Four years after Buhari was sworn into office as President of Nigeria, we take a look at how the government has fared in terms of keeping to its commitment of a free, safe and sustainable environment.
President Muhammadu Buhari signed the Paris Agreement on climate change in September, 2016, signaling Nigeria’s commitment to global effort to reverse the effects of global warming. That was just a year after he was sworn into office.
Many Nigerians had their hopes raised that the government was joining more than 190 other forward thinking nations to pay more attention on environmental issues.
The Buhari government also initiated the Ogoni Land Cleanup project in Ogoni which had been polluted by oil exploration since the 1950s and remains one of the most enduring challenges in the South South.
When the then Ministers of Environment, Amina Mohammed and Ibrahim Usman Jibril, assumed office in November, 2015, they expressed commitment to policy implementation on environmental protection, natural resources conservation and sustainable development.
Among the commitments were the Ogoni Land Cleanup, waste management system, Green Economy and continuation of the Great Green Wall project to combat desert encroachment.
Ogoni Land Cleanup
Although the previous government led by President Goodluck Jonathan initiated the Ogoni Land Cleanup and requested the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to carry out an assessment of the pollution in Ogoni, the government of President Muhammadu Buhari proceeded to implement the report of the assessment which revealed the mind-boggling pollution in the area which had destroyed aquatic life and arable land.
A Professor, Hilary Inyang, who did a study on the pollution in Ogoni, had said in a media interview that it would cost $6bn to cleanup Ogoni and that it would cost an estimated $50bn to clean up the more than 2,000 polluted sites in the entire Niger Delta.
Although the cleaning has eventually begun, it remains a “baby step” towards clearing the land of spilled oil. It is estimated that it will take at least 20 years to finish the cleanup.
The Buhari-led administration gave a boost to the green bond initiative with the holding of a Public Private Advisory Group meeting. The highlight of the meeting was the next step needed to issue Nigeria’s first sovereign green bond.
The meeting, which was headed by the then Minister of Environment, Amina Mohammed, and her Minister of State, Ibrahim Jibril Usman, and the Minister of Finance, was in consultation with experts and key actors aimed at coming up with key requirements in the issuance of a green bond by March 2019.
Green bonds, according to experts, have financial benefits as they can be used to support the portfolios of commercially viable projects which can provide a revenue stream that can offset the bonds.
The Federal Government was meant to commit the sum of N20bn for the pilot green bond in March; with the second issuance later.
The green bond project criteria aimed at benefiting the people will be segmented into different developmental projects: transportation, renewable energy, energising education programme, Great Green Wall and deforestation.
The transportation phase of the green bond project is estimated to cost N11bn in two years, specifically designed to provide 100 Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) mass transit routes between the Central Area District and Zuba in the FCT.
The overall goal was that the BRT buses project would contribute to the reduction in emission of greenhouse gasses by reducing the number of cars on the roads. There would also be emissions benefits from the buses using regenerated brakes which would reduce the amount of energy needed to power the engines.
Special routes were to be dedicated to the buses just as is done in Lagos which was to also create employment.
There is no gainsaying that years later, there is little or nothing to show for this: no dedicated routes, no buses, no jobs.
Also, no record to show that the status of pollution in the country is reducing.
The template of the renewable energy project indicates that it will involve a combination of an operational pilot scheme in Sherape and rural electrification needs set out in the Federal Ministry of Power.
Under the project, about 45 communities would be powered using a viable revenue model and smart meters installed in the communities and a secure payment mechanism.
Amina Mohammed who was the Minister of Environment, said considering the challenges of gas power and electricity in the country, they had to find another way; solar power. How much of that has been achieved. Right to say zero?
This Energising Education Programme, estimated to cost N100bn, is a rural electrification initiative that seeks to develop off-grid independent power plant types for the generation and provision of adequate power in 37 federal universities and seven teaching hospitals across the country.
The project also includes the provision of street lighting to illuminate the campuses for security and training centres in all federal universities.
According to analysis by some experts, the programme would focus on the use of renewable energy alternatives to provide power at the identified institutions.
The status of the project three years on is not clear; leaving much to be desired.
Great Green Wall and deforestation
The Great Green Wall project which is estimated to cost N2.83 billion aims to increase forest coverage through the planting of seedlings to cover 131,000 hectares, especially in the 11 frontline states in the North where desertification has become a serious concern.
The project, when implemented, will help reduce net emissions and work towards achieving the objectives of Nigeria’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to the Paris Agreement on climate change while also supporting the livelihoods of rural communities.
The project has not fared well. Fencing is missing in some locations, leaving the trees at the mercy of animals. The boreholes meant to water the trees in some places are not working while some machines have been stolen.
Over the years, it has remained in the agenda of different Nigerian governments to phase out polythene bags and as such different pronouncements had been made to that effect.
The Buhari administration of the last four years was not different in this regard.
Whereas some African countries such as Kenya and Rwanda have managed to place a ban, polythene bags still litter all nooks and crannies of Nigeria; constituting environmental nuisance and hazard.
The Federal Ministry of Environment started some pilot projects on modern waste management a few years ago across some states, but not all the projects stood the test of time. Waste management has remained one of the environmental challenges that needs urgent attention as urban and rural areas remain littered with waste as President Buhari prepares to begin a second term in office.
Despite the heavy rainfall that led to flooding in many parts of the country, destroying lives and property, as well as displacing millions of Nigerians, government is yet to do much in terms of building dams that will contain water when released from the Lagdo Dam in Cameroun which flows into Nigeria through the River Benue.
Also, the installation of automated web-based flood warning equipment in flood prone communities nationwide as approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) is still strange to many communities as they have little knowledge about it.
The equipment is to help communities threatened by flood to act in good time and teach them appropriate manners to reduce the possibility of injury, loss of life and damage to property and the environment.
Despite Nigeria’s huge clean energy potentials, majority of Nigerian households “unfortunately” still rely on firewood and solid biomass for cooking.
The country is yet to achieve much in the proposed adoption of cleaner sources of energy to address pollution and reduction in the use of firewood among the rural populace.
The Minister of State for Environment, Ibrahim Usman Jibril, had stated at a forum in Abuja that access to clean cooking solutions was the right of every Nigerian and that the domestic market must be developed to ensure sustainability.
Therefore, there is need to come up with tangible and practical solutions to develop and expand the market for clean cooking stoves at affordable rates.
About 40,000 clean stoves procured by the government of President Goodluck Jonathan at N9bn are still wasting away under the sun and rain in a government park. They were supposed to be distributed to rural women in an attempt to cut down on their reliance on wood for cooking.
It is yet to be known what the present government will do to remedy the situation.