GEOGRAPHY AND THE CHALLENGES OF DEVELOPMENT IN NIGERIA
Proceedings of the 55th Annual Conference of the
ASSOCIATIO N OF NIGER IAN GEOGRAPERS (ANG)
The environment, which is the natural world in which we live can be referred to as all of the external
abiotic and biotic factors, conditions and influences that affect the life, development and survival of an
organism or a community (Park, 2007). The environment and disasters are closely linked. According
to UN/ISDR(2002), several environmental factors, such as land degradation and desertification,
ecosystem loss, environmentally related diseases, pollution, climate variability and change act as both
hazards and vulnerability factors. Environmental degradation can cause or worsen disaster risks alone
or in combination with other natural hazards. Disasters have become an issue of growing concern
throughout the world, whether it is natural or human induced. The frequency as well as magnitude of
such disasters affecting a large population globally has been on the increase in recent years. The net
effects of these changes, particularly in recent decades, has been an increase in exposure to many
hazards and increased potentials for catastrophic losses.
The linkages between natural hazards and human-driven disasters and distressing environmental and
humanitarian situations are increasingly present, particularly as the poor are compelled to exploit the
scarce environmental resources simply for survival. Deforestation, land degradation and related food
security are shaped by human resource use (e.g. urban squatting on marginalized hillsides), which in
turn sometimes create conditions for flooding, landslides and drought. People and communities face
threats to their life and livelihood from many sources. These include disasters induced by natural and
related hazards, development policy failure, breakdown of social order and armed conflicts. The
effects of any of these can be harmful to livelihood and ecological resilience but disasters are special
because their effects are often devastating and widespread. They often have the potentials to cause or
exacerbate other risks. Disasters happen when a given set of conditions or processes results in an
increase in the vulnerability of people and ecosystems to natural hazards. This increase is due to the
negative outcomes of underlying economic, social, political and physical factors that shape or
determine people’s lives, their living environment and how they respond to the hazards. Disaster
impacts have become an impediment to sustainable development in Africa. Africa is not the most
disaster prone continent but it is the only continent whose share of reported disasters in the world has
increased over the last decade. More people are affected by natural hazards and economic losses
incurred are rising because Africa is most vulnerable to hazards. Sub-regional economic communities
and governments are making various efforts to reduce disasters in Africa but policies and mechanisms
for disaster risk reduction are at varied stages of development and have limited impact on disaster
risks (UN/ISDR, 2002).
Disasters induced by natural hazards impede development in Africa and efforts to address disaster risks
are yet to have the desired impacts. This is because disaster management practice in Africa is only now
moving towards disaster risk reduction. A review of disaster risk reduction efforts in Africa showed
that disaster risk reduction was not yet integrated in national development frameworks by most
countries in Africa, partly because of lack of knowledge of the process of integration. There is no
guidance on how to close the gap between disasters and development.
What Is Disaster Risk Management?
Disaster refers to an emergency caused by natural hazards or human induced actions resulting in a
significant change in circumstances over a relatively short time period. Typical examples are death, displacement, disease, loss of crops, damage to physical and service infrastructure, depletion of
natural and social capitals, institutional weakening and a general disruption of economic and social
activity (Olorunfemi & Adebimpe, 2006). It can equally be defined as a natural or human induced
event, occurring with or without warning, causing widespread human, material, economic or
environmental losses which exceed the ability of the affected community or society to cope with its
effects using their own resources. A disaster is a function of the risk process. It is the occurrence of an
extreme hazard event that impacts on vulnerable communities causing substantial damage, disruption
and possible casualties and leaving the affected communities unable to function normally without
outside assistance. It results from combination of hazards, conditions of vulnerability and insufficient
capacity or measures to reduce the potential negative consequences of the disaster risk. A hazard on
the other hand can be defined as a potentially damaging physical event, phenomenon or human
activity which may cause the loss of life or injury, property damage, social and economic disruption
or environmental degradation. These include natural (geological, hydro-meteorological and
biological) and/or induced by human processes (environmental degradation and technological
hazards) (ISDR 2002). Hazards can either be a creation of humans or the environment.
Disaster Risk Management is the systematic process of using administrative decisions, organization,
skills and capacities to implement policies, strategies and coping capacities of the society and
communities to lessen the impacts of natural hazards and related environmental and technological
disasters (NEMA, 2011). This comprises all forms of activities including structural and non structural
measures to prevent or limit (mitigation, and preparedness) adverse effects of hazards.
Disasters are dramatic, sudden, unscheduled events that are often accompanied by large losses of
human life, suffering and affliction to a society or a significant part of it, and a temporary breakdown
of prevailing lifelines and systems. Such events cause considerable material damages and interrupt the
normal functioning of an economy and of society in general (Otero and Marti, 1995). The intensity of
disasters often represent the intersection of human and natural disaster, conditions of poverty, poor
housing, lack of information about disaster risk, poor telecommunications, and inadequate physical
infrastructures, including bridges or roads, frequently exacerbate natural disasters such as floods,
earthquakes, hurricanes, and volcanic eruption. Although every nation is generally aware of their
propensity for various kinds of human and natural disaster scenarios, their occurrence and
consequences are often sudden, random and not well predicted. Although, differing somewhat in the
trigger, scope, duration and requisite actions, most disasters both natural and human-driven generally
result in widespread physical damage, death, disability and displacement, as well as the disruption of
economic and social activities (Coletta, 2004, Olokesusi, 2004).
Disaster specialists focus on two kinds of vulnerability. The first is peoples’ vulnerability to disasters
– the extent to which they are at risk (living on a flood plain, having a house unable to withstand
floods) and the extent to which they can cope with the impacts (through such provisions as health care
and property insurance). The second is the vulnerability of key institutions or systems such as power
supplies, water supplies, hospitals and emergency response networks to disasters.
Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) aims to reduce the damage caused by natural hazards like earthquakes,
floods, droughts and cyclones, through an ethic of prevention. Disasters often follow natural hazards.
The severity of a disaster depends on how much impact a hazard has on the society and the
environment. The scale of the impact in turn depends on the choices we make for our lives and for our
environment. These choices relate to how we grow our food, where and how we build our homes, what
kind of government we have, how our financial system works and even what we teach in schools. Each
decision and action makes us more vulnerable to disasters – or more resilient to them. Disaster risk
reduction is about choices. Disaster risk reduction is the concept and practice of reducing disaster risks
through systematic efforts to analyse and reduce the causal factors of disasters. Reducing exposure to
hazards, lessening vulnerability of people and property, wise management of land and the environment,
and improving preparedness and early warning for adverse events are all examples of disaster risk
Disaster Risk Management: The Global Perspective
During the past four decades, hazard events such as earthquakes, drought, floods, storms, fires and
volcanic eruptions have caused major losses of human life and livelihoods, destruction of economic
and social infrastructure and significant environmental damage. Moves towards sustainable
development and poverty reduction initiatives are threatened by disasters triggered by hazards of
hydro-meteorological, geological and environmental origins often amplified by human activities or
technological developments (Ojo, 2003). According to Gavidia (2000), natural disasters such as
earthquakes, floods and hurricanes can wipe out years of urban development by destroying
infrastructure and housing and by injury or killing thousands of people. The 26th December, 2004,
tsunami disaster in South Asia is an example which led to an immense loss of over 270,000 lives in
addition to several million dollars worth of property and infrastructure destroyed. Disasters and those
prone to it increase human vulnerability. In the last millennium, and even now, the world has
witnessed a range of natural hazards (environmental emergencies), in greater and more frequent in
some areas than in others, slow-acting in some cases and catastrophic in others. Economic losses due
to environmental emergencies have increased several folds since the 1960s. The majority of these
enormous economic losses are incurred in industrially developed parts of the world including Japan,
USA and Canada. But the relative impact is much greater in countries with lower per capita incomes,
where their effects on such human and economic factors as employment, balance of trade,
indebtedness from reconstruction and loss of capital continued to be felt for many years after the event
(CERD, 2000; Mac Entire, 2001).
In the past couple of years, the world experienced the highest disaster losses ever recorded, continuing
a trend that has seen economic costs continuously grow over the past 30 years. Between 1980 and
2011, disasters have caused more than 3.3 million deaths and US$3.5 trillion in economic damages and
losses across the world. Extreme weather events account for over 78% of the events recorded over the
same period and is responsible for two-thirds of the losses (US$2.6 trillion). A detailed analysis shows
that the most important driver of disaster risk in recent years has been the substantial growth of
population and assets in at-risk areas. Looking ahead, climate change is likely to exacerbate the
challenges of this growing level of exposure. Informed by climate scenarios and integrated into
development planning and investments, DRM can provide an important line of defence against an
uncertain future. Recent events are a stark reminder that no country – rich or poor – is immune from the
impacts of disasters. But disasters disproportionately affect the poor and vulnerable and can set back
the achievement of development goals such as the Millennium Development Goals. In this context,
Disaster Risk Management (DRM) is increasingly at the core of World Bank business. Investments are
helping to protect millions of lives and livelihoods and safeguard growth in key socio-economic
sectors. Between 2006 and 2011, the World Bank financed 113 disaster prevention and preparedness
operations (US$7.9 billion) and 68 disaster reconstruction operations (US$3.8 billion). The growing
strategic commitment of the World Bank to DRM is reflected in the number of Country Assistance and
Partnership Strategies (CASs/CPSs) that now consider disaster and climate risks in their approach to
development. In 2011, 70% of Country Assistance Strategies and Country Partnership Strategies
recognized natural disasters as a challenge to sustainable development, up from 40% in 2006 (The
World Bank Group, 2011).
At the international level, there has been renewed commitment to disaster risk reduction under various
processes. These include the 1990-1999 International Decades for Natural Disaster Risk Reduction
(DNDR), the 1994 World Conference on Natural Disaster Reduction and the 2000 UN International
Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR). The multilateral conventions on climate change and
desertification also promote disaster risk reduction. The Johannesburg Plan of Implementation of the
2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development called for mainstreaming disaster risk management
in development. It also urged actions at all levels to assist Africa to deal effectively with natural
disasters and conflicts within the framework of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). This is to help Africa achieve targets for sustainable development and poverty reduction in
the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
In recent years, there has been a major shift in how people seek to cope with disasters from natural
hazards. While humanitarian response capacities are vital and needs continued attention, the focus on
addressing risk underlines the recognition that human intervention designed to reduce the
vulnerability of communities and their assets can reduce the impact of disasters. Disaster risk
reduction is a new paradigm in disaster management with a body of policies, strategies and practices
geared toward curtailing vulnerabilities and disaster risks in a society through appropriate prevention,
mitigation, preparedness and early warning programmes and facilities. It aims to motivate societies at
risk to be more involved in the conscious management of risk and reduction of vulnerability in their
communities. As a cross cutting issue, it demands substantial commitment from public
authorities/civil society and a greater inter-sectoral and policy coordination at all levels. It also
requires full engagements of diverse tools used in the measurement of environmental vulnerability
such as indicators and risk assessment (ISDR 2003). Risk reduction measures are most successful
when they directly involve the affected people in the disaster planning and decision making processes
at all levels. Strong participation in preventive actions and remedial programs is also important.
Nevertheless, the primary level of disaster reduction lies at the community level. Local leaders drawn
from the various political, social and economic sectors of society have to assume primary
responsibility for the protection of their own community.
Disaster Risk Management in Nigeria
Developing nations in particular, experience pervasive risk of devastation, human and property loss
resulting from human and natural disasters. According to Henderson (2004), this level of risk was
attributable to socio-economic stress, aging and inadequate physical infrastructure, weak education
and preparedness for disaster and insufficient fiscal and economic resources to carefully implement
the preparedness, response, mitigation and recovery components of integrated emergency
Disasters are clearly a development problem, because certain natural phenomena, including those of
hydro-meteorological, geodetic and vulcanological origin tend to have greater effects on developing
countries than on developed countries. Secondly, because several factors associated with low level of
development exacerbate such effects and thirdly, because the impact of natural phenomena on the
prospects for long term development is considerably greater in less developed countries (BID,
The growing trend of disasters in Nigeria has implications for national sustainability. This is because,
disasters, irrespective of causal factors are associated with diverse externalities such as mortalities,
loss of income, home, farmlands, social networks, livelihoods and infrastructures. The accelerating
pace of urbanization and the growing scale of urban-industrial activity is exacerbating environmental
stresses in cities in developing countries and increasing the vulnerability of urban dwellers to both
natural, technological and other human induced disasters (Kreimer and Munasingle, 1991). The
demand for more urban space has pushed the poor onto marginal, environmentally vulnerable terrain.
In many developing countries, overcrowding, congestion, poverty, unemployment, and inadequate
infrastructure and services further weaken urban resistance to natural hazards (Clarke and
Munasinghe, 1995). All things considered, the long-term effects of disasters seriously affect
countries’ prospects for development. This calls into question at least two aspects related to a
country’s development strategy: first, understanding that resources earmarked for preventing and
mitigating the impact of natural phenomena are very high-yield investment, both in economic, social
and political terms in line with long-term growth. Second, the spending actions and decisions that are
taken once a phenomenon has arisen must be seen from the perspective of reducing vulnerability, in
other words, in a combined reconstruction and transformation approach aimed at positively and progressively modifying the degree of vulnerability and, therefore, the prospects for future
Available literature on Nigeria shows the existence of spatial differences in the nature of disasters.
While oil and gas pollution is largely a Niger Delta problem, drought and quelea birds infestation
occur in the Sudano-Sahelian states (e.g. Kano, Sokoto, Katsina, Borno and Yobe). However, soil
erosion, rainstorm and flood disasters are prevalent in virtually all over the country (NEMA, 2002).
The country has witnessed several disasters accompanied by numerous casualties including loss of
lives and property. Notable among such disasters include floods, erosion, pollution, fire, explosion,
plane crash, ethnic clashes and Insurgency.
In recent times, Nigerians in many states of the federation, especially in the North have lived with the
nightmare of devastating floods almost on annual basis. The 2012 floods was particularly very
devastating as it was regarded as the worst in 50 years. It has consumed several lives, ravaged
communities, destroyed properties and rendered many more homeless and destitute. Floods continued
to submerge communities, displacing thousands and destroying millions, as water banks and rivers
continue to surge against the boundaries and barriers.
Nigeria lost over N2.6 trillion to the huge flood that swept through several states and affected over 7
million people in 2012 (NEMA). The estimated total value of infrastructure, physical and durable
assets destroyed by the disaster is put at over N1.5 trillion (US$9.6 billion) while the total value of
losses across all sectors of economic activity was estimated at N1.1 trillion (US$7.3 billion). The 2012
floods, the worst in Nigeria’s recent history, displaced 2.3 million people, killed over 363 persons and
destroyed or damaged 597,476 houses.
It is also on record that Nigeria had recorded plane crash disasters that claimed several lives. Between
1996 and 2012, there were seven major air disasters that occured in Lagos, Kano, Abuja, Portharcourt
and Makurdi which resulted in the loss of 791 lives.
Pipeline vandalisation and the resulting fire explosions especially in the oil rich Niger Delta region of
Nigeria, bomb explosions in various parts of the country and ethnic clashes are equally serious disasters
that Nigeria is experiencing. The losses that resulted from these disasters have been a major set back
on socio-economic development and stability of the country.
The most worrisome human induced disaster in Nigeria in recent times is the havoc caused by
insurgency particularly in the northeast of Nigeria where several lives were lost and dwellings burnt.
Between 2009 and 2013 over 3000 lives were lost, several schools, public buildings, villages, vehicles
and many valuables were destroyed. The Sambisa forest reserve which was once a natures reservoir
for wildlife and various plant species has been degraded to insurgents camps and a battle field for the
insurgents and the Nigerian Army.
National Emergency Management Agency (Nema) And Disaster Risk Management In Nigeria
The Hyogo framework for action adopted at the Japan Conference set the guidelines for the reduction
of vulnerability to hazards and emphasized the mainstreaming of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) into
everyday decision and development activities with a view to substantially reducing disaster related
losses by the year 2015. In response to the upsurge in disasters, the Federal Government of Nigeria
through Decree No. 12 of 1999 established the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) as
the apex public sector agency for emergency management. This legal instrument was fashioned after
the USNEMA law, but its operation has been handicapped by several factors among which are
inadequate funding and equipment, weak executive capacity and lack of decentralization. In order to
build human capacity and community resilience, nations across the globe have taken measures to
mainstream DRR into the education curriculum at different levels. In line with this global trend, the
Nigerian government, through the National Emergency Management Agency, (NEMA), has taken
several initiatives to mainstream DRR into her education curriculum at the primary, secondary and the tertiary levels. One of such bold initiatives is the establishment of the Centres for Disaster Risk
Management and Development Studies (CDRM&DS) in the six geopolitical regions of the Country
using the major Universities in the region as base. Its core mandate is to train manpower at the
postgraduate level and to give technical support to NEMA in the areas of policy formulation, research
and data base development for effective disaster management in Nigeria. In order to achieve its
mandate, the centres are currently running both Professional Masters and Postgraduate Diploma
(PGD) Programmes in Disaster Risk Management.
In a bid to help mitigate disasters in Nigeria and effectively manage it whenever it occur, the six
Centres for Disaster Risk Management and Development Studies have so far graduated about 1000
postgraduate students in disaster risk management. The graduands, were drawn from various
professions, including the military, paramilitary, medical, social sciences and humanities. The
programme, which is a collaboration between the six Universities and the National Emergency
Management Agency (NEMA), is aimed at tackling the problem of disaster management in the
country. The programme faced several challenges at its inception ranging from delay in take up due to
formulation of policy guidelines to release of take up funds by NEMA/Institutional supports.
The 1999 NEMA Decree directs each state to have a fully equipped emergency management agency.
This has not been realized after a decade. The initiative for the collaboration with the Universities
therefore came in good time particularly when Nigeria was going through a lot of disasters. Disaster
can come in various ways, forms and magnitude which require the timely handling by professionals.
The various actions and intentions of government in this sector are quite laudable. However, it is very
critical that an appraisal of the framework, relationships, logistics and public awareness and willingness
to participate in disaster prevention and management be carried out. NEMA tried as much as possible
to bring the knowledge of disaster management to all the strata of the society. In order to achieve this,
it even partnered with primary and secondary schools to ensure that it included disaster
management training in their curriculum. It also conducted training for youth corps members and
people in the grassroots through the local government areas. In each local government area, a
minimum of 200 people were trained on what to do to avert disaster and how to handle the situation
when it occurs.
Disaster Risk Management Centres In Nigeria: The Journey So Far
The Memoranda of Understanding
The Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) between the National Emergency Management Agency
(NEMA) and each of the host Universities for the Centres was signed in 2009 and by January 2010,
majority of the Centres have taken up. The six Universities are:-
University of Ibadan – South West Zone
Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria – North West Zone
University of Nigeria, Nsukka – South East Zone
Federal University of Technology, Minna – North Central Zone
University of Port Harcourt – South South Zone
University of Maiduguri, Maiduguri – North East Zone.
The philosophy of the Centres is basically the training of students to acquire basic skills and knowledge
that will facilitate appreciation of disasters and risks as well as issues that affect humanity in general.
Graduates from these Centres should be able to identify and tackle risk assessment applications in hot
spots and understand the cause of and solutions to the disasters that confront the country and the world
at large. At the end of the course the graduates should be efficient disaster risk managers.
The Primary Objectives of the Disaster Risk Management Centres
Broadly, the Centre have the VISION to become Centre of Excellence in Disaster Risk Management
and sustainable development through training, research, community development and public
enlightenment. The common MISSION is to produce graduates that will translate their knowledge
of Disaster Risk Management into effective tools for sustainable development of the society.
NEMAs primary aim of establishing the Centres was to build Disaster Risk Management capacity at all
levels within Ministries, Parastatals, Agencies, Organizations and Communities in Nigeria and beyond.
This will enable participants to understand and effectively manage all kinds of disaster risks and their
The specific objectives are:-
1. To establish virtual Disaster Risk Management Training and Education Centre in Nigeria.
2. To develop education and training programmes for all disaster risk management practitioners.
3. To establish a multi-disciplinary research team to conduct disaster risk management research in
Nigeria and beyond.
4. Grasp the nature of vital linkages between disasters and disaster risk management, the
development process and its implementation.
5. Build linkages with other organizations for training, research and staff exchange
Operation of the Centers
The Centers function as semi-autonomous units under the office of the Vice Chancellor, with a Director
as the head responsible for the day to day running of the Centre. The Centres are funded by the
University with support from NEMA.
The Centers have well structured Organogram with well defined roles for the University Council, the
Senate, Director, Academic Board, Governing Board, Programme Committees, Coordinators,
administrative and technical staff.
Activities of the Centres
The Centers are conceived to run Masters Degree and postgraduate Diploma programmes, engage in
organizing workshops/seminars, advocacy visits and field tours. These activities started at the Centres
in the year 2010.
Academic Programmes and Students Enrolment
The findings from across the Centres indicated that over 1650 students were admitted into the Master’s
Degree programme in Disaster Risk Management, out of which about 947 have so far graduated.
Although postgraduate diploma programme has just began in some of the Centres, over 200
participants have been admitted within the last three sessions, out of which over 81 have graduated.
This shows that already over 1000 Disaster Risk Management experts have been injected into the
Category of Participants and Resource Persons
The category of students admitted for the training at the Postgraduate Diploma and Masters Degree
programmes at the Centres include Academics, Civil Servants, Bankers, Technocrats, Teachers,
Military, Police, Medical, Paramedical, Engineers, Industrialists, etc.