The Federal Ministry of Environment, in collaboration with development partners, including United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF), has stepped up awareness creation in Nigeria on Minamata Convention on Mercury.
Mercury is naturally occurring and highly toxic to human and the physical environment, in which human activities in the recent times have increased its level in the environment and human exposure to the high level of mercury causes kidney, heart and respiratory problems, vision or hearing problems, memory problems, infertility and emotional changes.
In Nigeria, mercury pollution occurs through many sources including: Artisanal Small Scale Gold Mining (ASGM); Cement Production; Use and disposal of mercury containing products; Coal Combustion and Improper waste management.
At separate meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday February 14 and 15, 2017 in Lagos, the government with the support of its partners gathered the media and non-governmental organisations, as well as policy makers, academia and private sector respectively, to raise awareness among them on the Minamata Convention on mercury, which aims to protect human and the environment from its effect.
Minister of Environment, Amina Mohammed, who declared the workshops open, noted that mercury poisoning and effects in the environment have over the years been recognised to be of global concern as a result of its nature and behaviour in the environment including its abilities for long-range transport in the atmosphere, persistence in the environment, and more importantly its ability to bio-accumulate in the ecosystem leading to significant adverse effects on both human health and the environment.
The Minister, who was represented by the Deputy Director, Pollution Control and Environmental Health Department, Federal Ministry of Environment, Dr. Idris Goji, said the role of policy makers, academia, private sector, media and non-government organisation cannot be overemphasised in ensuring that Nigeria takes a lead in facilitating necessary capacity within its territory and the African region as whole in addressing mercury issues and the effective implementation of the Convention.
Mohammed expressed the gratitude of the government of Nigeria to GEF, UNIDO and UNITAR for providing financial and technical support to Nigeria to implement the Minamata Convention Initial Assessment (MIA) project.
“This workshop is therefore important, as it will provide much needed platform of education, sensitization, information and knowledge sharing among key players and, enable the development of appropriate strategy for effective participation of policy makers, academia and private sector in the implementation of the Convention,” she said.
Environment Expert, Regional office for Nigeria and West Africa, UNIDO, Mr. Oluyomi Banjo, said without the academia and the private sector, sustainable development may be a mirage.
Banjo stressed that the legislators are important to all the Articles of the Convention as well as being responsible for its domestication and mainstreaming into national development.
He said the MIA project was developed to assist Nigeria in identifying its institutional, legislative and sectorial capacity and profile as expected of countries with obligations under the Convention. “It has the potentials to set Nigeria in the right path to fulfilling its obligations under the Minamata Convention and place sound chemicals management at the forefront of the Nigeria achieving the Sustainable Development Goals targets. Specifically, the MIA will assess institutional capacity and help to establish coordination mechanisms; identify gaps in legislative and policy frameworks; create a national initial inventory of mercury stocks, supplies and emissions, prioritize emissions, sources and sectors for intervention; as well as raise awareness among relevant stakeholder groups”.
Banjo reaffirms UNIDO’s commitment towards working closely with the Federal Ministry of Environment to implement its mandate.
Chairman, Senate Committee on Environment, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, said Nigeria need to do better as a leader of African countries. She disclosed that the 8th Assembly is ready to accelerate the passage of the Minamata Convention on mercury.
Tinubu, who was represented by Senator Foster Ogara, said the delay in not ratifying the Minamata Convention since 2013 is not pardonable. He challenged the Federal Ministry of Environment officials to ensure that the draft document get to the Federal Executive Council on time so that the legislators can work on it as soon as it gets to them. He added that Nigeria should be part of the 50 countries that will ratify the Convention before it enter into law.
He said the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki is desirous that the Senate should do everything possible to promote sustainable development in the country.
“We in the National Assembly are ready to back the Minamata Convention on mercury by law,” he disclosed.
Chairman of the workshop, Prof. Babajide Alo of University of Lagos, said research and laboratory analysis show that Nigeria is one of the countries bedeviled by mercury pollution.