No nation will attain the pinnacle of her social, economic and political dream without taking cognisance of the environment her citizens live in. The environment is the habitat that sustains man and other living organisms from time immemorial, but, it’s quite unfortunate that the environment has suffered a great deterioration over the years owing to man’s activities that have led to the depletion of natural resources such as air, water and soil.
Perhaps, people have failed to realise that we have a right and responsbility to protect the environment because it’s all we’ve got. Our survival on earth is greatly threatened by the increasing global warming which is caused by man’s attitude to his environment. Indeed, the late Human rights activist and environmentalist, Ken Saro Wiwa once asserted that, “Environment is human’s first right. Without a safe environment, no one can exist to claim other rights be they social, economic or political.”
What prompted my curiosity of putting a pen to pad is the way Nigerian government turned deaf ears and blind eyes to environmental istration led by President Muhammadu Buhari for his recent intervention on the Ogoni Bill of Rights of 1990. On Wednesday, August 5, 2015, Buhari ordered the fast-tracking of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) recommendations in Ogoni Land, this progress many have described as one of the most significant decisions taken so far by the president since his inauguration into office on May 29, 2015. The oil-instigated ecological disaster experienced in this region did not only affect the well-being of the people, but also destroy their farmland, drinking water and aquatic animals.
The spirits of the late Saro Wiwa and the other Ogoni activitists who were killed on 10, November 1995 during the military government of Gen. Sani Abacha would be pleased with President Buhari for his directive on the cleaning up of the Ogoni land, which had long been abandoned by past administrations including that of Goodluck Jonathan, who is from the S/south region of the country. Be that as it may, we will not rest, shiver nor quiver in agitating for the right of the environment because there are still one thousand and one environmental challenges that the government is yet to attend to.
It is pertinent to note that for every tree being pulled down or burnt without replacement, man is directly exposed to ultra-violet rays of the sun and add to the green house effect of the atmosphere due to the release of carbon dioxide (Co2) which causes global warming. Little do we know that for every bush burning action, millions and thousands of species of plant and animal go extinct. There is every tendency that generations unborn will not live to see some animals. As if that is not enough, the exhaust gas such as methane (CH4), chlorofluorocarbons (CFCS), carbon dioxide (Co2) from our industries exacerbate humans’ health. No wonder Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) in its recent research carried out on livelihood ranked Lagos state 4th worst city to live in the world.
More so, for each chemical discharge in water bodies by our industrialists, millions and thousands of aquatic animals are left to face the destiny of an untimely death. But, for how long will this continue? Human beings out of their ignorance have forgotten that the environment is a feedback system, in the sense that every negative interaction with the environment will give birth to negative effect on man’s health and vice versa. For the purpose of education, it is very important to cite that NEMA made it known that the 2012 flooding exercise witnessed in Nigeria cost federal government N2.6trn. Money that supposed to be channelled into other sector if necessary measures and precautions had been put in place are now used to cater for flood victims in the affected regions.
We should all know that it is not over until it is over, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. If the Nigeria government can take responsibility of working on environmental legislation, ethics and education as a tool towards achieving maximum environmental protection, then our environment will be better for it and the coming generations will be pleased with us. As a matter of urgency, we must also take tree planting as important, because it has been identified as one of the easiest and cheapest ways to curb climate change.
The government should revisit all environmental laws as stipulated in the 1999 constitution, the National Environmental Standards and Regulation Enforcement Agency (NESREA) Act (2007), Federal Solid and Hazardous Waste Management Regulations (1991), Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Act. Cap E12, LFN 2004 and many more. Through this laws environmental protection, planning, pollution, prevention and control would be achieved. Also, symposium, seminars and conferences should be organised for community people so as to change their perception, behaviour and attitude towards the environment.
The United Nations (UN) recognised the importance of environment protection when it included “Protecting the Planet” as part of the 17 goals of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It wouldn’t be a bad idea for Nigeria’s policy makers to include environmental courses as part of our curriculum at both secondary and tertiary levels of institutions. I strongly believe if all this can be achieved, we will have a hazard-free environment, well informed citizen that will use available resources in meeting their present needs without jeopardising the future of the unborn and less amount of money will be used to mitigate future environmental challenges.
I will love to end this piece with the words of the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki Moon, who charged Nigerian and Africa youth to always advocate for climate justice by playing their part in preserving the climate. “Youth should say this is our world, this is where we live and we should preserve it. The sooner we engage in sustainable path, the better for our world.”
ALABEDE Surajdeen is a political commentator, environmentalist and a serving corps member in Delta State.
Twitter handle: @BabsSuraj Gmail: firstname.lastname@example.org