Nigeria’s hope for sustainable environment hangs on deliberate action -

The World Environment Day is celebrated every year on the 5th of June and aims to raise awareness and raise people’s consciousness about the need to safely guide the planet. This year’s campaign is celebrated under the theme #OnlyOneEarth, with the focus on living sustainably in harmony with nature. It was celebrated in Nigeria by the Nigerian Environmental Society (NES) early June in Abuja.

It highlights the need to reset the peoples’ mindset about the preservation of the environment and the need to balance with nature through deliberate actions and transformative policies. Millions of people around the world are rendered homeless and distressed owing to various forms of disaster and the adverse effects of climate change.

According to recent statistics by IDMC GRID 2022, from the total of 38 million internal displacement persons registered around the world in 2021, 23.7 million were displaced by disasters. Participants at the symposium called for increased awareness and synergy among all stakeholders to mitigate Climate Change risks to address the adverse impacts of climate change.

We need to address population growth critically because once population increases, demand increases and many of these things either depend on or impact on the environment

For them, passing the environmental bill into law will fast-track the process of environmental preservation. They challenged practitioners, CSOs, individuals, corporate organizations and policymakers to join hands together towards passing the bill as a law.

They argued that Nigeria requires a new law to be able to meet up with the expectations of the universally agreed principles of preserving the environment for the good of humanity, adding that NES is not a duplication of efforts as it recognizes Environmental Practice as a distinct profession just like law, pharmacy, engineering, etc. For them, the passage of the bill is long overdue and remains the veritable solution to the problem of environmental practice in Nigeria.

In his remarks, Victor Imevbore, chairman, Caretaker Committee/Interim President, Nigerian Environmental Society, said the preservation of Mother Earth is not only the role of environmental practitioners, and policymakers but that everybody has something to do.

He said World Environment Day was set up to draw awareness and consciousness amongst individuals, corporate organizations, and politicians to do something on redressing the adverse impact on the environment.

He recalled that the World leaders had in 1972 observed in Warsaw that climate change is adversely impacting negative trends on our environment and agreed to mitigate it.

‘‘If we don’t do something about it, we will all pay for it. So, this year’s World Environment Day celebration is checking where we are 50 years after that agreement was taken in 1972.

‘‘More importantly, it is meant to draw attention to the fact that everybody has a role to play, it is not only the role of environmental practitioners, policymakers, and everybody has something to do. It is also to remind us that environmental challenges in Nigeria are getting worse.

‘‘Unfortunately, when we look back 50 years, we are worse off than we were 50 years ago. So, it calls for a lot of action, it calls for all hands to be on deck to save our collective treasure, Mother earth.

‘‘Nigeria as a country has certain things we have done: we have national Environmental Policy, we have Environmental Laws, Environment Impact Assessment Law, Sectoral Standards, Guidelines, Environmental Agencies, national and State Agencies.’’

However, the NES Chairman insisted that more concerted effort is required to ensure a sustainable environment. ‘‘There is also the issue of rule of law in terms of sustainability, our lawyers need better education, our Judges need better education, security forces need better education on how they can support the work towards improving sustainability,’’ he added.

Imevbore, who promised to run the society based on merit, vowed to pursue the speedy passage of the pending bill in the National Assembly to enable him to run the organization as a professional body.

He called on corporate organizations to stop treating issues of environmental degradation with check box items but ensure that sustainability permeates the entire system.

‘‘Many have done better in the past, but they need to do more. My message is that they should stop treating sustainability as a check box item. They should put their money where their mouth is, they should support research for the benefit of the mother earth.’’

On what the government can do to align population growth with the building of a sustainable environment, the NES boss said ‘‘We need to address population growth critically because once population increases, demand increases and many of these things either depend on or impact on the environment. If you do not control your population growth, you will have a hard time pursuing meaningful sustainable growth.

‘‘We are getting the message clearer; everybody is realizing that he has a responsibility. It could have been better than this but we are happy with the outcome.’’

Lending his support, Ibrahim Gambari, the Chief of Staff to the President, said that contrary to insinuations that little is being done to checkmate climate change effects in the country, the government is taking deliberate steps to mitigate its impacts and remains committed to the sustainability of the mother earth in line with the United Nations agreement. He noted that Nigeria had taken steps to mitigate environmental hazards through policy formulation and implementation toward a safe environment and promised his continued support for such initiatives.

‘‘This year’s theme is an excellent one. It reminds us that we have billions of planets but only one earth. Nigeria as a nation has taken steps to mitigate environmental degradation. Today’s deliberation should promote useful recommendations for government to implement its rule on our collective role towards sustainable goals.’’

The Minister of Environment, Mohammed Abdullahi, while speaking on the topic: The Policy and Regulatory Perspective, said the joint effort of all stakeholders pulled together in fighting Covid 19 paid off, leading to many achievements in tackling environmental challenges. He said the objective is to restore Nigeria to the path of sustainable environment and human safety.

‘’Our objective is to restore Nigeria to the path of environmental sustainability. Nigeria has been facing several environmental challenges, ranging from desertification, flooding, erosion and others. Despite these, we have been working with NGOs and other stakeholders on the management of environmental disasters.

‘‘In implementing our mandate, the ministry is carrying out cleaning up of Ogoni land, remediation process has commenced and preliminary activities have started. About 2,337 persons have been trained and employed, thereby enhancing peoples’ income and boosting the local economy.

‘‘We have made strides for adaptation; realization of the Climate change Act will not only help in mitigating climate change but will establish a Climate Change fund. We are commencing a new biodiversity policy,’’ he said. The minister, however, challenged the Society to appraise emerging challenges and acknowledge them.

Adebayo Adaragbe, adjunct professor, CPEEL, University of Ibadan, said there have been a lot of controversies about man-made environmental challenges which are very complex from the standpoint of law. He submitted that for climate change issues to be properly addressed, it has to be approached from two points: from international and local laws, noting that the problems being faced today are inter-generational.

Read also: World Environment Day: Group advocates cleaner environment, waste management

In his presentation, the Director-General of the Nigerian Conservation Foundation, NCF, Muhtari Aminu Kano, said about 50 billion tons of e-waste are thrown away every year, roughly equal to the weight of all commercial airliners ever made, leading to millions of premature deaths every year.

According to him, humanity eats into nature more than it can regenerate, thereby causing a decline at an unprecedented rate.

‘‘As we degrade our ecosystems, we chip away at the foundations of what makes well-being possible. If we wish to maintain and improve the quality of life on this planet, then we must understand and appreciate the complex processes that control our planet,’’ he added.

Presenting the Financial sector perspective, Chima Azubuike of Infrastructure Credit Company limited, InfraCredit, described Climate change as a defining moment that threatens weather patterns, and food production, and also increases the risk of catastrophic flooding and this he said has a larger impact on livelihood and April 2022 reports from the IPCC which is an intercontinental pattern of climate change.

Looking from an African perspective, he said Africa contributes less than 4% of greenhouse emissions, yet bears the grunts of debilitating effects of climate change.

According to him, the share of Africa’s GDP that is vulnerable to climate change is expected to increase to 50% by 2023 from about 28% as of 2018. And this, he said, represents a significant emphasis on weak infrastructures as the contributing factor to the vulnerability.

He posited that natural disasters will impact infrastructure in Africa by up to $450 billion a year by 2023 and with all of these numbers that are going up, pointing out that the constraints lie in strengthening Nigeria.

Speaking on the impact of infrastructure, Azubuike said about 759 million people in the world lack access to electricity, and three-quarters of that come from Africa and Nigeria contributes the most. He said 85 million Nigerians are estimated to have no access to good electricity, which represents 43% of the country’s population.

For Azubuike, if Nigeria must transition to a sustainable environment regime, the government must look at energy development and climate change, as energy remains the key component of the transition.

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