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Tackling environmental challenges through scholarly research

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Executive Director, Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF), Mr. Adeniji Karunwi (left); recipients of the S.L Edu Research Grant sponsored by Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL), Mr. Chinedu Obieze and Mr. Olukayode Adelaja; and General Manager, Policy, Government and Public Affairs, CNL, Mr. Esimaje Brikinn during the 16th Chief S.L. Edu Lecture.

It has been the consensus of stakeholders that to promote the protection of the natural world, continuous intellectual research and campaign on sustainable environment is a must.

The impact of human activities on daily basis adversely affects and poses a serious threat to the ecosystem. These trend experts said must be corrected through proper education and scientific investigation that would bring to the fore the benefits of conserving the environment to humanity.

Thus the S.L Edu Research Grant instituted by Chevron Nigeria Limited for doctoral degree scholars, in partnership with the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) is believed to be one sure way of educating the public on how to engage in ecofriendly activities.

General Manager, Policy, Government and Public Affairs, Chevron, Mr. Esimaje Brikinn, who spoke during the “2018 Chief S.L. Edu Memorial Lecture and presentation of the grant to the recipients, upheld that to sustain our environment, there are needs for continuous research to garner new and better ways to preserve nature.

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

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.”

Through this grant, Brikinn said the company 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, he added is also helping in promoting sustainable use of natural resources for the benefit of the present and future generations; and advocating actions that minimise pollution and wasteful utilisation of renewable resources.

Speaking with The Guardian at the event were the scholars were honoured, 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 to the environment to formulate green fertilizers that will support sustainable agriculture and sustainable remediation of crude oil polluted soils within the Niger Delta.

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,” he said.

On 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. I applied online for the research grant. Applicants were expected to submit their proposals and I submitted mine in November 2017. We were informed that successful candidates will be contacted and here we are.”

The second beneficiary, 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 revealed his intention is to produce an alternative to the use of synthetic insecticides to fight insects, saying, if the research pulls through, it would be an alternative for the government to reduce cost trying to control mosquitoes by providing mosquito nets.

According to him, “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.”

Commending Chevron for instituting the scholarship, Adelaja, affirmed that the fund would ease the burden of funding his research.

The lecture, themed “Combating Illegal Wildlife Trade in West Africa: The Role of Environmental Law and Governance,” was delivered by the Vice-Chancellor of the Lagos State University (LASU), Prof. Olanrewaju Fagbohun.

Brikinn who declared that the topic was apt, stated that it speaks to the activities that threaten the ecosystem. According to him, “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.”

He further 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.”

However Fagbohun has during his presentation regretted that yearly, 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 Professor of Environmental Law and Policy, said in the last 40 years alone, nearly 52 per cent of the world’s wildlife has been wiped out of existence.

He 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 among others, 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.

Others are 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.



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