Deforestation in Nigeria: a Growing Problem and why we must care 

 Nehi, went on a visit to her former neighborhood in Edo State but could barely recognize it. It seemed a far cry from the environment she grew up in.  She says; “It was very odd because my memories are vivid but I really struggled with what I saw. There are more houses now than I remember.  We used to have so many trees. That was a part of how we grew up. We grew trees and trees surrounded us. Now, there are barely any trees. The area where we had a farm and surrounding trees is gone too. I think this is a huge problem.”

Her concerns are not in isolation. In recent years there have been mounting concerns about Nigeria’s growing deforestation problem. 


A definition by green earth describes deforestation as “the removal of forests by humans, either for timber or to clear land for other uses such as agriculture or urbanization. A United Nations (UN) report says Nigeria has the world’s highest deforestation rate as 3.7% of its forest is lost every year. This is a cause for worry as it shows no signs of slowing soon.

Deforestation is very unhealthy for the environment. Its effects are very broad and pose lifelong consequences for the environment and for mankind.  The ecosystem is at risk, now, more than ever. Forests produce oxygen and take in the carbon dioxide that we breathe out.  Our Forests are responsible for clean air. Forests are widely known to be good air filters. Air pollution has become a constant problem in various cities in Nigeria, especially in industrial areas where the air is dense. With rising temperatures, trees also help set moderation and keep the environment cool. Deforestation poses a danger to our ecosystem. 

Nigeria continues to be plagued by soil erosion each year which has left a tale of devastation. With the frequent cutting down of forests, the soil has been left exposed. Forests are meant to provide a shield covering. The branches, roots, leaves, and fallen trees protect the soil from moving erosion, intense rainfall, and strong winds. With Nigeria’s growing deforestation, the soil has become more exposed. Farmlands are easily overrun with erosion which leads to the loss of crops and poor harvest. 

Deforestation in Nigeria
   Farmland overrun by soil erosion water. Photo Credit: Oviasuyi Glory 

We are also losing vital medicinal constituents found in trees to deforestation. Traditional medicine is rife in various parts of Nigeria. A lot of the medicinal components for the treatment of this diverse ailment come from tree properties. We lose important medical herbal research as our trees continue to be cut down. 

We are also losing wildlife to deforestation. Our Forests provide a home for diverse wildlife peculiar to these parts.  Animals like the Niger Delta Red Colobus Monkey, Niger Delta Pigmy Hippo, and the Jos indigo have had their natural habit encroached upon by deforestation and are at risk of extinction. 

Moving forward and finding solutions 

For any meaningful change to occur, we must take clear steps. Emmanuella Onyeka is a climate change and sustainability consultant.   She states that deforestation is a serious environmental concern and needs to be drastically reduced as we need biodiversity for humans to thrive. She says; “Deforestation is a serious environmental concern and we are seeing its effects.”  Onyeka also works on a project called “Green Planting” which plants and encourages the planting of trees in rural and urban areas. She says it aims to plant enough in both rural and urban areas and secure biodiversity. 

Onyeka enjoins the Government to also set policies on tackling deforestation. She said there are policies but they lack implementation and the government can key into this. She says; “ To tackle deforestation, there are policies on forest land use, policies to depress agricultural rate, policies on cross sectors and agricultural permit. Agricultural permits give a sort of control and more insights into the land and how it is being used. ” She also stressed the need for better and cleaner sources of energy.  She says; The people in rural areas cut down these trees for housing, cooking, or whatever purposes.  Government can ensure cleaner sources of energy for people in these areas.” 

We must also look into the business of illegal logging and how It has continued to thrive to the detriment of our forests and the environment. With increasing urbanization, there seems to be an encroachment, turning forest areas into residential areas. This is supposed to fall under various government urban and rural development agencies.  Government must therefore step up to its responsibilities. The Federal Government has earlier this year blamed Nigeria’s growing deforestation problem on state governments and other high-interest groups.

This was made known by the Minister of Environment, Mohammed Abdullahi earlier this year. Speaking with newsmen at the State House, Abuja, he disclosed; “The challenge we are facing under deforestation and charcoal is engaging Nigeria Governors forum because of the Land Use Act. What we did not tell you is that the activities of people in the charcoal business with all due respect are being supported by a number of powerful people at the sub-national level. If we try to do some level of enforcement, they will tell you, we own this territory, you are the federal government and you cannot enforce your rule and policy upon us. So that is part of the challenge in terms of controlling these activities.”

The state governors on their part summits that they are doing their best and try to enforce sanctions. Niger State Government says it persecuted illegal timber loggers last year to stop further depletion of forests. Dr Lucky Barau who is the Permanent Secretary in the state Ministry for Environment and Forestry says; “In recent times because of sustained arrests of persons engaged in indiscriminate felling of trees, illegal logging has reduced.

It is on record that over 120 offenders have been persecuted so far and fined depending on their involvement and about 100 more are awaiting trial. Edo State Government has announced a 10-year restorative plan to revive forest assets and the Jigawa state Government announced a ban on tree felling across all state local governments. Other state governments have rolled out different policies.  These efforts are welcomed but as Onyeka opined, it is important to take implementation very seriously. 

It is therefore imperative that there is a synergy between the federal and state governments in a bid to tackle Nigeria’s growing deforestation problem. Forestry laws must be upheld and stiffer sanctions should be meted out to defaulters who flaunt these laws. Government as a matter of urgency, must also key into rural and urban programmes to encourage the populace to plant more trees and be environmentally conscious. They must begin to move past performative yearly actions where trees are planted to mark special days. We must begin an intense regeneration to match up to the affected areas. 

Citizens must also play their role by ensuring the planting of trees as our part in making our environment safer and habitable for us all. 

Nigeria’s growing deforestation problem lingers on. We all must therefore rise to the challenge and do our part, for in protecting our forests, we protect ourselves. 

Oviasuyi Glory

Oviasuyi Glory is a Nigerian writer, journalist, and gender advocate. She is passionate about telling human stories. When she is not writing, she is on a hunt for new podcasts.