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How Climate Change Is Affecting Voting Process And Democracy In Nigeria



By Adenike Oladosu(

Climate change is one of the deadliest crises human beings face today. It has downgraded imploding effects on her socio-economical life and recently on political systems. Recent studies have shown the link between climate change crises and political instability. Researchers in different parts of the world have implicated climate change elements such as warmer temperatures and more extreme weather events as contributing factors to a slew of adverse outcomes: political instability, poverty, and collapse of the regime (e.g Syria). It is pertinent to note that climate change has shaped humans from the very first civilization. Political analysts have shown how much climate change crises have led to the collapse of societies ranging from the collapse of the Tang dynasty in China (in the 10th century) to the decline of the Mayan civilization in 900AD and the reshaping or settlement in Africa.

          A recent study by IPCC has implicated how climate change is leading to conflicts in Africa. Voting is the basic unit of the electoral process. For democracy to thrive, citizens must be encouraged to vote. Hence elections are the central institution of a democratic representative government. This is because, in a functioning democracy, the power lies in the people. Since Nigeria’s independence in 1960, it has had four (4) republics with the 4th one starting in 1999. The maintenance of Nigeria’s democracy lies basically in elections and the voting process. Hence the need to ensure a considerable voter turnout to completely make the system efficient. In a developing country like Nigeria, climate change is leaving a devastating outcome(s), especially in her agriculture sector and value chain supply. It is a known fact that 80% of Nigerians strive basically for agriculture. Worst of all, the Nigerian climate change crises and environmental disasters have had a negative toll on the voter turnout makeup in Nigeria’s electoral cycle map. Since the advent of democracy in 1999, Nigeria has had a recording deadline for voters. It is disastrous to note that out of the total 93.47 million registered voters, only 24.9 million persons voted in the just concluded presidential and national assembly elections. This represents a meager 26.72% voter turnout meaning the lowest since 1999, a decline of 8.03%. A quick breakdown shows that in a state like Adamawa, Jigawa, Plateau, Osun, and Gombe, the percentage was 40%, 40% 39.83%, 38.71%, and 33.8% as against the Independent National Electoral Commission targeted 59% as projected by the commission. Sadly, the bottom five states include; Rivers, Bayelsa, Abia, Oyo, and Lagos state. Due to the ravaging impact of the climate change crises in the North Eastern and North West through the herdsmen/farmers/fishermen conflicts & the incessant armed banditry/cattle rusting, the insecurity in the core North of Nigeria has collapsed leading to mass voter apathy. Regrettably, the North East and North West have a voter turnout of 30% and 28.3% respectively as against 40% (in 2019). The south-south region is not left out as it has the lowest voter turnout in 2023. This is a region of concurrent environmental disasters ranging from the ever-unending Niger Delta conflicts to the daily climate disasters experienced by the people. Surprisingly, it is unarguably worth noting that despite 87.2 million people that collected their PVC out of the 93.4 million Nigerians, only 24.9 million voters. Ironically, it is interesting to note that 25.4 million Nigerians voted in 1983 as against 25.2 million as of 2023. Though the size of the country’s population is three times the size in 1983 (40 years on). Since 2011, voter turnout has been on a steady decline, coincidentally with the reports that international bodies have stated & slated including the timeline of the climate change crises in Nigeria. Despite the use of improved technologies such as the bimodal voter accreditation system (BVAS) in accelerating the electoral process, voter turnout was poorer than in 2019. Unfortunately, two weeks after the presidential election, despite voting materials arriving on time & voting commencing early enough the voter turnout in many polling units was poor.

Vote buying and climate crises in Nigeria are the breeding factors for poverty and social inequality. It is a known fact that in Nigeria, billions of dollars are spent on vote buying despite clear provisions in the constitution especially as they relate to sections 121 and 127 of the electoral act 2022. Observers in the last election especially in the North-West have alleged that money was used alongside other materials such as food items, wrappers, and credit vouchers. These scenarios, especially where climate change crises exacerbate the situation worse, especially in the Lake Chad region where the climate crises have eaten up 90% of its landmass. Vote buying was even worse in agriculture belt states like Kaduna, Kano, Cross-river, Ogun, Ebonyi, and Bauchi. Open conduct of vote-buying has perverted the electoral process. One such dubious case is the arrest of a Nigerian politician with nearly $500,000 on the eve of the election in River State.

Environmental disasters displacing voters before the 2023 election are the worsening flooding occurring across the states. Apart from the thousand of active voters who died, many became homeless due to the imploding environmental disasters. Many voters have left their local polling units for other places outside their locality due to climate change-induced displacement. According to BBC, it is estimated that some 1.3 million people have been displaced and more than 200,000 homes destroyed. Unfortunately, thousands of voters have died. Accordingly, these environmental disasters have openly overwhelmed the coping mechanism of the Nigerian state. The gripping impacts of climate change can be seen with the over 6.1 million people displaced in Nigeria for the past 3 election cycles (13 years). It is further enumerated that Nigeria had 131 climate disasters within this period. Before the election, it was reported that about 82,035 houses and 323,327 hectares of land were affected by massive flooding in Rivers, Bayelsa, Adamawa, Anambra, Kano, Niger, Kogi, Delta, and so many other states. In a state like Anambra, hundreds of people died trying to flee flooding only. These states witnessed a massive low voter turnout.

Climate change-induced conflicts are killing and displacing voters

One of the dangerous effects of climate change is its impact on communal conflicts. A growing body of evidence suggests there are strong links between conflicts in both developing and developing countries. These effects of climate change such as changes in temperature and precipitation can increase the likelihood and intensity of conflicts and violence. Due to the dangerous impacts of climate change in Nigeria’s North West caused by repeated episodes of kidnapping, maiming, killing, population displacements and cattle rustling. These myriad effects have led to the disruption of socio-economic activities due to the rise of armed banditry occasioned by climate change crises. The negative impact of climate change in Nigeria’s North Western region is escalating intercommunal clashes since 2011. This effect is felt in rural communities especially the herding and farming areas where elements of climate change are affecting crop production. Before 2023, armed groups engage in organized attacks that feature cattle rustling, rape, looting, plundering, and mass kidnapping.

Between 2018-2020 at least 5000 voters died, cumulatively leading to the mass displacement of hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDP) in the Northwest. Immediately after the 2019 election, it was reported that over 11,000 voters were killed in Zamfara state alone and 44,000 children lost their parents to armed banditry. In 2020, a joint evaluation by the UN High Commission for Refugee and the national commission for Refugee, migrant, and internationally displaced persons claimed that 210,354 voters from 171 communities had been displaced in the Northwest. As of 2021, over 210,000 voters have been displaced in Nigeria’s Northwestern region and generated 35,000 refugees that crossed the border to places like Maradi in Niger Republic. It is visibly noted by critical stakeholders that the conflicts over natural resources such as land, water, and pastures between Nomadic cattle herders and the farming communities are leading to the mass death of voters. To this end, it has been reported that 35 out of the 92 local government areas in the North Western region are besieged by climate change-induced conflicts. According to the latest report by the nature journal, climate change has influenced between (3-20%) of armed conflicts in the last country. It has been postulated that even in a 20C of warming beyond the preindustrial level the influence of climate on conflict will be 13% more. In Nigeria, climate change-driven extreme weather and related disasters have damaged economics, lowering farming and livestock production and intensifying inequality. These factors may drive the possibility of conflict.


The climate change crisis is already destroying democracy, especially by affecting its basic root: the voting process. In developing countries, climate change is already comprising democracy by inflicting setbacks on the electoral process, especially voting procedures. The world might lose democracy if only we don’t care about the ongoing climate change crises. More democracy, a more peaceful world.


Adenike Oladosu is a female climate change activist & Nigerian democracy advocate, writing from Abuja.

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