Managers of Nigeria’s Environment Focus on Personal Fortunes, Says Adegoroye

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Managers of Nigeria’s environment make huge personal gains to the detriment of the nation, says Dr. Goke Adegoroye, a retired Federal Permanent Secretary and former Director General of the defunct Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA), a fore-runner of the present Federal Ministry of Environment and its agencies. Bennett Oghifo reports

Dr. Goke Adegoroye said he undertook a soul-searching journey intended to figure out what was actually wrong with environmental management in the country and that he came up with a harrowing conclusion that it was man-made.

The verdict…
According to Adegoroye, “in line with the normal expectation of career and business progression, while the operators of environmental management in Nigeria, from researchers to consultants, managers, contractors and political heads, have all seen their respective fortunes rise, the environment has been left poorer, depleted, filthier, more toxic and less safe than before the commencement of their respective professional journeys through its portals.”

The former manager of FEPA reached his conclusion in a 51-page paper, titled ‘From Research to Policy and Vision to Action, The Challenge of Environmental Management in Nigeria’, which he delivered, recently, at the 2017 Annual Lecture of the School of Environmental Technology, Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA).
He said it was the result of his “three-month study of the current state of our nation’s environmental management, what is amiss and what needs to be done to move it forward.”

He stated that after carrying out a critical analysis of what has happened in environmental management over the past 25-30 years, including the notable increase in institutional establishment from one agency in 1989 to a full-fledged Ministry and four agencies in 2017 and the plethora of regulations that have been churned out by those agencies, his conclusion is that the environment sector has been grossly short-changed.

Ineffective institutions…
He noted that “increasing the numbers of our environmental management institutions and regulations has not produced marked improvement in compliance monitoring and enforcement and by inference our environmental management, as investments in environmental enforcement infrastructure have been grossly lacking.”

The result in many cases, he noted has been a downward trend, explaining that “Nigeria committed to the establishment of Integrated Waste Management Facilities (IWMF) as far back as 1997 and 20 years later in 2017, not one has been built; The once thriving Government Reference Laboratory for environment in Lagos has been pilfered and rendered a carcass of its old self; Nigeria was celebrated in 1997 for repatriating from the Philippines to Nigeria drill monkeys earlier stolen from Nigeria through the Kano Airports in 1995 but in 2005 the country had to be banned for the next six years by the CITES secretariat for several infractions, including the granting of official permit to take out of Nigeria two primates that were smuggled out of the University of Ibadan Zoological Garden.” CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

Adegoroye said, “If anyone is in doubt as to the impact of this down ward trend on the environment itself, our 2012 County Report to Rio+20 is an eye opener. Quoting directly from the report, here is the verdict: “Within the last 30 years, about 43 percent of our forest ecosystem has been lost through human activity. Close to 96 per cent of the original 20 per cent forest cover has been cleared and only two per cent of what remains is undisturbed. The number of threatened and endangered species has also been on the increase. In addition, about 10-12 species of primates are now threatened.”

He identified 10 key challenges that have been the bane of environmental management in Nigeria over the past 25-30 years, as: Intra-Agency Establishment Crisis; Unstable Institutional Arrangement; Leadership Instability; Inter-Agency Role Conflicts; Intra-Ministerial Role Conflicts; Federal-State Role Conflicts; Enforcement Infrastructure; Funding; Integrity of Enforcement Officer; and Effective Judicial Process.

Way forward…
Adegoroye made 18 recommendations as the way forward, which include among others that: Nigerian academics and researchers must abandon the regimentation of knowledge that has continued to subsist in our institutions of higher learning and adopt the new global method of appreciating and deploying knowledge within the holistic and inter-disciplinary practical approach of providing solutions to societal problems, as that is the only way of assuring the national relevance of knowledge in the 21st century; Governments at all levels should endeavor to make concrete investment in the development of infrastructure for environmental management as the only viable and indispensable insurance against looming disasters as exemplified in such hidden benefits as healthcare costs saved, natural and man-made disasters avoided, as well as the human and natural resource productivity improved, all of which with their multiplier effects are in the order of magnitude that are better imagined than suffered; The Federal Government should create an Environment Fund, to subsume the current Ecological Fund and cover the entire spectrum of environment problems and issues, into which donations and/or green taxes from the corporate bodies can be paid in furtherance of their corporate environmental responsibility; In the immediate term, judging from the level of abuse in disbursement that took place in the last administration, the Ecological Fund Office should be relocated from under the SGF to the Federal Ministry of Environment, for oversight of the management of the FG share of 1.46% and with the strong involvement of the National Council on Environment in determining intervention priorities, while retaining the power of the President to give final approvals on their disbursement; Environment agencies of the Federal Government should uphold and respect the rights of State environment agencies to monitor pollution, enforce environmental compliance and effect sanctions on polluting entities in their jurisdiction, using both State and federal laws and with funding support from the Federal Government; State taxes and conditionality for resource extraction must take the full account of the values of such resources, including the pollution and/or degradation that accompany their extraction as well as their replacement costs such that, in the case of renewable resources like timber, loggers and millers must be made to go into cooperatives that would establish plantations of their preferred species as replacement stocks for future generations; The path to the realization of Nigeria’s dream in environmental management lies not in the agencification of every environmental issue or problem but in adopting the more balanced approach of channeling available resources to address those issues/problems and committing to effective enforcement of the laws and regulations, such that the creation of an agency would be the final outcome of the blind proof conviction that it is the only way forward and that the funding support to see it take off and effectively running when created is assured; Concerned about the need to ensure that the environment sector benefits from the increased funding that he has advocated and not suffer the fate of corruption that bedeviled the other sectors, as shown by the sudden transformation of those who were nobody 20-25 years ago to instant billionaires without traceable means of wealth creation and the consequential stark growth-contrast between social wealth and individual wealth that now exists,

Adegoroye stated that corruption being a chronic disease in Nigeria would need to be treated in the same way that chronic ailments are treated, by applying to Nigerians daily doses of “immunotherapy against corruption” to incapacitate the stakeholders (perpetrators and beneficiaries) of corruption.

National life…
He stated that “while it might be argued that it is the same with every sector of the Nigerian society, (from power and transportation in the infrastructure sector, to education and health in the social services; industry, trade and economic development; and even human security), as every one of these sectors has suffered the same fate, what is not in dispute is that the environment sector has been the most neglected, relative to the other sectors.”
He said because the environment does not speak for itself, until there is a disaster, environment as an issue has continued to be taken for granted and, therefore, has remained largely at the mercy of NGOs, relying on external donor prompting and/or global agenda of the UN to catch the attention of Governments.

Five forces in environmental management…
He noted that global development in environmental management has been due to five driving forces, namely: dedicated research with findings to influence policies; sad occurrence that have indelible imprint in public consciousness; Pressures from Individuals and groups; Visionary Political Leaders & Government Bureaucrats; and International/Multilateral organisations.

Applying these five driving forces to unravel the situation in Nigeria, he said he was able to “identify and commend the pioneering roles of researchers like, Akin Mabogunje, Anthony Imevbore, Nimbe Adedipe, David Okali, Sylvester Adegoke, Seth Ajayi etc and the later efforts of Oladele Osibanjo, Ebenezer Meshida and Anthony Adegbulugbe; The Koko Toxic waste was identified as single most spectacular occurrence that woke up Nigeria from its slumber.”

He noted the efforts of succeeding Governments from Gowon to Jonathan in creating the institutional framework for environmental management, and the special roles played by bureaucrats like Bukar Shaib and Bukar Usman. On the efforts of individuals and pressure groups, he commended NGOs like the Nigerian Conservation Foundation and the indelible contributions of the trio of S.L Edu, Philip Asiodu and Akintola Williams; single individual platforms like those of Mrs. Ajoke Mohammed in Biodiversity conservation on the platform of her Botanical Gardens, Engr. Mrs Joanna Maduka in gender mainstreaming in sustainable energy, Ken Saro Wiwa in the politics of environmental remediation and compensation, Newton Jibunoh and his fight against desert encroachment, Nasir El Rufai whose ruthless approach as Minister of the FCT brought meaning and expression to the reestablishment of green areas in Abuja and the restoration of the Abuja master plan; and construction companies like Salini Nigerian Limited whose development and maintenance of the Millennium Park Abuja is a good example of corporate environmental responsibility. Of course, he also commended the efforts of the multilateral agencies whose global agenda and goals, from MDGs to SDGs, have continued to force Governments to commit to environmental management a level of attention that can respond to global assessment standards.