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Jonathan, Rio 20 and the Environment

26 Jun 2012

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Guest Columnist


Abba Dabo

The point should be made that central to President Goodluck Jonathan’s agenda at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development held recently, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil-RIO+20-, is the belief that global co-operation is the key to the attainment of sustainable development in the world. With so many world leaders in attendance, the conference provided a rare and valuable platform to articulate Nigeria’s faith in the viability of the Green Economy as a catalyst of growth, wealth creation, employment generation and poverty eradication. It was also a rare opportunity to solicit for international support for two monumental projects which Nigeria is spear-heading in West and Central Africa. 


President Jonathan rose to the occasion and spoke passionately, first, about Nigeria’s role in confronting the massive ecological challenges posed by the shrinking of Lake Chad and secondly, about rapid desertification. On Lake Chad, Nigeria is leading the initiative to re-channel the Ubangi River in Central Africa into the Chad Basin under the Inter-Basin Water Transfer scheme. Nigeria has already provided USD5million out of the USD6million required for the feasibility study. In the same manner, to forestall desertification, Nigeria is at the forefront of the Great Green Wall for Sahara Initiative which is an integrated approach to check desertification and depletion of natural resource in the Sahel.


These are monumental projects, which have vast potentials for socio-economic development and political order in Nigeria and the sub-region in general. But they require the investment of huge resources which are, simply, beyond the reach of the countries directly involved in the project.  They, surely, need the financial commitment and active involvement of the international community. RIO+20 provided an epochal opportunity for Nigeria to solicit for global support for these projects. It was an opportunity not to be missed and President Jonathan used it, forcefully and credibly, to promote Nigeria’s profile on the environment and her national interest.  


it is therefore clear that Nigeria attended RIO+20 against the background of a robust agenda, solid strategy for promoting national interest, and multi-faceted sub regional programme on environmental management. Generally, the administration of President Jonathan has  demonstrated its commitment to The urgent need to address the two great challenges of desertification in the North and ecological degradation in the Niger Delta Region.


The fight against desertification has been innovative and focused. The Federal Ministry of the Environment has established a Great Green Wall Sahara Project whose purpose is to plant large acreages of trees and other vegetation to serve as a bulkwark against the advance of the desert. Under this programme, over 6,720,000 seedlings have been distributed to the seven frontline states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Jigawa, Yobe, Kebbi, Katsina, Kano, Yobe, Sokoto and Borno State. It is expected that this will create a 15km wide green shelter belt stretching from Kebbi in the North-West to Borno in the North-East, as part of a larger Trans-African belt, spanning   1,500, kilometres from Djibouti to Dakar in Senegal.


This Great Green Wall is critical to the transformation of this region as it is expected to stimulate economic growth, enhance food security, arrest enforced migration and alleviate poverty.  An immediate aspect of desertification which is also being addressed is the displacement of persons whose settlements, farms and livestock have been taken over or destroyed by the advancing sands of the desert. To this end, 6 model villages have been built in the last one year in Katsina, Kano Borno, Yobe Sokoto, Jigawa and Kebbi States.


At the opposite end of the country, oil exploration continues to throw up challenges which are being met with similar innovative policies. In July 2011, a National Oil Spill Contingency Plan (NOSCP) was unveiled while five Natural Environmental regulations were gazetted in 2011. These are the Oil Spill and Oily Waste Regulations in Nigeria and the Oil Spill Recovery, Clean-Up, Remediation and Damage Assessment Regulations. In addition, a National Oil spill Compensation Guidelines and Standards for Nigeria was developed.


The National Oil Spillage Contingency Plan was activated in the Bonga Oil Spill incident. With effective monitoring and co-operation with Shell Oil Co-operation, the spill was contained and successfully cleaned up. The same co-operation and determination were evident in tackling the fire incident at Chevron Nigeria Limited’s KS Endeavour Drilling Rig at Funiwa. The fire was, successfully, combated and the resultant spill contained. These two cases demonstrate the major advances which have been made in oil spill management in Nigeria. The key elements of this strategy are monitoring, rapid response, enforcement of the obligation, of culpability and co-operation with explorating companies.


One other major environmental challenge in Nigeria has to do with flooding and erosion. This is an area in which the Federal Government has always played a leading role, in confronting and providing both pro-active and remedial solutions. Both the Federal Ministry of Environment and the National Emergency Management Authority were always in the fore front of managing flooding incidents while the Ministry has a nation-wide programme of flooding and erosion control. The Federal Government should always be active in all states, with erosion challenges, because the scale of funds required to contain erosion is often, beyond the capacity of a state. In the last one year, the Federal Government was involved in 62 erosion and flood control projects across the country and awarded contracts for over 200 projects, from the 2011 capital budget.


Waste Management is another major area in which the Federal   Government has been very active. A nation-wide strategy of waste management is being, steadily, implemented with the establishment of an integrated Waste Management Facility in Ekiti State, scrap metal recycling plants in Kaduna, Sokoto, Imo and Abia States, briquetting plants in Ogoja, Cross River State, waste recycling plant in Owerri, a prototype gas phase reduction plant, Persistent Organic Pollutants in Minna, Niger State and an Ozone technology village in Irolu, Ogun State.


The increasing attention to the effective management of all manner of waste and environmental pollutants is, directly, related to the universal focus, in the last two decades, on climate change. Nigeria has been fashioning and implementing policies aimed at meeting the need for remedial action to arrest the depletion of the ozone layer and global warming. One of the major instruments that have been adopted to achieve this objective has been the establishment of a general programme of public education and awareness on climate change. Others include the upgrading of the special climate change unit in the Ministry of Environment to a full Department, the establishment of post-graduate programmes in some Nigerian Universities and collaboration with ECOWAS to develop a West African Climate Change Adaptation Strategy.


All in all, the profound policies and programmes of President Jonathan’s administration on the environment which are being implemented with great commitment and vigour, will no doubt transform Nigeria and earn her the right to be classified as a valuable partner in the global onslaught on environmental abuses and climate change.


• Dabo is a veteran journalist, publisher and  also a director with Daar Communications.

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