by Johnson Eyiangho(NAN)
Minister of Works, Power and Housing Babatunde Fashola and Minister of Environment, Mrs Amina Mohammed have expressed worry about environmental challenges in the country.
Receiving the French Minister of Environment, Energy and Marine Affairs, Mrs Segolene Royal recently in Abuja, they noted that although environmental challenges were global experience, the present administration had set an agenda to address the challenges.
“We, Nigerians are more vulnerable to climate change as the nation faces loss of territorial area to desert encroachment in the north, erosion in the eastern part, rising water level and coastal challenges in the south.
“I doubt if there is any country facing that nature of challenges. The good thing is that there is increasing awareness about the risks, challenges and also about the mitigation and adaptation strategies,’’ Fashola said.
Royal, who is also the President of Paris Conference of Parties on Climate Change, pledged to use her office to assist Nigeria in addressing the Lake Chad water recession.
“I am very concern about the issue of Lake Chad and I am very concern about the funding to restore the drying Lake Chad,’’ she said.
Beyond this, environmentalists observe that President Muhammadu Buhari acknowledges the vulnerability of the country to the negative effects of climate change.
They note that the president has identified the challenges posed by climate change as some of the threats facing the nation and determines to seek cooperation of the international community in tackling them.
They recall the president once said: “I also wish to assure the wider international community of our readiness to cooperate and help to combat threats of cross-border terrorism, sea piracy, refugees and boat people, financial crime, cyber crime, climate change, the spread of communicable diseases and other challenges of the 21st century’’.
Also while taking briefs from permanent secretaries before the appointment of ministers, the president directed that the Lake Chad report submitted in 1920 should be reviewed to salvage the lake.
The president expressed concern that the Lake had receded from 33,000 square kilometres about two decades ago to just 300 square kilometres.
He noted that this development would adversely affect the livelihood of those whose economic activities were directly linked to the lake.
Further to this, Buhari held sideline talks with member countries of the Chad basin during the December 2015 Paris Conference of Parties on climate change agreement.
Also, the president has taken steps to address pollution arising from oil spillages in the Niger Delta region, including the approval of the implementation of the United Nations Environment Programme report on the cleanup of the Ogoniland.
Minister of Environment Amina Mohammed and the Minister of State for Environment, Alhaji Ibrahim Jibril had visited Ogoniland to sensitise the people to the pending exercise.
In the same vein, the Buhari-led administration is planning to re-introduce the National Environmental Sanitation Day which was first introduced in 1984 when Buhari was military Head of State.
The minister of environment gave the hint in Kuje, FCT, while speaking at a tripartite Environmental Sanitation Day organised by the National Inter-ministerial Committee on Lassa fever.
“The idea of designated sanitation days at states, local governments as well as markets across the country has remained a legacy.
“That Nigerians have voluntarily continued the practice for 32 years after it was first introduced is a clear indication that the idea is not only sustainable, but also in the overall interest of the nation, its people and the environment,’’ Mohammed said.
She stressed the need for concerted effort to ensure clean environment, noting that most of the common illnesses among Nigerians occurred as a result of poor environmental sanitation and unhygienic practices.
She also expressed concern about deplorable forest condition in the country with a promise to convene an emergency stakeholders’ forum to address it.
“The forum will seek to review associated challenges of forest governance and legislation across the states and come up with appropriate recommendations for actions.
“Across the various states, there is alarming rate of deforestation and forest degradation arising from intensive logging for timber and fuel wood extraction.
“Many states now see the forests as main source of revenue generation and yet little or nothing is giving back for forestry development.
“The activities of timber merchants, especially those involved in illegal logging, continue to worsen the situation and on daily basis, hundreds of containers of wood are carted away from our forests across the country,’’ Mohammed said.
According to her, Nigeria’s percentage forest cover is less than six per cent as against the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s recommended 25 per cent of total land area.
“As government continues to play its role, we all need to do our own bit in ensuring that we halt deforestation,’’ she said.
To fight desertification in the northern part of the country, the National Agency for the Great Green Wall is planning to establish 280 kilometres of shelter belt in the 11 front line states in the before the end of 2016.
They are Adamawa, Borno, Bauchi State, Gombe State, Jigawa, Kano State, Katsina State, Kebbi, Sokoto State, Yobe and Zamfara.
The agency will also establish 282 hectares of community woodlot, 372 hectares of community orchard, 24 hectares woodlot and 23 hectares of orchard in schools in the area.
Others are 63 solar powered boreholes, 22 wells for 22 communities and 25 hectares of pilot fodder farm in five communities.
During the period, the agency will also rehabilitate 22 central nurseries for seedling production and organise school outreach programme in 66 schools in the front line states.
Observers note that although Nigeria bears the most excruciating brunt of climate change among other countries in Africa, Buhari has not relented in seeking both financial and technical assistance for the country to mitigate the effects and adapt to rising global warming.
For instance, he attended the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates recently where he sought for greater global cooperation against the devastating effects of climate change to avert disaster for the human race in the 21st century.
He reaffirmed Nigeria’s readiness to work with the United Arab Emirates and rest of the world in a collective effort to mitigate the effects of climate change.
“Africa is already suffering from the consequences of climate change, which include recurrent drought and floods.
“In Nigeria, the drastic drying up of the Lake Chad to just about 10 per cent of its original size has negatively impacted on the livelihood of millions of people and contributed in making the region a hot bed of insurgency.
“Desert encroachment in the Republic of Niger, our northern neighbour and in far northern Nigeria, at the rate of several hundred metres annually, has impacted on the existence of man, animal and vegetation, threatening to alter the whole ecological balance of the sub-region.
“In the middle and southern part of Nigeria, land erosion threatens farming, forestry, town and village peripheries and in some areas major highways.
“Constant and abrupt alteration between floods and droughts prove that climate change is real and therefore a global approach and cooperation to combat its effects are vital if the human race is not to face disaster in the 21st century,’’ he said.
All in all, analysts believe that if the present administration is supported and there is enough fund, the Buhari-led government is capable of addressing the numerous environmental challenges across the country.