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Stakeholders urge actions against climate crisis

By Victor Gbonegun
20 January 2020   |   1:27 am
With over 4 million Nigerians still living in land erosion areas, accounting for about $1.5 billion yearly economic losses to climate change issues, stakeholders have called for a paradigm shift in action towards protecting the planet against catastrophes.

With over 4 million Nigerians still living in land erosion areas, accounting for about $1.5 billion yearly economic losses to climate change issues, stakeholders have called for a paradigm shift in action towards protecting the planet against catastrophes. They sought effective monitoring and evaluation of environmental programmes and the ‘political will’ by leaders to mitigate deterioration in the environment.

The Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, led the call during the 18th edition of Safi Lawal Edu memorial lecture organised by the Nigerian Conservation Foundation and sponsored by Chevron Nigeria, in Lagos. He said there are many practices, which are directly injurious to the environment that government should control through appropriate policies and regulation, noting that failure to manage and repair the environment leads to degradation, threatens the earth and brings in consequences.

The monarch stated that for decades, the desert in particular, has been encroached, at the rate of 600 metres yearly, and current reality indicates that over 50 million of Nigerians now lives in desertification state. Desertification, he explained leads to fall in land productivity, with over 10 percent loss in food production yearly according to researchers.

According to him, this implies that food production would be dwindling while population continues to grow faster at the rate of 3.2 percent yearly than growth in food production put at the rate of 1.5 percent.“In Nigeria, with growing poverty, the sad situation can only worsen. Food security is not only availability but also affordability. This is one of the factors that elicits migration for greener pastures and to urban centres for better life and thus, create pressure on urban infrastructure and social conflicts, which brings to mind the issue of farmer/herders clashes. The cattle roots are no longer there because of population explosion and demands for land especially, for houses, hospitals and schools”.

Abubakar, who recalled that 2015 and 2019, were the two years of hottest weather ever recorded as a result of climate change, urged political leaders to use traditional institutions to make substantial progress in relation to the environment, domesticate international protocols and agreement on the environment and work with the people.He said, “Nigeria has signed into many international agreements and conventions like the United Nations framework on climate change of 1994, Paris protocol of 2016 and so on. There are big projects like, the Great Green World that has failed to take off except on paper.

Besides, what is observed on the ground is far from effective and the environment continues to deteriorate at amazing level. Experts have identified reasons for the worrying phenomenon, which include, failure to use technology, policy inconsistency, funding and the monster of corruption as well as sheer absence of commitment and the disconnect between experts and government on one hand and the people who live in the environment. Politicians pay lips service while the locales are not really involved. Chains of consultants that have never been to communities make fortunes and write reports without the people.”

Abubakar who spoke on, “The role of Traditional Leaders in Protecting and Restoring the Nigerian Environment”, emphasised that traditional societies from time immemorial have a special relationship with their environment, the mountains, forests, rivers and farmlands and the wild animals that are part and parcel of the community stressing that they have important role to play in mitigating the menace of environmental degradation by sensitizing their subjects.

“Traditional rulers are important as protector and champions for the environment, they serve as both traditional and religious influencer in maintaining a sustainable lifestyle, they speak the language of the people in their communities, the traditional rulers have knowledge of their environment, have strong networks and records of land resources as well as play the role of the guardians of the environment”, he said.

Addressing the gathering, the Alake of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Gbadebo posited that things are changing as a result of global warming which has also worsened the hotness of weather. He said with the reality of moment, 2020 might be the hottest year ever witnessed, hence the need for everyone to brace up for the challenge and protect the environment from further calamities.“When we were younger, so many people could sleep conveniently in the same room but this is no longer the situation. There is decay in the environment everywhere, but I have to commend the Nigerian Conservation Foundation for preserving the environment”, he said

The Director General, NCF, Dr. Muhtari Aminu-Kano, on his part noted that Nigeria and the world is facing environment issues with statistics showing that the past five years or the last of the decade, have been the hottest recorded globally for the last 150 years. This he noted has lead to severe storm, drought, wild fires and so many other catastrophes affecting millions of people around the world.He said last year in particular, was the second hottest year across the world emphasizing that stakeholders have to do something about it. According to him, the NCF, government and others are winning some battles but still losing the world.

“We just have to change and bring everybody on board especially, powerful players like our traditional leaders because if we don’t, what the scientists tell us is that the whole will face calamities of humongous proportion. When world leaders met in Paris in 2015, they promised based on science that they would try all they can to limit global warming to less than 1.5 degree. Since the 19th hundred, last year and currently, we have about 1.1 degrees centigrades above and so we have just 0.4 degrees centigrades to go. We hope this would be the beginning of real partnership that would be a game changer around Nigeria’s effort to save its environment”.

Giving reasons for the gathering, Aminu-Kano said, “Every January is time where the NCF reflects on the memory of our founder, Chief Safi Lawal Edu who had the vision along with some colleagues, to establish the first and only national conservation non-governmental organisation in Nigeria 40 years ago. What we try to do, is to set the tone for the year, explore urgent, important and new areas that should get attention on conservation in Nigeria.”

“Last year we identified faith and religion as powerful motivators for getting people to change their attitude, and behavior towards the environment. This year, we are saying a huge and untapped resource in the fight to save the Nigerian environment, which hasn’t been tapped but with tremendous potential is traditional leaders. They are everywhere where government and NGO and private sector are not, highly respected and we have been missing, by not harnessing their tremendous offers. They have been influencers in the anal of history and are still influencers in the digital age. We hope that this is the beginning of engagement with that important institution.”

The President, Board of Trustees of the foundation, Chief Phillips Asiodu in his contributions expressed concerns that Nigeria was severely challenged in all environmental fronts, especially with population pressure of about 200 million Nigerians and the birth rate which is not reducing.

Asiodu said, “We are about 20 per cent of the population of Africa but have only three percent of the land surfaces. We are suffering from desertification, deforestation, erosion, coastal erosion, and poor management of wastes. We pray that the doubters about climate change will stop doubting and do something. It is now very important to do much more and create national awareness, mobilise the people from the peasant to the apex of government.”

“At independent for instance, Nigeria has about 35 percent forest coverage, today we have about 4 percent. We are still continuing deforestation without remedies, which were legislated around 1930”s that if we cut trees, must replant. Nigerian government in 1988 committed the country to 25 percent forest cover in keeping with United Nations FAO recommendations, which will mean planting 250,000 square kilometers; we haven’t done one square kilometers”.