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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Environmentalist advocates law to halt land reclamation in coastal communities

Government at all levels should rather focus on promulgating a law that will put an end to the reclamation of land across coastline communities in the country instead of issuing demolition threats to residents and inhabitants of such communities.

Nnimmo Bassey
Nnimmo Bassey, Betty Abah and some school children at the event

An environmentalist, Dr. Nnimmo Bassey, who made these remarks while delivering his speech at a book launch of his latest effort titled “I see the Invincible” in Makoko community of Lagos State, said: “The way houses in Makoko are built shows the way houses should be built along the entire coastline of Nigeria which covers about 845km and every community along the coastline is facing serious challenges.”

He noted: “Makoko residents built their houses above the water and the houses are surviving, so we could learn from how they are living whether it is high tide or low tide; this is adaptation to climate impact.”

While reacting to the purported report of recent threat of demolition of Makoko area by the authorities, Dr. Bassey opined: “Once government sees environmental impact, the first thing they think of is demolition. Meanwhile, demolition is weakening our people and our communities. Instead, they should think of resilience which is supporting the communities by building their capacity and building infrastructure that are climate prone.”

Speaking on the new book “I see the Invincible” and the choice of Makoko as the venue of its launch, Dr. Bassey, who also doubles as the Founder of Environmental Rights Action (ERA), disclosed that “Makoko is very significant because it represents virtually all environmental challenges that we have in Nigeria apart from desertification”.

According to him, “In Makoko, we have climate change impacts such as sea level rise, water pollution, sanitation problem, lack of potable water and so on. Everything that should not happen in a community happens there and it’s not the fault of the people but because of gross neglect of the system. So, the collection of poems that we have identified in ‘I see the Invincible’ are some of the environmental issues and Makoko is just a primary place we could launch it.

“We are hoping that this will have implication on a number of aspects; first of all, we have identified with the community that they are not alone. The book launch can bring up the issues that the community is confronting with threat of displacement that is always hanging in the air.

“We are also hoping that that the children of Makoko community will be inspired to become writers in poetry, songs and drama to stand up and defend their community and project the image of our nation.

“So, in the next five to 10 years, I would love a situation where the government will be sensitive to the fact that the community is emblematic and symbol of Nigeria. I would like to see a government that will invest in Makoko, to upgrade the place and provide all the facilities needed to live in dignity, living a life that we all dream to live.

“Makoko should be a Venice of Nigeria. People go to Venice in Italy to see how people are living above water, we have a prime example here and our government are not doing the needful.

“I am hoping that our politicians should open their eyes and ears to the reality and begin to support this community. Once they focus on solving the problems emanating from Makoko, we will be on track to solving environmental problems in Nigeria,” he stressed.

Betty Abah, Director, Cee-Hope Nigeria, while extoling the virtues of the poet, described Dr. Bassey as an eminent environmentalist and a poet who has won many awards and recognitions from many institutions of higher learning in many countries such as the York University, Canada (2023) and the University of York (2019).

“It’s not about the awards and recognitions alone, apart from here in Makoko, Dr. Bassey has been working with the poorest people in the remote communities such as the Niger Delta where they are facing water pollution and other environmental challenges. This is the 13th time he will be coming to Makoko in the last 10 years despite living in Edo State. He’s also building a state-of-the-art school for the children of Makoko community because he believes it is through education the future of our children will be guaranteed,” she submitted.

While reviewing the book, Abah disclosed: ”The book ‘I see the Invincibles’ is the seventh collections of poems from Dr. Nnimmo Bassey, it has over 143 pages with a total number of 133 poems all talking about issues relating to climate challenges, resilience and solutions to environmental issues.”

The event, with the theme: “Cultural Survival: Book Reading and Strategic Discussion”, witnessed various recitations from Evelyn Osagie, Folarin Balogun, Olashile Favour and musical performance from the Environment Musician.

Dignitaries that graced the book launch include Chief Akintimehin Claudius Adewale, Elder Dosu Isaac, Apostle Samuel Ade, market women and fishermen in Makoko community and other stakeholders.

By Ajibola Adedoye

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