Professor Chukwumerije Okereke, an international climate change expert, political scientist and formerly of the University of Reading, United Kingdom, is now Director, Centre for Climate Change and Development, Alex Ekwueme Federal University (AE-FUNAI), Ndufu-Alike, Ebonyi state, Nigeria.
He officially resumed his new line of duty at a formal handover ceremony held recently in the Ivory Tower’s campus.
Dean, Faculty of Management and Social Sciences, Prof. Afam Icha-Ituma, in an opening speech, expressed his delight to have helped in facilitating the return of Professor Okereke to Nigeria and the university. He thanked the erudite professor for accepting to come back home to join in building the young university.
He reminded Professor Okereke that there is so much to be done to take the university, the state and nation to greater heights and assured him of the co-operation and support of the university management and colleagues.
Prof. Icha-Ituma thanked Dr. Robert Onyeneke, former Acting Director of the centre, for laying the foundation and holding on till the arrival of a new Director.
Dr. Onyeneke thanked the new Director for accepting to join AE-FUNAI, adding that the foundation for the centre was laid when the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Chinedum Nwajiuba, asked him to present a concept paper for the establishment of a Centre for Climate Change and Development, and that following the creation of the Centre in January 21, 2019, the Vice-Chancellor appointed him pioneer Acting Director for the centre.
He chronicled the achievements of the centre from inception, which included the hosting of a Round-table on Katowice Climate Change Conference in March, 2019, organised in collaboration with the Department of Climate Change, Federal Ministry of Environment and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); mentoring young academics from AEFUNAI to participate in the Innovation and Research in Adapting to Climate Change Programme in Nigeria organised by the French Government; participating in the Green Economy Capacity Assessment Workshop in Abuja hosted by Prof Okereke; and participation in the Southeast Regional Climate Change Knowledge Deepening Workshop organised by the Department of Climate Change, Federal Ministry of Environment in Enugu in May, 2019, among other achievements.
While appreciating the efforts of Profs. Nwajiuba and Icha-Ituma in bringing him to the university, Prof. Okereke thanked Dr. Onyeneke for laying the foundation and holding forth till he arrived.
He said he came back to join in rebuilding the nation, even as he advised Nigerians not to despise the days of the small beginning. He shared some of the experiences he gathered from working for national and international organisations and governments on climate change related projects over the years, affirming that he was determined to bring the experiences home for the benefit of the people.
He said that the Centre for Climate Change and Development would play a leading role in advancing the world class vision of the Vice-Chancellor, adding that its long-term objective is to establish AE-FUANI as an African leader in both the generation of a high-quality research on climate change and sustainable development and the application of research to address real life challenges at local, national and the global scale.
He disclosed that the centre, under his leadership, has obtained a grant from the Department of International Development (DFID) UK to procure and distribute LPG cylinders to women in two communities in the South-East which he believes will help to reduce the health and environmental impact of open fire cooking in these two communities. He said this is a good example of the kind of impact he believes the centre will have in the lives of communities in Nigeria.
Professor Okereke stressed that his emphasis would be to and attract research grants and work closely with key stakeholders nationally and internationally to shape policy and practice in Africa.
He underlined the need for education and awareness raising at all levels on the dangers and opportunities implicated in climate change.
“It is wrong and naïve,” he says, “to see climate change merely as an environmental problem because it has huge implication for our economy, education, health, food security, politics, industrial growth, etc.”
He said he is keen to promote interdisciplinary research across the university using the centre, and called on deans and directors present to join in the effort. He made bold to state that AE-FUNAI is already at the forefront of climate sensitive development and setting pace with the 24 hours uninterrupted clean power supply and the Campus Green Initiative which he said positions the university favourably for international collaboration.