‘Technology is key to any meaningful development’
Dr. Celina Maduemezia is the Principal Consultant of Enville Environmental Consultants Ltd, a foremost environmental consulting firm and the Proprietor of Enville Institute of Management and Technology an upcoming Polytechnic with a temporary site in Opebi, Lagos and a permanent site at Agbowa area of Epe.
She is a sustainability and youth development multi-disciplinary professional that is passionate about the environment for the past 40 years; she has also been actively involved in the monitoring of water resources and air quality in Nigeria and has an extensive working experience in the area of Environmental Science and Consultancy.
In this interview, she spoke on her passion for the environment as a resource and why more resources (human and budgetary) should be ploughed into managing it sustainably.
What informed the setting up of Enville Environmental Consultants?
MY early exposure to ecological ecosystems (freshwater, lagoon, marine and terrestrial) at the University of Lagos, Akoka in the early 70’s initiated me into the intricacies of life from the minutest level and how nature had taken care of everything and ensured that there is always equilibrium in the different ecological niches and the wonders of the ecological niches as well as the wonders of the food chain.
I was exposed to the chaos that accrues when this equilibrium is disturbed or tampered with by man in his quest for advancement and was initiated also into the wonders of life that exists in water, myriads of tiny organisms under the microscope – so colourful, so active! Then the different other larger organisms equipped with different gimmicks for survival; I was enchanted. I was nevertheless exposed also to how a single careless act of man could upset these well-ordered systems.
On getting to England for a postgraduate degree and discovering that the University of Aston in Birmingham ran a 12-month course in Applied Hydrobiology, I did not need persuasion to jump at it instead of embarking straight on the PhD programme as planned. This course strengthened my resolve to be connected with how to control the disruption of natural ecosystems through man’s inevitable quest for technological advancement. By the time I was through with a two – year programme that led to the award of a PhD degree in indicator species of pollution control, I was not only a convert, but an advocate of Environmental Management and wanted to do nothing other than impart this knowledge to others.
To achieve this, I applied to the University of Ife, Ile-Ife and was offered the job in the sub-department of Ecology under Professor Ama Imobvore and Adejuwon. A few years later, late Alhaji Alabi Masha invited me to come to Lagos to help him with the new Ministry of Environment that was being set up in the State which I did not immediately accept, but once my husband decided to move to Lagos from Ile- Ife, I then came for interview for the job.
After a 10-year sojourn with the Lagos State Government and having succeeded in setting up the pollution control laboratory and the pollution control law of the state, as well as putting a structural framework that involved all stakeholders in the state especially the industrial sector through the market women/men etc. and establishing the cleanup exercises, I resigned my appointment.
On hearing that I had left the state government, some company Executives including Mr. Thompson of Berger Paints, Bashorun A.A Adesanya of Nigerian Bottling Company, the Technical Director (an Irish man) of Guinness Nigeria made contact with me and urged me to consider working for them as a consultant – thus the birth of Enville Environmental Consultant Limited in February 1991.
In setting up Enville, did you entertain any phobia?
Not at all. I had had enough of Civil Service bureaucracy in 10 years May 1980 – June 1990, so I was fully equipped for the task ahead.
What would you say were your achievements while at the Ministry?
I could summarize them thus: Putting together a strong work team that was ready to do all it took to achieve a better, cleaner and greener environment in the state than the one we met. Alhaji Jakande supported by late Alabi Masha and a perfect gentleman Permanent Secretary late Alhaji Raheem were ready to give all to achieve a better environment and they did.
The sensitization of the whole citizenry on the whole gamut of environmental sanitation and management and this brought a lot of changes in the Lagos State environmental space. We were able to build and develop a better working relationship with the private sector and this went a long way in helping us to build the LASEPA laboratory through development charges and the polluter pays principle.
We were also able to put in place a legal framework on environmental pollution control – in form of environmental pollution and an edict on environmental pollution control. This process took ages and was the first in the country.
What has been the biggest challenge of running a business as a woman?
I have not encountered any challenge as a woman but I believe that if I were to be a man, doing what I’ve done in environment and knowing what I know in environment and with my work globally, maybe they would have recognised me. I know there are other men in my position that are yet to be recognized, so I would not say the lack of recognition is because I’m a woman. I can’t put my finger on anything negative that has happened to me while running this organisation because I’m a woman.
As a woman I do not go after contracts as the jobs we do come to us through the good news and goodwill we have built over the years.
What are the key elements to building a sustainable business?
You must be proactive and pay attention to details. To really build a sustainable business, you must be conscientious and very hardworking.
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