In line with its believe in sustaining the environment through continuous research, Chevron Nigeria Limited has since 2006, through the S.L Edu Research Grant, awarded scholarships to doctoral candidates whose research works are on environmental conservation and sustainable development in Nigeria. The company recently added two more scholars to the list of beneficiaries during the 16th Chief S.L Edu Memorial Lecture. Uchechukwu Nnaike reports

The earth is being polluted on a daily basis as a result of the activities of man; sometimes these activities are carried out in ignorance. Education is therefore vital in the campaign for a safe and sustainable environment.

With the S.L Edu Research Grant instituted by Chevron Nigeria Limited, in partnership with the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) for doctoral degree scholars, perhaps the outcome of such research would provide the public with the necessary information on how to care for the environment and make the world a better place.

Since its inception, the grant has produced 26 beneficiaries that conduct researches in fields related to nature conservation and sustainable livelihood. The company also works with the NCF to ensure that appropriate value is derived from the researches.

Through this grant, the company said it is supporting the NCF in pursuing the conservation of nature and its resources with the aim of improving the quality of human life both the present and the future by preserving the full range of Nigeria’s biodiversity which includes species, ecosystems and genetic Biodiversity.

“CNL is also helping in promoting sustainable use of natural resources for the benefit of the present and future generations; and advocating actions that minimize pollution and wasteful utilisation of renewable resources.”

This year’s beneficiaries of the grant worth N500,000 each are Mr. Chinedu Obieze from the University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT) and Mr. Olukayode Adelaja from the University of Ilorin (UNILORIN). Obieze’s research is on ‘Formulation of NPK-modelled Fertilizers from Agro and Industrial Wastes for Remediation of Crude Oil Polluted Soils’, while Adelaja is working on ‘Ethnobotanical Survey and Bioactivity of Botanicals against Haematophylus Insects in North Central Nigeria’.

They were honoured at the 16th Chief S.L Edu Memorial Lecture titled ‘Combating Illegal Wildlife Trade in West Africa: The Role of Environmental Law and Governance’, delivered by the Vice-Chancellor of the Lagos State University (LASU), Prof. Olanrewaju Fagbohun.

Presenting the grant to the recipients, the General Manager, Policy Government and Public Affairs, Chevron, Mr. Esimaje Brikinn noted that the topic is apt as it speaks to the activities that threaten the ecosystem. “Wildlife significantly contributes to the existence of man. They are part of the biodiversity- the foundation of the ecosystems in which the human wellbeing is intimately linked.”

He stressed that the ecosystems serve humans because they provide natural functions. “The microbes in an ecosystem are vital in the breakdown of dead plant and animal remains and in the recycling of nutrients. Biodiversity also provides actual and potential material and economic benefits to people. Thus the preservation of wildlife and by extension the biodiversity is very important to our existence and therefore we must take every step possible to conserve it.”

Brikinn stated that Chevron has enduring partnerships with different stakeholders such as the NCF in line with its vision to be the global energy company most admired for its people, partnership and performance.

“Our partnership has lasted for over 20 years because the foundation has proved to be a worthy partner. This partnership has produced commendable projects geared towards conserving our environment and building Nigeria’s economy.

“One of the projects is the Lekki Conservation Centre (LCC), built by Chevron in 1992. Today the LCC has become one of Africa’s most prominent and most diverse urban parks. It attracts tourists from across the world. It has become known to be a safe habitat for several species of plants and animals going extinct and has attracted several educational researches.”

While calling on everyone to make a personal commitment to preserve the environment, he affirmed that with the right sensitisation and advocacy, “we can collectively protect the earth.”

In a chat with THISDAY, one of the awardees, Obieze said his research is centred on finding sustainable solution to the environmental problems in the Niger Delta with particular reference to crude oil pollution. He said he intends to use readily available waste materials which pose a problem a problem to the environment to formulate green fertilizers that will support sustainable agriculture and sustainable remediation of crude oil polluted soils within the Niger Delta.

Asked how he got the award, he said there was an opening for all PhD students that are conducting research in conservation and sustainability of the environment to apply online for the research grant. He said the applicants were expected to submit their proposals and he submitted his in November 2017 and they were informed that successful candidates will be contacted and he was contacted as a successful candidate.

Emphasising the role of education in conserving the environment, Obieze stated that researches in Nigeria are now solving the real problems faced by the society.

“Education has a vital role to play, particularly sciences, as an environmental microbiologist, there are so many microbial solutions to some of the environmental problems we face. There is this inter-play now between universities and societies where we try to create a forum to sensitise Nigerians on the importance of the environment, why we need to practice sustainability in whatever we are doing keeping in mind the future generation. We don’t need to pollute the environment; there needs to be development and the development should be sustainable.”

The other awardee, Adelaja said his research was based on the realisation that local plants could be used to fight insects so he set out to research on the use of botanicals in an environmentally safe way to protect humans from insects that bite.

He said he intends to produce an alternative to the use of synthetic insecticides to fight insects. According to him, if the research pulls through, it would be an alternative for the government to reduce cost trying to control mosquitoes by providing mosquito nets.

“If this research can bring out compounds that are very effective, it will reduce the amount of money that is spent in trying to control insects and it will be beneficial not only to the government, but it will also lead to job creation and reduce mobility and mortality in humans because these insects cause a lot of mortality in Nigeria.”

While thanking Chevron for instituting the scholarship, Adelaja, who was raised by a single mother, said the fund would ease the burden of funding his research.

In his lecture, Fagbohun, a Professor of Environmental Law and Policy regretted that every year, hundreds of millions of plants and animals are removed or poached from the wild and then sold as ornamental plants food, pets, for zoos and breeding, or to be used as work of art, decoration, jewellery, cosmetics, tourist curios and medicine.

He said wildlife trade is believed to be the world’s fourth most valuable illicit commerce after drugs, human trafficking and the arms trade.

“…The problem however habitat loss and over exploitation have become direct threats to sustainability of many wild population and endangered species.”

According to him, overall, in the last 40 years alone, nearly 52 per cent of the world’s wildlife has been wiped out of existence.

The don said while it can be said that a lot has been done in meeting the challenges of illegal wildlife trade, the inescapable facts and realities show that the various laws have not been able to translate into effective governance in the management of wildlife.

He therefore stressed the need to enhance and strengthen legislative frameworks; incorporation of anti-corruption measures in work plans of national, regional and sub-regional wildlife enforcement networks; technical assistance and capacity building for relevant stakeholders; deployment of technology such as the use of genotype sequencing to trace elephant ivory origin in order to identify poaching hotspots.

Other recommendations are encouragement of multi-sectoral dialogue; raising awareness regarding illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products; eliminating fragmentation of governance institutions in favour of more comprehensive and co-ordinated response; encouraging multi-agency and multi-jurisdictional investigations; strict application of anti-corruption provisions of national and international law to corruption related to illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products; and regular monitoring and assessment of management strategies and regulatory initiatives.