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Figuring Out A Nigerian Outrage

Updated: May 24

Our outrage as Nigerians differs from the rest of the world even though we get loud when the time and the issue are right. The things that will have other parts of the “developed” world up in arms are the very issues many Nigerians do not seem to bother about or maybe Nigerians are not openly expressing their displeasures. We get outraged about religion and culture. These two topics are peak performers on the Nigeria outrage scale. Then police brutality has become central to our discussion on human rights.

The steam level for fraud is very hot presently because it is now clear anyone can become a victim and a culprit, and it rubs off on you negatively a Nigerian wherever you are.  For “corruption”, the outrage is contextually vague because there is a lot of ambiguity about what Nigerians understand to be corruption and importantly who is involved. Perhaps, the selective outrage is because of what our society has morphed into, automatically impacting what our priorities are at different levels of Nigerian society.

However, for issues of environmental pollution and natural resource depletion or sustainability-related topics, the outrage does not gather as much momentum as it would for issues around religion patriarchy or culture, or morality. It is interesting that the 2019 Netflix series "Rotten” episode 2 of "Troubled Water" covers Nigeria's water crisis extensively and seems many Nigerians are yet to watch it. The issue should be on the same outrage scale as the Flint, Michigan water crisis.

Shockingly, I cannot find a single local newspaper headline on that episode. Some of the environmental and natural resource management issues in Nigeria include:

  • Coastal regions of Nigeria are plagued with constant marine pollution because of unregulated waste dumping, and oil spillage which not only affects marine biodiversity but also the livelihood of citizens.

  • There was a recent oil spillage in Nembe, a community in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria which lasted 32 days before the machine was fixed. This is related to the Port Harcourt soot which trended recently but that was it, the level of outrage you would expect from people likely to die from Cancer in the near future was just not exactly high up the scale.

  • Toxic waste dumping in many parts of the Gulf of Guinea region (like Ghana, Liberia, Togo, Nigeria). There have been many research papers on this topic, a few newspaper headlines but that is how far it goes.

  • In Lagos, Nigeria for example, a new project aiming at extending Lagos Island, called Eko Atlantic Project targeted at the rich, aggravates flooding issues because of sand dredging from parts of the beachfront to fill up the waterlogged areas for building foundations. The impact is the destruction of marine habitats of organisms in these areas. Even with the flooding, people are more worried about how it impacts their daily routine than the root causes. You find headlines during the flooding season, but it has become more of a routine and people have somehow “adjusted” and prepared for the yearly Lagos flooding.

  • An erratic power supply means more reliance on fossil fuel-powered generators. Add that to already congested roads full of fossil fuel engines. Air and noise pollution but people get used to these things.

  • One challenge with Lagos flooding is that drainage of the city of Lagos is designed in such a way that the Lagoon (polluted with heavy metals) empties itself into the Atlantic Ocean but when the sea level rises during raining season, the lagoon overflows back into the city since the water has nowhere to go.

  • The issue with pollution of water bodies in Lagos is that the aquifers and underground water is polluted as these chemicals sip slowly into the ground and drainage system through which water pipes pass and the same ground from where borehole water comes from. There is a chance more people in Lagos are drinking and using contaminated water than anyone can even estimate.

There are many issues, but Nigerians may have just given up on these issues because come to think of it, what would change anyways with the outrage? what difference would another hashtag make for complex issues around the environment and natural resource management or environmental pollution? For those who have been outraged in the past, where did that end? When an issue does not exactly affect everyone, the response differs with everyone, hence, the energy for the outrage could be weak. 

Why should someone struggling to survive in Lagos be bothered about soot in Port Harcourt or why would someone in Abuja be bothered about the pollution of Lagos Lagoon? Or why should anyone after a stressful day in Lagos traffic want to bother about generator pollution when they should be concerned about getting enough sleep for the next day? As with issues of sustainable development that leave everyone focused on different priorities, Nigerians have become used to these issues despite how gory they seem to the outside world because not like people do not care, they have made peace with the reality of empty promises.

The goal now is to survive first because living in Nigeria can feel like an extreme sport sometimes.



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