✕ CLOSE Online Special City News Entrepreneurship Environment Factcheck Everything Woman Home Front Islamic Forum Life Xtra Property Travel & Leisure Viewpoint Vox Pop Women In Business Art and Ideas Bookshelf Labour Law Letters
Click Here To Listen To Trust Radio Live

Heatwave in Nigeria: Then and now – A critical analysis

In recent years, Nigeria has experienced increasingly severe heatwaves, a phenomenon largely attributed to climate change. These heatwaves have significant implications for the country’s environment,…

In recent years, Nigeria has experienced increasingly severe heatwaves, a phenomenon largely attributed to climate change. These heatwaves have significant implications for the country’s environment, economy and public health, necessitating urgent and comprehensive responses.

Historically, Nigeria’s climate has been characterised by tropical weather, with relatively stable temperature ranges. However, the past few decades have seen a marked increase in average temperatures and the frequency of extreme heat events.

According to the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMeT), the average annual temperature in Nigeria increased by approximately 1.2°C over the past century. However, the rate of increase has accelerated in recent years, with the average annual temperature rising by nearly 1.4°C since the early 2000s.

In the 1980s, extreme heat events were relatively rare, occurring once every few years. By contrast, the 2020s have seen multiple severe heatwaves each year. In 2023, for instance, places like Sokoto, Maiduguri, and Yola recorded temperatures soaring above 45°C. In 2024, these areas experienced temperatures exceeding 47°C, marking some of the highest temperatures ever recorded in Nigeria.

The health impacts of heatwaves in Nigeria are profound and far-reaching. Heatwaves pose significant risks to vulnerable populations, including the elderly, children, and individuals with pre-existing health conditions.

Data from the Federal Ministry of Health indicates a dramatic increase in heat-related illnesses. In 2023, there was a 20 per cent increase in such cases compared to the previous year. By 2024, this figure had risen to 30 per cent, with over 2,000 deaths attributed to extreme heat. Common health issues during heatwaves include heatstroke, dehydration, and exacerbation of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.

Nigeria’s agricultural sector is predominantly rain-fed and highly sensitive to temperature variations. Heatwaves exacerbate heat stress on crops, leading to reduced yields and, in some cases, total crop failure. Key staples such as maize, millet, and sorghum, which are crucial for the country’s food security, are particularly vulnerable.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the 2024 heatwave resulted in a 20 per cent decline in agricultural productivity compared to the previous year. This reduction in crop yields directly impacts food availability and affordability, pushing more Nigerians into food insecurity.

Heatwaves not only affect crop yields but also disrupt traditional agricultural practices. Farmers face shortened growing seasons due to the accelerated onset of high temperatures. Additionally, the increased evaporation rates and reduced soil moisture make it challenging to maintain crop health.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) highlights that the lack of adequate irrigation infrastructure exacerbates these challenges, as many farmers rely on inconsistent rainfall patterns. This disruption forces farmers to either abandon their fields or invest in costly adaptation measures, such as irrigation systems or heat-resistant crop varieties, which many cannot afford.

The agricultural sector employs over 70 per cent of Nigeria’s population, making the socio-economic implications of heatwaves far-reaching. Reduced agricultural productivity leads to loss of income for millions of smallholder farmers, pushing them into poverty and exacerbating existing socio-economic inequalities.

The increased cost of food due to lower supply further strains household budgets, particularly for low-income families who spend a significant portion of their income on food. This scenario creates a vicious cycle of poverty and food insecurity.

Heatwaves also contribute to broader environmental degradation, such as desertification and soil erosion, which further diminish agricultural land. The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) reports that over 65 per cent of Nigeria’s land area is affected by desertification, a situation worsened by recurring heatwaves. This degradation reduces the availability of arable land, limiting agricultural expansion and intensification needed to meet the growing food demand.

The economic impact of heatwaves is substantial, particularly in the agricultural sector, which employs over 70 per cent of Nigeria’s population. Crops such as maize, millet, and sorghum are highly susceptible to heat stress. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), agricultural productivity declined by approximately 15 per cent during the 2023 heatwave. In 2024, this decline worsened to 20 per cent, exacerbating food insecurity in both rural and urban areas.

Moreover, the energy sector faces increased demand for cooling during heatwaves, leading to higher electricity consumption and frequent power outages. The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) reported a 25 per cent rise in electricity demand during the 2023 heatwave, which surged to 30 per cent in 2024. This increased demand puts immense pressure on the country’s already fragile power infrastructure, disrupting daily life and economic activities.

Heatwaves also accelerate environmental degradation, contributing significantly to desertification, particularly in northern Nigeria. The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) estimates that desertification now affects over 65 per cent of Nigeria’s land area, up from 60 per cent a decade ago. The extreme heat of 2024 further degraded soil quality and reduced the availability of arable land, threatening biodiversity and the livelihoods of millions dependent on agriculture and pastoralism.

Addressing the heatwave crisis requires a multifaceted approach. The Nigerian government must prioritise climate adaptation and mitigation strategies. Investment in renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, can reduce reliance on fossil fuels and help mitigate the overall impact of climate change. Implementing early warning systems and promoting public awareness campaigns about heatwave preparedness are crucial for helping communities cope with extreme temperatures.

Urban planning should also incorporate green infrastructure to mitigate the urban heat island effect. Planting trees, creating parks, and developing water bodies can significantly lower ambient temperatures in cities, providing much-needed relief during heatwaves.

The increasingly severe heatwaves in Nigeria, exemplified by the extreme events of 2023 and 2024, highlight the urgent need for comprehensive climate action. The rising temperatures and their adverse health, economic, and environmental effects underscore the necessity for proactive measures. By adopting robust mitigation and adaptation strategies, Nigeria can mitigate the impacts of heatwaves, protect vulnerable populations, and build a more resilient future in the face of a changing climate.


Oluwaseun is an environmental journalist


Join Daily Trust WhatsApp Community For Quick Access To News and Happenings Around You.

UPDATE: Nigerians in Nigeria and those in diaspora can now be paid in US Dollars. Premium domains can earn you as much as $17,000 (₦27 million).

Click here to start earning.