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Lights Out for Nigerian Activists

Map of Nigeria, Africa
Nigeria joined more than 7,000 cities and towns across the world in celebrating "Earth Hour," a symbolic shutting down of the lights for an hour late Saturday. More than 100 activists also gathered to launch a petition in favor of Nigeria's Climate Change Bill.

These activists are celebrating “Earth Hour” in the dark in one of Nigeria’s swankiest hotels. Not all the lights are out, but the symbolism remains, says Oladotun Fadeyiye, the Abuja Earth-Hour coordinator.

At this party, he says, the main event is not the lights out. It is a petition they hope will pressure the government to adopt the Climate Change Bill, which he says will set up programs to reduce damage to the environment and help people adapt to environmental disasters like floods and desert sprawl.

“There will be money earmarked for people displaced during flooding. There will be adequate attention for environmental degradation," said Fadeyiye. "There is a lot of desertification going in the northern part of the country that the federal government, they are ignoring it.”

He says the bill was approved by parliament two years ago, but it needs the president’s signature before it becomes law.

Last year more than 350 people were killed and more than two million displaced in floods that are expected to return with rains in a few months. Nigerian officials say the country has one of the world’s highest death rates from natural disasters caused by climate change.

On the concrete steps in the courtyard outside the event a group of children hold signs saying things like “Promote Waste Reduction” and “Act Now Control the Flooding.” Eleven-year-old Andrew Jedy-Agba says for him, climate change is personal.

“In some countries we have this problem of pollution around, and it is a very bad thing because it is destroying our world and a lot of lives are being taken," he said.

Jedy-Agba says he wants to be a football player when he grows up, but he does not think of environmental activism in Nigeria in terms of securing the nation’s future. Young activists in Nigeria say, for them, fighting climate change is about saving lives today.