Few weeks ago, President Muhammadu Buhari appointed new ministers to help run the government. The ministers’ role involves coming up with new policy directions, needed laws and administrative directions to achieve the presidents ‘Next Level’ agenda.
Dr. Mohammed Mahmood Abubakar was appointed substantive Minister of Environment and Barr. Sharon Ikeazor as Minister of State for Environment.
At assumption of office, Dr Abubakar, who was welcomed by the Permanent Secretary, Ibukun Odusote, said he would assiduously work with all key stakeholders to design problem-solving programmes and development-targeted policies that will help tackle ecological problems in the country.
He also assured that he will work together with his counterpart, Barr Ikeazor, to take the ministry to an enviable position.
The minister also assured that he will run an open-door policy of welcoming diverse recommendations, views and suggestions by stakeholders, stressing that the ministry is a strategic one that has the potential to fast-track socio-economic growth, while enhancing the well-being of the populace.
On her part, Barr. Ikeazor, Minister of State for Environment, said though the task ahead may be onerous, they are imbued with requisite leadership and administrative pedigree to deliver ‘excellently and brilliantly’ so as to take the environment sector to a greater height.
She solicited cooperation from heads of departments, boards and agencies under the ministry, while assuring them of her total support.
Also, Dr Abubakar, at a recent joint meeting of the Governing Council (GC) and Board of Trustees of the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) where he also assumed chairmanship position of the Governing Council, promised to ensure a comprehensive clean-up of Ogoniland.
The minister, who noted that the President is very passionate about the Ogoniland cleanup, added “and from the brief I got, I want to assure you all that we will get maximum support to fast track the remediation exercise.”
He reiterated that as an environmentalist himself, he has always been passionate about the Ogoni cleanup and has kept pace with the remediation process even before he was appointed minister to oversee the sector.
Having expressed his zeal to tackle ecological issues in the country, it is imperative to note that in spite of all Nigeria has done to have a sustainable environment, a lot of work still needs to be done, especially at the grassroots.
So with new ministers at the helm of affairs, it is expected that the sector should, aside coming up with more environmental friendly policies, ensure that all decisions and discussions done in the past and now are turned into concrete action.
The following are among key environmental issues that have remained pending over the last few years and which should receive maximum attention.
Phasing out of plastics
While the issue of plastics remains a serious one on the environment globally, it has been on Nigeria government’s timeline to phase it out and as such different pronouncements have been made to that effect, but plastics are still found in every nook and cranny of the country.
Despite the recent bill passed by the House of Representatives to ban plastic bags in the country as a way to address waste management and protect the environment, the use of plastics still thrives, constituting environmental nuisance and hazard.
Nigeria still lags behind in enforcing the ban while countries like Kenya, Mali, Cameroon and Morocco among others have imposed ban and taxes on use of plastics.
Flood has remained an icon in most parts of the country as it is synonymous to heavy rainfall destroying lives and properties as well as displacing millions of Nigerians.
It is no longer peculiar to riverine areas alone, now major cities of Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt and others are being flooded, this is no thanks to population increase, lack of proper drainage systems and indiscriminate disposal of waste.
While flood could come as a natural disaster, many experienced in city centres are however triggered by human activities and as such government needs to come up with practical solutions that will address the problem in the country.
Building of dams that will contain water and installation of functioning automated web-based flood early warning equipment in flood-prone communities nationwide as approved by the council to reduce the possibility of injury, loss of life and damage to property and the environment has remained a mirage.
Nigeria is said to be moving towards taking the unenviable number one position in open defecation, if India, despite its population, is declared open defecation free in October 2019.
With 48 million people still practicing open defecation in Nigeria, it is evident that much is left to be desired in the issue of sanitation in the country. While access to sanitation is declining, it is no longer a practice done in the bushes but people now defecate by major streets in city centres.
Major roads in Abuja are not left out, even the Mabushi express way that houses the Federal Ministry of Environment is not left out as mounds of faeces are seen in gutters, but thanks to the incessant rain which helps in washing away the eyesore and stench.
Emission (Green bond projects)
The Federal Government has initiated green economy projects to aid in the reduction of emissions. The transportation phase of the green bond project, which is specifically designed to provide 100 Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) mass transit routes between the Central Area District and Zuba in the FCT, is however yet to see the light of the day.
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. It was also meart to create jobs.
Years later, however, there is little or nothing to show for this: no dedicated routes, no buses and no jobs. Also, no record to show what the status of emission in the country is.