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Conservationists advocate ecosystem restoration, urge youths to save planet

From Nairobi, Abuja, Lagos, Calabar, and elsewhere, African conservationist leaders participating in the 19th Chief S.L Edu Memorial Lecture joined the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) to advocate for ecosystem restoration, challenging Nigerian youths to help save the planet.

Philip Asiodu
Chief Philip Asiodu, Board of Trustees (BOT) President, NCF

On Thursday, August 12, 2021, NCF hosted a hybrid event to mark the 19th edition of the Chief S.L Edu Memorial Lecture with the theme: “Youth and Ecosystem Restoration”.

The event held at the Lekki Conservation Centre in Lagos and was streamed on Zoom, Instagram, YouTube and Facebook as part of effort to mobilise the Nigerian youths to rise and champion courses that can promote ecosystem restoration.

Guest speaker, Ms. Simangele Msweli, Senior Manager, Youth Leadership Programme, African Wildlife Foundation, led other youth conservationists, such as Ms. Omobola Eko; Mr. Abubakar Muhammad and Ms. Nella Duke Ekpeyong, to add credence to this discussion.

In her presentation, Msweli said the world needs urgent restoration of ecosystem which has been degraded for so long. She identified poor implementation of policies and strategic action programmes in African countries owing to bad leadership, corruption and non-youth integration.

Msweli said: “Youth commitment coupled with effective youth engagement from government organisations will bring us closer to a world where ecosystems are reserved and therefore providing livelihood, climate resilience, and sustainable economy.”

Earlier in his opening remarks, Chief Philip Asiodu, President, Board of Trustees, NCF who also doubled as the Chairman at the Memorial Lecture, observed: “Our forest reserves have depleted significantly from 35% to 3%, thereby denying animals their natural habitat which could possibly bring harm to human environment.”

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Chief Asiodu remarked that it is a great concern that when we look at our environment today, especially people who have been around before independence, one will be moved to tears at the level of degradation, loss of wetlands, desertification and fast disappearing forest. He urged that some immediate actions must be taken to end this so as to bequeath a legacy of halting and reversing the loss – a legacy of total restoration of the ecosystem; a legacy of saving our world.

In the same vein, Chief Ede Dafinone, Chairman, National Executive Council of NCF, said in his welcome: “This year’s topic is very important to us because we seem to have severed our relationship with the ecosystem, with the earth, and with the planet. We are plundering and polluting nature’s resources, treating our planet as dumping ground for plastic and other waste. It has been projected that we could lose one million species in the next few decades if we don’t act now. Unfortunately, there’s no planet B, where we can move to, in the future.”

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However, he added: “There are some actions we can take, starting from today, individually and collectively to recreate our relationship with the planet and restore our ecosystem. In his speech, the Director General of NCF, Dr. Muhtari Aminu-Kano, made a clarion call on African youths to take the driver’s seat in this global decade-long project of ecosystem restoration from 2021-2030. According to him, “The youths have the energy, technical savviness and the information at their disposal to make a meaningful contribution to environmental restoration”.

Meanwhile, Mr. Esimaje Brikinn, General Manager, Policy, Govt & Public Affairs, Chevron Nigeria Limited, revealed that his organisation is transparently committed to advancing a lower carbon future, one that meets the global needs of all people, through affordable and reliable and ever cleaner energy towards achieving a more prosperous and sustainable world.

He commended the giant strides of NCF and other stakeholders and urged “everyone of us to make a personal commitment to preserve our environment which is more threatened now than ever before”.

While sharing her impact statement on ecosystem restoration, a youth conservationist, Ms. Omobola Eko, said: “Tree planting is one of the cheapest solutions to climate change. This can be achieved by planting the right tree, at the right place, at the right time, and in the right quantity.”

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She added that efforts should be made to plant trees that are indigenous to the environment to achieve effective ecosystem restoration.

Mr. Abubakar Muhammad, another youth conservationist, believed “school students should plant more trees as legacy projects”

Among others who featured were Ms. Kafayat Quadri, a Nigerian lawyer, singer, songwriter, poet and music producer, and a 12-year-old boy, Rereloluwa Oketola, who made an oral presentation on ecosystem restoration.

The event equally served as a platform to award scholarship grants to two PhD students whose research works are in the field of environmental sciences in any Nigerian academic institution. The grant, sponsored by Chevron Nigeria Limited, seeks to promote research works in nature conservation, biodiversity preservation, environmental management and sustainable livelihood. This year’s edition was won by Mrs. Ibironke Olubamise and Mr. Samuel Jatto.

Olubamise is a PhD student at The Post Graduate School, Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna pursuing a programme in Environmental Management with a research titled, “Assessing the Effectiveness of Community Initiatives for Environmental Restoration and Policy Development in Nigeria”.

Jatto, on the other hand, is a PhD student at The Postgraduate College, University of Ibadan, pursuing a programme in Forest Management with a research titled “Forest structure, Woody species diversity and basis for joint forest management in Omo-Shasha-Oluwa Forest Complex Nigeria”.

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