Gully erosion, corruption and development

Mankind and physical environment are inseparable in a neat way.  That is to say, that the robust survival and economic cum spiritual progress of man depend to a large degree, on how carefully he manages the numerous environmental resources at his disposal.  However, the focus here is on gully erosion within the context of sustainable development in Nigeria. Gully erosion is one of the menaces of environmental degradation in Nigeria.  This is with a special emphasis on the southeastern region.  Gullies are a valley-like landform arising from soil removal and transportation through the lens of such agents as wind, water, and gravity. This is in addition to unsystematic/repeated farming including over-grazing as well as major earth-moving activities.

In sum, both geological and human factors are responsible for the creation of gullies.  Not unexpectedly, gullies are more common in areas characterised by sedimentary rocks which are generally loosely consolidated.  This type of environmental menace is a global phenomenon.  In other words, gullies are a serious threat to humanity in diverse ways.

However, they can be prevented or treated/managed to some extent, by the generation and application of robust environmental laws as well as principles.  For instance, mining activities and other related earth-moving operations including road/rail construction works can be thoroughly monitored.  This is one of the reasons why Environmental Impact Assessment policies must be pragmatically crafted and implemented.  Regular public enlightenment programmes have to also occupy centre stage in the scheme of things.

Improper termination of drainages vis-à-vis the design and construction of roads is one of the factors leading to the formation of gullies in most parts of Nigeria.  Despite the fact that there can be no permanent solutions to gullies due to their geological origins, humans can take steps to ameliorate the situation.  Taming gullies in Nigeria, is a matter of the utmost importance understandably because it is inextricably interwoven with the concept of development anchored to socio-cultural/political stability and economic advancement.

Many Nigerians are trying to engage in agricultural/agro-based businesses as white-collar jobs are almost practically non-existent today.  Arable land especially in the south-eastern region is being lost daily to gully erosion.  This scenario adversely affects agricultural productions and human settlements generally.  Such a situation leads to an aggravation of the current extreme material poverty among the citizenry as the affected people migrate from one location to another for survival.

More stresses and strains are put on the neighbouring communities.  One concomitant effect of this is a greater degree of insecurity especially as Nigeria’s population continues to grow exponentially.  It has been estimated that the population would be 410 million by 2050.  Pro-activeness is of the essence in order to avert monumental human agonies in Nigeria in the future.

It is very worrying that both the federal and state governments over the years have not shown sufficient commitment to this all-important issue of gully erosion.  Allocating huge   sums of money through the lens of Ecological Fund to the affected state governments without close monitoring of how each of them spends its share, amounts to a waste of time and a subtle promotion of corrupt practices. This attitude makes the federal government, represented by the relevant agencies come under suspicion of minor infractions of financial and economic regulations.  Nobody is ultimately accountable to the system as endemic corruption walks on all fours in Nigeria.

The Anambra State Commissioner for Environment recently told the world that there were 1000 active erosion sites in the state, despite the huge financial support from the Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP).  As a result of gully erosion, Anambra has the smallest landmass in the country today.  Lagos State was formerly holding this “title” before Anambra snatched it from the latter by reclaiming land from the Atlantic Ocean.

However, there is need for caution so that the on-going reclamation project in Lagos State does not become a recipe for colossal disaster in the foreseeable future.  NEWMAP has also been doing intervention activities in such places as Udi, Nkanu West and Enugu Ngwo in an attempt to save the situation in Enugu State.  This body has been intervening in Abia, Anambra, Cross River, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo and Edo as far back in time as 2013.

Currently, NEWMAP has been assisting up to 21 states to fight gully erosion with very little success.  Thus, for example, the gullies in Oko community in Anambra State have been threatening to swallow up about 826 families.  This is in addition to the fact, that many lives have already been lost in all the seriously affected areas.  The World Bank has already declared Nanka in the Orumba South Local Government Area of Anambra State as the location housing the deepest and deadliest gullies on our planet.   Consequently, the World Bank has estimated that the taming/controlling of these gullies would cost N20 billion.  The southwestern and northern regions also are not completely gully-free.  For instance, in Bida – one of the biggest settlements in Niger State, 15 serious gully sites have been identified.

However, corruption remains a devil to grapple with.  The Senate Joint Committee on Ecology and Environments of the 8th National Assembly reported many months ago that most state governments were misappropriating their shares of ecological funds.  In 2009, about N93.7 billion was illegally transferred from the Ecological Fund to the Consolidated Revenue Fund.

Similarly, the National Economic Council in 2009 reported that about N200 billion belonging to the Ecological Fund was mismanaged.  Ecological disasters can be controlled to a great degree, in the face of financial discipline.  But unfortunately, Nigerian leaders across the board have no space for selflessness and/or patriotism as they continue to serially rape mother Nigeria.

This ugliness has permeated all levels of our contemporary society.  Painfully enough, the academia that is supposed to be a storehouse for the finest ideals and by the same token, robust humanity is now a near-complete sham.  Most university managers and council members are basically for amassing a fortune from the system, to the detriment of a healthy future.

Education has not sufficiently shaped their materialistic world view as if there is no tomorrow. The federal government needs to thoroughly monitor state governors and university leaders with respect to how they manage our collective resources. There must be punishments for misappropriation of funds. The seniors at every level are infecting the youth with their virus of financial and economic recklessness. This scenario would make it difficult for Nigeria to get out of the woods.  All leaders (political and/or academic) must be ultimately accountable to the followers in order to begin to experience socio-political stability and economic progress on a sustainable scale. In this connection, peaceful protests against bad governance remain inevitable.  There is no easy solution to bad governance all over the world.

  • Professor Ogundele is of the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Ibadan.