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Tasks ahead of Zarma, new environment minister

Surv Suleiman Hassan Zarma

About a month ago, the former Minister of State for Environment, Ibrahim Usman Jibril, handed over to Surv Suleiman Hassan Zarma as the new minister to supervise the affairs of the sector. Jibril later took up his appointment as the new Emir of Nasarawa.

While handing over to Zarma, Jibril, who said he was proud of the achievements recorded in the sector, expressed his confidence in the incoming minister to continue the good work.

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He said: “Together we should fight climate change, pollution and desertification. I believe we have the resources, energy and commitment to move forward.”

In response, Zarma pledged to build on the legacies of his predecessor and hoped to even exceed expectations.

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He vowed to give special attention to building a Green economy and creating jobs.

In spite of all Nigeria has done to have a sustainable environment, however, a lot of work still needs to be done especially at the grassroots. This report attempts to x-ray the areas the new minister needs to prioritise and urgently wade into.

The government of President Muhammadu Buhari is nearly four years in office. No doubt the government has taken positive steps in the fight against environmental degradation towards achieving a sustainable environment.

This year, with a new minister at the helm of affairs, it is expected that the sector should do more in bringing all the decisions and discussions done in the past to concrete action. The following is a catalogue of environmental issues that have remained pending over the last few years and which should receive maximum attention this year.

Ogoni clean-up

Over three years since the Federal Government flagged off the clean-up of polluted Ogoni land as recommended by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) in its 2011 report, it was only recently that the project was handed over to contractors to commence the cleanup.

The progress of work towards the remediation of the communities affected by the age-long oil pollution, according to some groups, has been slow. But that, according to the Federal Government, is as a result of the programmes and projects which should be in place to facilitate proper cleanup.

However, there are residents who said not much has been done since the flag off. Government though insists that the work is a gradual process and will take a long time to complete.

There is need to carry out more projects that both residents and government can attest to.

Phasing out polythene bags

Over the years, it has remained in the government timeline to phase out polythene bags and as such different pronouncements have been made to that effect, but polythene still litter nooks and crannies of the country, constituting environmental nuisance and hazard.

In spite of the recent boost at the international level on the need to address the nuisance caused by polythene bags, Nigeria is still at the pronouncements stage.

Absence of modern waste management system

Waste management has remained one of the environmental challenges that need urgent attention as urban and rural areas are littered with waste.

It has become an embarrassing situation as even the highbrow areas are not left out.

The Federal Ministry of Environment’s pilot projects across some states on modern waste management system lauched a few years ago is not quite a success story. There is therefore, need to have functioning waste management system that will create wealth from waste.

Flood

In spite of the heavy rainfall that led to flooding in many parts of the country, destroying lives and properties 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 Lagdo dam and other rivers.

Also, the installation of automated web-based flood early warning equipment in flood-prone communities nationwide as approved by the council, is still  not in place in many communities as they have little knowledge about it.

The equipment is to help communities threatened by flood to act in good time and the appropriate manner to reduce the possibility of injury, loss of life and damage to property and the environment.

Great Green Wall

The Great Green Wall project which is supposed to bring succour to the 11 frontline northern states ravaged by desertification has not really done much due to some challenges affecting the implementation of the programme in some states.

The GGW is yet to become a success in most states despite the huge commitment of funds by government. There is need to ensure the project is a success in the country.

Adoption of clean energy

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.

According to former minister of State for Environment, Ibrahim Usman Jibril, access to clean cooking solutions is the right of every Nigerian and the domestic market must be developed to ensure sustainability, yet much is left to be desired.

Improve forest cover

The Director General of Forest Research Institute of Nigeria, Dr Adeshola Adepoju, said Nigeria required about 20 to 30 million hectares of land for tree planting to get the required forest cover as recommended by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

He said the country has only five per cent forest cover and required 20 percent more to be comfortable.

So there is need for more awareness and sensitization to achieve better adoption of tree planting and reforestation of degraded forest estates.

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