Haiti and Nigeria: Case studies in failure of Human Management of natural resources

by Olusegun Fakoya

The Nigerian Situation

Guha Sapir stated that vulnerability to natural disasters is almost a

direct function of poverty. In these eternal words lay a very strong

message for Nigeria. While the outpouring of emotions and sympathy on

the part of Nigerians remain commendable in the event of the Haitian

quake, the sad fact is that our dear country is not immune from

calamities. In fact, we seem to be on an unavoidable path towards the

fate currently befalling Haiti. While Haiti may be said to be primarily

an agro-based economy primary dependent on coffee crops for sustenance,

Nigeria seems to be multi-dimensional but not practically faring

better. The monumental wealth from crude oil which has massively

transformed other economies has so far failed to impact positively on

the Nigerian citizenry. By the UN estimates of 2009, Haiti has a

population of about 1 million whilst Nigeria has about 150 million

people. Herein, the difference ends. In terms of other socio-economic

indices, the closeness between the two countries make for a very

uncomfortable reading, definitely not reflecting the obvious

resource-based and population advantages of Nigeria. Here is a Central

Intelligence Agency fact file on the two countries:

Haiti Nigeria
9,035,536 149,229,090
GDP (purchasing power parity)
$11.53 billion (2008 est.) $336.2 billion (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 145 country comparison to the world: 36
note: data are in 2008 US dollars

GDP (official exchange rate)
$6.943 billion (2008 est.) $207.1 billion (2008 est.)
GDP – real growth rate
1.3% (2008 est.) 5.3% (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 168 country comparison to the world: 82

note: data are in 2008 US dollars
GDP – composition by sector
agriculture: 28% agriculture: 18.1%*
industry: 20% industry: 50.8%

52% (2004 est.) services:

31.1% (2008est.)*

Life expectancy at birth**
total population: 60.78 years total population: 46.94 years
country comparison to the world: 181 country comparison to the world: 212
male: 59.13 years male: 46.16 years
female: 62.48 years (2009 est.) female: 47.76 years (2009 est.)

HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate
2.2% (2007 est.) 3.1% (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 28 country comparison to the world: 23
Population below poverty line
80% (2003 est.) 70% (2007 est.)

(Source: Central Intelligence Agency: The World Fact Book. Available online:


Nigeria’s obvious advantages as reflected in our various GDPs, it is

disheartening to note that generally, life expectancy is higher in

Haiti than in Nigeria. Also, there is just a marginal difference in the

number of people living below the poverty line as compared to Haiti.

These are not heart warming statistics for Nigeria, a nation that

managed to crawl out of low to medium category in the Human Development

Index (HDI) list in 2009.

Environmental degradation is no

strange bed fellow to Nigeria. Deforestation is a perennial problem

that government efforts are yet to provide a solution to. Nigeria

currently has one of the highest rates of forest loss (3.3%) in the

world – does this smack of Haiti? Since 1990, Nigeria has lost some 6.1

million hectares or 35.7% of its forest cover – another Haiti in the

making? Between 1990 and 2005, Nigeria has lost a staggering 79% of

its biodiverse ecosystems (old-growth forests) and has been losing an

average of 11% of its primary forests per year – double the rate of the

1990s. Thus, Nigeria has the dubious distinction of having the highest

deforestation rate of natural forest on earth.


wildlife population has also plummeted from poaching and habitat loss.

This has contributed to the increasing problem with desertification and

soil erosion. The teeming urban and rural populations of south east

Nigeria are daily living with the miseries induced by severe erosions.

Of concern is the severe environmental degradation going on in the

Niger Delta of Nigeria. It is sad that despite the riches that this

region has contributed to our national economy, it is still a region of

perpetual conflicts, hatred, under-development and pronounced abject

poverty – no thanks to the failures of the Nigerian state.

The Niger Delta

Niger Delta is a riverine area sitting atop a land mass of about 70,000

square kilometres (about three times the size of Haiti) with a

population of about 2000 communities. The environmental pollutions in

this region include marine and air pollution, oil spillage, gas

flaring, land degradation, sedimentation, siltation and biodiversity

depletion. A department of petroleum resources indicated that over 95%

of the oil spillage in this region is never recovered. Here is a region

that faces acid rain, gas flaring and other gaseous emissions from

various sources, including vehicular emissions. Nigeria is reputed to

flare more natural gas associated with oil extraction than any other

country on earth, costing the country more than US $2.5 billion per

year. To have a proper dimension of this natural waste, the amount of

associated gas (AG) wasted annually in Nigeria equals 25% of total UK

gas consumption and about 40% of the entire African continent’s gas

needs by 2001 estimate. The environment can do better without gas

flaring. AG can be used or re-injected into the ground as obtains in

Western Europe. Gas flaring remains a condemnable act by the

international community as it is noted to contribute significantly to

climate change consequences of which would be extremely severe in a

developing country like Nigeria and the semi-arid Sahel regions of

sub-Saharan Africa. Alarmingly, the Niger Delta covers low-lying plain

areas which are very vulnerable as they lay only a few metres above sea


Seismic activities in Nigeria

if there is any delusion as to our immunity from earthquakes, the mild

earth tremor in the Southwestern Nigeria in 2006 should serve as a

wake-up call. Though not specifically within the major earthquake zones

of the world, cases of landslides, coastal erosions, and earth tremors

have been recorded. The history of earth tremors in Nigeria dates back

to 1939 (Akpan et al, 2009). Remote sensing, geological and geophysical

studies revealed have revealed what is popularly known as the “Ifewara

fault zone” which has been linked with the Atlantic fractured system.

Fractures often predispose to natural hazards such as volcanic

eruptions, earthquakes, tsunami and earth tremors. The first reported

occurrence of an earth tremor in Nigeria was in 1939 in Lagos, Ibadan

and Ile-Ife, all in the southwestern part of the country. Subsequent

occurrences have been documented for 1984, 1990, 1997, 2000 and 2006

with intensities ranging from III to IV on the Modified Mercalli

Intensity Scale. Though Nigeria is reported to have commenced the

establishment of a Nigerian National Network of Seismic Stations in

cities like Abuja, Kaduna, Ile-Ife, Awka, Abakaliki, Minna, Ibadan,

Nsukka and Oyo town, the ponder is on what measures we have

pro-actively taken as a nation to prevent a natural calamity of the

Haitian magnitude from occurring in our country.


disasters magnified by many years of chaotic planning, infrastructural

inadequacies and bad governance are gradually taking their toll on

Nigeria. Carbon monoxide poisoning and severe noise pollution arising

from incessant power problems are time bombs which our fragile economy

may not be able to withstand. Our problem is not helped by lack of

committed political and visionary leadership. While the stress on

nature and environment is eating deep into the fabrics of our

geographical boundaries, the nation is immersed in horrifying mundane

problems of social instability borne out of political prevarications

and insincerity. Poverty is a visitor many Nigerians have no option but

to embrace. Yet, the words of Debarati Guha rings clearly, sending out

its ominous warning to those willing to listen – vulnerability to

natural disasters is almost a direct function of poverty.


Seth Borenstein. July 2010. Haiti history: A disaster-prone zone.

Accessed online at


Katherine Arie. AletNet. Sep 2004. Talking Point: Why is Haiti so

prone to disaster? Acceesed online at http://www.alertnet.org/the

3. Jeffrey Masters. Hurricanes and Haiti: A Tragic History. Accessed online at http://www.underground.com/education/haiti.asp
4. Wikipedia – the free encycopedia. Accessed online at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haiti

Akpan, O.U, Yakubu, T.A & Ologun, C.O. 2009. Seismic activities in

Southwestern Nigeria. Accessed online at

http://www.iaspei.org/downlaods/Abstracts 2009/S8.pdf

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