Nigeria’s Minister of State for Environment, Chief Sharon Ikeazor, has expressed support for the establishment of a National Institute of Environmental Studies that would provide the necessary expertise for certification of practitioners as well as the provision of the much-needed manpower to address various environmental challenges in the country.
Ikeazor made this commitment when the National President of the Nigerian Environmental Society (NES), Dr. Dorothy Bassey, and her team paid a courtesy visit to her office.
According to the minister, the establishment of such an institute has become necessary in order to streamline the practice of environmental scientists and enthusiasts in the sector, and the need for certification and competency in handling the various aspects of climate change, the ecosystems and the environment as a whole.
Speaking further, Ikeazor assured the NES President of the ministry’s readiness to collaborate with the Society in the protection and conservation of the environment, implementation of the recently approved National Solid Waste Management Policy, the National Forestry Policy and the National Gender Action Plan on Climate Change.
“The National Gender Action Plan on Climate Change is to mainstream gender into Climate Change Action that would further create jobs for women, youths and other vulnerable Nigerians,” the Minister emphasised.
Ikeazor stated that, as part of environmental remediation, the Federal Government is committed to mangroves restoration and protection across the country. She called for expertise and collaboration from the NES to further deepen the knowledge and the creation of awareness among Nigerians on the numerous benefits to life sustenance and the ecosystems.
She decried the situation where Nigeria with about 11,600sq k of coastline, spanning from Bakkasi peninsular in Cross River State to Badagry in Lagos State does not have 1% of Marine Protected Areas.
“That is why the ministry is planning to roll out a National Mangrove Restoration Plan as it avails the country several benefits in terms of controlling coastal erosion, serve in the restoration of polluted areas and protect marine animals that provide a livelihood to the people,” the Minister added.
Enumerating the actions taken by the ministry on environmental protection, Ikeazor disclosed that the ministry is in the middle of amending the NOSDRA Act, saying that in the amendment that is being put together, the NES has been listed as a Member of the NOSDRA Board.
She promised to renew her earlier appeal at the appropriate time to Mr President, which she made upon her assumption of duty, to grant assent to the NOSDRAS Act, saying that as the environmental regulator of oil and gas activities in the country, NOSDRA requires all the legal and administrative backing to operate successfully.
‘‘What we have in the Ogoni clean-up today is lack of regulation and environment assessment of oil exploration in Nigeria, with an amended bill, NOSDRA will be well equipped to check such excess and protect our environment,’’ she opined.
The Minister added that environmental degradation in the Niger Delta, especially the Port Harcourt soot, the Artisanal refining and the “kpo-fire”, are all as a result of inadequate regulations and non-compliance with Environmental Impact Assessment.
Intimating the Minister on the purpose of the visit, Dr Bassey stated that the visit was in pursuance of the society’s resolve to intimate the ministry of their activities, seek an avenue for partnership and collaboration in the protection of the environment and advocacy, as well as to serve as a vehicle to disseminate the ministry’s messages and policies to the grassroots and get the necessary feedback.
She pointed out that NES is foremost environmental body in Nigeria created in 1985 with presence in 26 states of the federation and that their activities are geared towards development and protection of the environment.
Dr Bassey solicited for the support of the Minister and other stakeholders to facilitate the passage of the bill establishing the National Environmental Institute into law.
Her words: ‘’We as a group have over the years sponsored the bill to establish a National Environmental Institute of Nigeria in the National Assembly without success. We recently represented it for consideration.’’
The bill, according to the President of NES, is to ensure that only those with requisite skills and expertise should be allowed to take part in environmental issues and consultancy.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Abel Olumuyiwa Enitan, in his remarks, commended the Society for taking interest in the ministry’s activities and their commitment to environmental issues and welcomes the offer for partnership.
‘’I can only assure you that the ministry is ready and desirous of partnering with a serious, credible and well-organised entity, society and groups to drive the agenda of making our environment more conducive and sustainable in line with the socio-political mandates of this administration and other levels,’’ he emphasised.