Minister of Science and Technology, Prof. Ita Ewa
By Onwuka Nzeshi, Jude Okwe and Okon Bassey
The House of Representatives Committee on Environment yesterday blamed the massive flooding and other environmental disasters currently plaguing the country on the failure of the Federal Government to implement budgets and provide basic infrastructure in the environment sector.
The revelation also came on a day the Minister of Science and Technology, Prof. Ita Ewa, warned that the impact of flooding across the country was a wake-up call that climate change could render developmental efforts of the nation useless.
Also, about 79,000 people in Cross River State have been rendered homeless due to the impact of the flood in the state.
But, Chairman of the House Committee on Environment, Hon. Uche Ekwunife, disclosed this Wednesday at a meeting with officials of the Federal Ministry of Environment.
She said 22 states have been submerged in a massive flood with attendant loss of lives and properties.
She acknowledged that while climate change could be blamed for the unprecedented environmental crisis, the extent of the destruction would have been mitigated if the country had implemented at least sixty per cent of its capital budget on environment in the past ten years.
“The purpose of developing budgets is to solve the perennial problems that impede people’s welfare and comfort. This is why, when the 2012 budget was presented to the National Assembly, we expectedly approved what was presented without any major alteration so that there will be no reason for not achieving full and transparent implementation.
“We took cognisance of the countless of the countless environmental issues crying for attention hence we approved a total sum of N27.2 billion for capital and recurrent expenditures for the Ministry of Environment, its departments and agencies. With less than three months to the end of the 2012 fiscal year, people are yet to feel any significant impact of the budget,” Ekwunife said.
However, the Federal Ministry of Environment was said to have informed the committee that it had only received N4.4 billion out of the N10.5 billion capital votes appropriated in the 2012 budget.
In a related development, Ewa, while speaking at the First World Conference on Applied Science and Technology organised by the University of Uyo (UNIUYO), urged appropriate authorities to take notable steps in research aimed at mitigating and adapting to the climate change.
He said: “Recent events of extreme weather condition and flooding across in the world including Nigeria is a wakeup call to us Nigeria that change has impact on man and may make our developmental efforts useless, unless we begin to take notable steps in research, mitigating and adapting to the change.”
The minster, who was represented by the Vice-Chancellor of UNIUYO, Mrs Comfort Ekpo, noted that the theme of the conference, “Global Climate Change: Scientific and Technological Options,” was a challenge to scientists to adopt measures that will arrest problems of climate change in the country.
He insisted that scientists and technologists should think on how to find solutions to some of the agents like fossil fuel, which, the Minister said was the principal cause of ozone layer depletion.
In his submission, former Dean, Faculty of Science (Uniuyo), Prof. Alfred Itah, said with development in weather condition areas like Sahel Savana might experience water scarcity and increase the risk of drought in Nigeria and other West African countries.
Meanwhile, the Director General of Cross River State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Mr Vincent Aqua, who disclosed the number of victims, said disasters such as windstorm, flooding, mudslide, hailstones and ice flakes have displaced people in the state with a bulk of those affected being children.
Aqua, who spoke at a workshop jointly organised by the Cross River State Ministry of Information and the United Nation’s Children Fund (UNICEF) entitled: “Flooding and Climate Change Adaptation in Cross River State: Safety measures for School Children”, said: “It is on record that most of those known to have downed in flood water or killed by wind storm are children. In one of the communities recently flooded when we got there some three days after one of the bodies of a young girl that got drowned was still not buried because there was no dry land for a grave to be dug to lower her remains.”
He maintained that the rate which climate change was occurring in the state was alarming and that this has led to stronger winds, prevalence of pests, loss of agricultural lands and crop failure.
“Cross River State is not exempt from all the climatic adversity. In recent times, the state has experienced various effects of climate change such as increase in intensity of precipitation, stronger winds crop failure, loss of agricultural land and deaths especially involving children,” he added.
In order to mitigate the impact of climate change in the state, the D-G suggested that the government through its Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) should adopt measures such as public enlightenment using television and radio commercials to educate the public, reforestation of devastated areas, frequent clearing of drains and encouraged behavioural change among the people of the state.
The state Commissioner for Information, Mr. Akin Ricketts, who declared the workshop open, called for comprehensive x-raying of the climate change impact in the state so that measures can adequately be taken to tackle the menace as the earth and mankind is threatened.
The Commissioner who was represented by a director in the Ministry of Information, Mr. Oqua Itu said the organisers and teachers should ensure that the children, who are the target for the workshop are adequately educated on the impact of climate change as their “young fertile minds are capable of absorbing the issues of climate change because they are the ones that would be most affected in future.”
The commissioner admonished the organisers to ensure firmness in the School quiz on climate change for both the primary and secondary school levels.