By Kemi Olatunde
Environment plays an important role in the healthy living of human beings. It matters because it is the only home that humans have and it provides air, food and other needs. Humanity’s entire life support system depends on the wellbeing of all the environment factors.
We must all take care of the environment and the more we don’t care about our environment, the more it will become polluted with contaminants and toxics that have a harmful impact on our health.
Air pollution can have respiratory diseases and cancer among other problems and diseases. Water pollution can lead to typhoid diarrheal diseases, and several other diseases.
For the sake of the universe, our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change.
Therefore, the 12th Technical meeting of the National Council of Environment, the highest policy making body for the environmental sector in Nigeria held in Ondo State between October 28 to 30, 2018 was centered on how to mitigate threats to the environment.
The meeting presented the platform to show case materials that have been very helpful in bringing improvement to the environment sector
To many participants, Ondo State is blessed with a healthy natural environment with accommodating people. The Governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu according to them was committed and passionate about the development of the state.
The Governor while at the occasion described the Ondo Central Senatorial District as one characterized with seasonal flooding which always have devastating effect on lives and properties, adding that “erosion have rendered farmlands uncultivable in the northern part of the state.
“With these myriads of environmental challenges, it becomes pertinent for us to seek the help of the Federal Government as it concerns the National Ecological Fund. It is my expectation that our request will be granted”.
Akeredolu, however, suggested that the challenges could be subdued by the use of technology and through borrowing and adopting environmentally, sustainable and cost effective processes from other nations.
While noting that the two initiatives have helped in cushioning the post-traumatic effects of all categories of disaster in the country, the governor stressed the urgent need to create an Environmental Disaster Emergency Response Fund that would rehabilitate victims of related disaster.
He expressed displeasure over the damages done to communities by environmental disaster which turns our environment to our enemy when natural disasters occur.
“Environmental disaster respects no nation and there is no distinction between developed and developing nations,” he said.
In his welcome address, Minister of State for Environment, Alhaji. Ibrahim Usman Jibril , lamented the level of damage caused by the sea incursion in Ayetoro community and stressed the need for quick intervention.
He described environmental challenges as man-made and advised Nigerians to change their attitude towards the environment.
However, he charged states to complement the effort of the Federal Government by encouraging more research in the area of ecological challenges which would be useful in tackling these challenges and added that programmes should be put in place in all the states as regards this to prevent the environment issue from becoming health issue.
Also, Chairman, Senate Committee on Environment, Senator Oluremi Tinubu who was represented by Sen. Foster Oghola noted that the theme of the event was germane as it focuses on the viability of existing environmental laws, policies and regulations in achieving sustainable development.
She however, canvassed the need for increased funding of environmental technology research, increase in budgetary allocation to environmental issues and effective implementation of the annual budget of the Federal Ministry of Environment.
Permanent Secretary, Ecological Fund Office, Dr. Habiba Lawal while speaking noted that the Federal Government (FG) has approved 150 ecological projects in all the states of the federation as one of the ways of tackling environmental issues.
According to her, 63 out of the total number have been commissioned, 16 have been completed and awaiting commissioning while others are on going.
Lawal who lamented the various environmental challenges facing by each state of the federation, noted that FG isn’t capable of proffering solution to ecological challenges and called for state governments’ support saying “it is important that state governments become active in overcoming the challenges.”
She explained that FG has adopted more focused and evidence based strategic project selection and management processes in managing the enormous ecological problems in Nigeria amidst scarce resources.
However, she assured that FG would not relent in promoting successful partnership that is critical to the effective management of the environment.
In his presentation, DG/CEO, National Biosafety Management Agency, Dr. Rufus Ebegba while speaking on the theme; “Environment and Security: Consolidating Nigeria’s Environmental Sector Reforms Towards Sustainable Development”, listed low agriculture productivity, impact on human health, poverty, insecurity, poor economy, land degradation and over exploitation of natural resources as some of the consequences of an unsustainable environment.
While canvassing for environmental reforms in the country due to the growing population, increased food consumption, loss of agricultural land, shortage of water for irrigation, diseases, health concern and unemployment among others, said the reforms would help in having increased forest cover, drought/desert amelioration, rural economic empowerment, flood control and climate change among others
However, he called on all to endeavour to protect and improve the environment saying ” we won’t have life if we allow the environment to be destroyed.”
Speaking “Environment and Security in Nigeria: Consolidating Nigeria’s Environment Sector Reforms Towards Sustainable Development, wife of Ondo State Governor, Arabinrin Betty Anyanwu- Akeredolu noted that through her personal non-profit organisation, Betty Anyanwu -Akeredolu Foundation, (BAAF) she has galvanised the support of good minded Nigerians towards the effecting of projects aimed at providing better living environments for the populace.
“Sustaining our environment is everybody’s business and we can all chip in.
“Individuals in communities can help in driving this prospect of changing the narrative of changing our behaviour towards the environment.
“Mind you, we are intricately connected to the environment.” she said.
While calling on town planners to insist that people should not build on drainage ways, Mrs Akeredolu warned that any negligence of the environment can lead to disastrous consequences.
“Those who plan our cities will not do what is on the paper. Where there is road, where there is gutter, we build houses.
” So for us to really take out this problem that we have created for ourselves, it has to be a multi-sectoral approach. Planning people will be there and we have to engage in advocacy programmes, so that, people can change their filthy behaviour.”
She advised Nigerians to desist from indiscriminate exploration of mineral resources, stressing that this would help to check youths restiveness in Niger Delta regions of Nigeria. She also encouraged policy makers to pass laws that would help preserve the environment while not failing to include women in the initiation process.
“Women are very tied to the environment. You must not be planning how to solve environmental problems in this country without women as stakeholders.
” I can’t end my talk without mentioning clean energy. In talking about sustainable environment, renewable energy, clean energy must be an important component. ” she emphasised.
Which emphasized the need to prioritize the intricate and inexorable linkage between environment and security – food, human, social, economic and cultural – by Government at all levels as well as the citizenry, Council of Environment called on the Federal Government to place environment as a top priority National Security strategy.
It also affirmed the importance of implementation of Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) for policies, plans and programmes by the Federal, States and Local Government Areas and approved their immediate implementation across the three tiers of Government to strengthen the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process, boost the quality of our environment and ultimately promote sustainable development.
It observed that man made activities are more responsible for environmental degradation than natural causes, and called all tiers of Government, private sector (Including community based organizations, faith based organizations and non- governmental organizations) to collaboratively engage in aggressive public enlightenment, awareness and sensitization programmes.
It also reiterated the need to holistically address the challenges of coastal erosion, marine litters and ecosystem devastation along the 853Km Nigeria Coastline and called on the coastal States of Nigeria to key into the World Bank assisted West African Coastal Area Management programme.
It recognized the current efforts by government to provide appropriate technology and innovation in the Country for waste management and urged Stakeholders to embrace the initiative for wealth and job creation. The Council invites States concerned in Waste Management Sites to complete and take ownership of projects.
It appreciated the challenges of health care waste management and advised the Federal Government to immediately inaugurate the National Steering Committee (NSC) and a review of the existing policy.
It also emphasized the need for effective and efficient information management and a seamless information exchange among Stakeholders for timely provision of data to Federal Ministry of Environment for national planning and development.