Leading civil society organisations in the country, led by the African Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), with the support of Heinrich Böll Foundation (HBF) Nigeria, have urged President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to act on the core demands of the Nairobi Africa Declaration on Climate Change, noting that as one of the biggest economies on the continent, Nigeria should champion initiatives that seek to reform the international financial architecture towards making it fairer and fit for climate.

The CSOs added that Nigeria should join the Emergency Coalition for Debt Sustainability and Climate Prosperity led by the V20, support the Bridgetown Initiative with a view to strengthening the move to reform the international financial architecture as suggested by the UN Secretary-General.

These recommendations were made at the end of the stakeholder engagement event held at the nation’s capital in October, that focused on advancing debt relief for climate action as Nigeria’s public debt continues to soar. The event also served as the platform to review the Nairobi Climate Summit held in Kenya in September this year.

“High fiscal deficits in Nigeria and many African countries have made it challenging to build resilience and handle various shocks, including the Covid-19 pandemic and natural disasters that are becoming more frequent due to climate change. In 2022, eight African nations were already in debt distress, with another thirteen at high risk of facing a similar crisis. Alarmingly, 144 million non-poor individuals were at a significant risk of falling into poverty,” the CSO communique stated.

The engagement event was attended by all that mattered in the CSO space in the country. The attendees included ANEEJ, Center for the Study of the Economy of Africa (CSEA), AGORA Policy, Christian Aid, CISLAC, ActionAid Nigeria, the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID), Global Initiative for Food Security and Ecosystem Preservation (GIFSEP), BudgIT, Center for Social Justice (CSJ), C21st, and the Climate & Sustainable Development Network (CSDeVNet).

Others were STRADEV, Women Environment Program (WEP), Environmental Green Voice, The Cable Foundation, Americas Empowerment Institute (Nigeria), Good Governance Team Nigeria, Institutional and Sustainable Development Foundation, Connected Development (CODE), Carbon Free Africa, Center for Inclusive Social Development, Keen and Care Initiative, Accountability Lab Nigeria, Connected Advocacy, and Lekeh Development Foundation.

Participants at the stakeholder engagement observed that Africa, home to over 1.3 billion people, is warming faster than the rest of the world, noting that although the continent contributes little to the global carbon emissions, it is the most vulnerable continent that bears most of the climate crisis.

According to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) more than 110 million people on the African continent were directly affected by weather, climate and water-related hazards in 2022, leading to a loss of $8.5 billion in economic damages.

“Heatwaves, heavy rains, floods, tropical cyclones, and prolonged droughts are having devastating impacts on communities and economies, with increasing numbers of people at risk,” WMO Secretary-General, Prof. Petteri Taalas, said.

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The African Development Bank (AfDB) said the continent lost 15 percent of its GDP per capita annually due to climate change, further justifying the position of CSOs in Nigeria who are currently urging President Tinubu to take urgent actions.

“There is a need for African countries to demand from high emitting developing countries that they stick to their plans and timelines to reduce emissions, while Africa and Nigeria should also be more deliberate in their pursuit of low-carbon development, by greening budgets and increasing collaboration to build capacity for a green transition,” the communique stated.

The Nigerian CSOs frowned at the unavailability of the climate funds, especially the $100 billion per year by 2022 promised at the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Summit, such that it is not easy for African countries to access climate designated funds.

The participants also recommended that Nigerian lawmakers should carefully evaluate loan requests with emphasis on the terms of the loans, conditions as well as borrowing plans in order to ensure transparency and accountability in Nigeria.

They advised the federal and sub-national governments to cut back their borrowing plans from the international capital markets and commercial loans.

Nigeria’s total public debt surges

Nigeria’s total public debt increased by N41.13 trillion in six months from N46.25 trillion as of December 2022 to N87.38 trillion as of June 2023.

The mid-year 2023 total public debt comprised N54.13 trillion domestic debt of which the federal government owes N48.31 trillion while the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory owe N5.82 trillion.

The nation’s total external debt amounted to N33.25 trillion of which the federal government owes N29.90 trillion while the 36 sub-national governments and Abuja owe N3.35 trillion.