WED: Nigerians Urged to Prepare for a Post- COVID-19 World

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Nduka Obaigbena

Bennett Oghifo

Chairman of THISDAY Group and Arise TV, Nduka Obaigbena has advised Nigerians to prepare for a post-COVID-19 world, taking into consideration their relationship with the rest of humanity.

Obaigbena, who gave the advice during the commemoration of the 2020 UN World Environment Day, hosted by Lafarge Africa via Zoom, noted that this year’s event was being held at a time of major issues of biosecurity, with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, and not just those of biodiversity alone.

This year’s UN World Environment Day, which was brought by UN Information Centre Nigeria and GreenhubAfrica, had the theme Biodiversity and the Mighty Earth. It was headlined by Arise TV, THISDAY, with other media partners- Channels TV, and EbonyLife TV.

Obaigbena, in his comment, ‘Highlighting the critical role of the Media in Environmental News awareness’, said the “Coronavirus is redefining how we live and about how we work. We all have to rethink the new world that is before us and how are we going to shape it, how are we going to manage it, and how are we going to run health and livelihoods. In doing that, there is a whole mantra resetting the environment or doing it in an environmentally friendly way so that we can avoid all the dangers of nature-thunderstorms. Luckily for us in Nigeria, perhaps in other parts of Africa, we are not affected by major earthquakes, but we do have the effect of desertification in the North, which is leading to population movement from the North to the South, which is seeing the drying up of Lake Chad, and which is causing lots of insecurity.”

He said, “As we reshape our future for mankind, we have to be cognizant of our growing population, our smaller land mass and the environment. How are we going to shape our country in a post-COVID world?”

He recalled talks about COVID-19 being over but said he was not too sure about that, adding “I’m not so sure that it is over. I believe we are beginning to see the impact. Maybe we are at the middle, maybe we’re at the end, but nobody can tell you if and when it will be over, but we just have to live life with it, we have to have a new normal, we have to reset our business models, we have to reset our life patterns. We have to rethink our society, how we respond to the challenges ahead.”

Obaigbena, who was Chairman of this year’s maiden World Environment Day webinar by Lafarge, then tasked the participants to “bring new ideas that we can use to reshape our future as a nation, as a people and as a community in the world.”

The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Lafarge Africa, Mr. Khalid El Dokani said he was excited by the fact that the webinar on the environment was able to hold despite the limitations imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said these are indeed unprecedented times that required all to pay attention to everything that matters, including the environment, and called on all to play a role in the preservation of nature, stating that it was a call to action.

He said Lafarge Africa, as an organisation, had environmental conservation as one of its core pillars, and at the heart of their sustainability strategy. “Our environment pillar complements our other sustainability ambitions in the areas of climate and energy, circular economy and community.”

On this year’s WED focus on Biodiversity and the theme, ‘Time for Nature’, he said further underscored the need to be considerate about nature and more importantly about its collective preservation.

He said his company ensured that operate a robust environment management system, stating that in line with the commitment they implement rehabilitation and reclamation requirements in all their quarry sites, while implementing biodiversity management programmes.

On water, he said they are reducing freshwater withdrawals, water impact to the environment and that they also support sustainability of water resources, especially by making provisions in water-scarce areas. “All our dry process plants are built with water recirculation systems to encourage reuse and recycling of process water. As a matter of duty to nature, we are seeking new ways of conservation for today and for the future.”

He said they planted 26,000 tree seedlings were planted last year in their facilities at Ewekoro, Sagamu and Ashaka, adding that they have so far planted over 4000 indigenous trees in their quarry sites between 2011 and this year.

He urged everyone at the conference to think of their respective roles in preserving the environment for generations to come. “This is a call to action for everyone present, that we must spread the word in support of nature, while encouraging safe practices in our respective communities to reinforce that the time for nature is now.”

In his opening speech, the Director, United Nations Information Centre, Mr. Ronald Kayanja presented the message of the UN Secretary General, António Guterres on World Environment Day.

According to Guterres, “Nature is sending us a clear message. We are harming the natural world – to our own detriment. Habitat degradation and biodiversity loss are accelerating. Climate disruption is getting worse. Fires, floods, droughts and superstorms are more frequent and damaging. Oceans are heating and acidifying, destroying coral ecosystems. And now, a new Coronavirus is raging, undermining health and livelihoods.

“To care for humanity, we MUST care for nature. We need our entire global community to change course. Let’s rethink what we buy and use. Adopt sustainable habits, farming and business models. Safeguard remaining wild spaces and wildlife. And commit to a green and resilient future. As we work to build back better, let’s put nature where it belongs — at the heart of our decision making. On this World Environment Day, it’s Time for Nature.”

The panelists were: Angele Luh, Head of United Nations Environmental Programme West Africa; Prof. Bola Oboh, Director Research and Innovation, University of Lagos; Mrs. Belinda Odeneye, Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Environment; and Ibrahim Salau, Managing Director, Environmental Accord Limited.