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Nigerian Students Join Global Fight for Climate Action

FILE - Nigerian youths gather to protest climate change and poor environmental practices, in Abuja, Nigeria, Sept. 20, 2019.

Sixteen-year old Faithwins Iwuh — who is sometimes referred to as Nigeria's Greta Thunberg — wants Nigeria to contribute to the global fight against climate change.

To achieve this, she started planting trees around her school and neighborhood, and recycles used plastic bags into shower caps.

Iwuh says she has been concerned about the effects of poor environmental practices for years.

"I started having this guilt anytime I see someone throw something out the window or I see people dispose wrongly," she said. "I felt as if they were harming me and when I began to think about it, in a certain way they were harming me because it's my future. If I do not take care of it now, I may not have a generation."

An estimated 4 million students worldwide have taken part in the "Fridays for Future" movement, launched by Thunberg in Sweden in August 2018.

In recent months, hundreds of schoolchildren in Nigeria joined the movement. Two weeks ago, 300 students from 10 schools walked out of classes to protest in Abuja.

Nigerian Students Join Global Fight for Climate Action
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Fanny Nyalander, the Swedish ambassador to Nigeria, calls the action "inspiring."

"I think it's fantastic to see the young generation taking responsibilities and asking for climate action to be taken [seriously] — because it is their future and their future planet that is endangered," she said. "So it is incredible and very inspiring to see that young people of Nigeria are standing up and asking for actions to be taken."

Iwuh, however, is concerned that awareness of environmental threats in Nigeria remains low.

"Not very many people know about this," she said. "Only a handful know about this problem. I'm lucky to be one of the few that know about this and I'm trying my best to sell the idea to the world that it needs to save it from ending."

Nigeria is the biggest importer of fossil fuel-powered generators in Africa, and therefore one of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases.

Protesters march to demand action on climate change, on the streets in Lagos, Nigeria, Sept. 20, 2019.
Protesters march to demand action on climate change, on the streets in Lagos, Nigeria, Sept. 20, 2019.

Environmental experts like David Michael say climate change has serious consequences in Nigeria.

"Unfortunately, we in Africa contribute very little to the course of climate change, less than 3 percent, but we're the most vulnerable continent," he said. "And, of course, in Nigeria here the effects are everywhere — the desertification up north, sea rise down south, in the middle belt, the crisis between farmers and herders."

At a summit last December, Nigeria was one of 195 countries and territories that agreed to take steps to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

In real-world politics, that pledge is more likely to be fulfilled if more schoolchildren like Iwuh demand immediate action toward that goal.