On Tuesday, September 24, 2019, a delegation of young environmentalists, advocates and professionals met with the Minister of State for Environment, Sharon Ikeazor, to discuss pertinent issues relating to the youth and environment, and how to bridge the gap between the ministry and young environmental sustainability advocates.
Led by Adesuwa Obasuyi, the Executive Director of Sustainable African Cities and Communities Initiative, the meeting was attended by 11 other young Nigerians. They include: Adindu Kingsley, Aliyu Sadiq, Biriowo Kazeem, Garba Bilkisu, Ibrahim Joseph, Idehai Rita, Obot Aniebiet, Offiong Priscilla, Oladosu Adenike, Okeke Fisayo, and Yange Catherine.
Also present were staffers of the ministry, Director of Human Resources Department, Mr Peter Dajan; Director of Environmental Health and Pollution Control, Mr Charles Ikeah; and Special Assistant to the Minister of State for Environment, Mr Anibogu Jonathan.
The meeting opened with Obasuyi, who also works with Climate and Sustainable Development Network of Nigeria (CSDevNet), introducing the delegates to Mrs. Ikeazor and explaining the objectives of the meeting which she said were to discuss the National Policy on Solid Waste Management which was validated in 2017 and is yet to be approved by the Federal Executive Council.
She added that the implementation of the policy would improve the current state of waste management in the country including the welfare of the informal waste workers.
Apart from informing Ikeazor on Nigeria’s youth participation at the United Nations Secretary General Climate Action Summit, the delegates also discussed challenges of climate action and the role of youth, as well as how more young people can be involved in the ministry’s work.
These include sharing youth ideas and innovations, representation in conferences, seminars, workshops, such as the yearly National Conference on Environment, which Obasuyi believes will avail the youth the opportunity to contribute their quota to positive change in the environment sector and environmental sustainability.
Addressing the concerns, the Minister of State explained that she is aware that the National Policy on Solid Waste Management in Nigeria is awaiting approval from the Federal Executive Council (FEC). She assured the youth that the FEC memo would be ready before the end of December 2019.
She also informed her guests that there is meant to be an amendment of Extended Users Responsibility section, stating that, since she assumed office, she has been reaching out to young environmentalists and advocates to foster collaboration between the youth and the Ministry of Environment.
According to her, the future is young, and the meeting is the beginning of collaborations between the ministry and the youth. She expressed delight that young people are driving the conversation on climate change in Nigeria. She underlined the need to embark on thorough advocacy, afforestation projects such as the Great Green Wall Initiative, and mentorship, noting that all of these cannot be achieved without the youth.
Oladosu, the Convener of Fridays For Future in Nigeria, wanted to know about the current state of the Climate Change Bill, for Mr President declined assent. She urged the ministry to involve the youth in deliberations and policies affecting the environment.
Responding, Ikeazor stated the ministry is working with the Department of Climate Change (DCC) to host a National Climate Change Incubation Hub as a build-up on the regional hubs organised by DCC and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). She also promised that government would begin to host meetings where youth can discuss their issues, challenges and ideas with the ministry.
Ibrahim, Programme Manager at Global Initiative for Food Security and Ecosystem Preservation (GIFSEP), asked to know what policies the ministry had on coal mining and if the ministry carries out Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) before issuing licenses to companies to mine coal. Ibrahim fear that what is in the field appears not to reflect such.
Ikeazor replied that the ministry carries out EIA before issuing licenses to coal miners, adding that if there are any objections or concerns, evidence should be brought in and the ministry will work to solve it.
Rita of Ecobarter highlighted that only about 30% of solid waste are currently recyclable in Nigeria (asides compost) and bulk of the recovery is done by the informal waste pickers, with just 30% of the waste classified as recyclable. She wanted to know what the ministry was doing to bring the informal sector into the fold of waste management.
Ikeazor pointed out that the ministry was working to formulate laws and guidelines on EPR Bill, while informing the group that the ministry also seeks to empower vulnerable groups and women as well as those in informal sector in waste management.
Offiong, Programme Officer of Climate Change Network of Nigeria, underscored the need to have a climate change school curriculum in Nigeria, as well as the need for the ministry to support programmes initiated by individuals/youth organisations on tree planting such as the on-going #GreeningNigeria and #OneBllionTreesForAfrica Project aimed at planting 400 million fruit trees in Nigeria to reduce carbon emissions and solve food insecurity.
The Minister asked that a proposal should be sent to the ministry in that regard. She also urged people to visit www.climatechange.org.ng to learn more about climate change in Nigeria.
Ikeazor the delegates that the Ministry was ready to collaborate with them and welcome their ideas. According to her, the ministry is the custodian of laws, while the youth are the drivers of the laws.
She promised to embark on an inspection of recycling facilities to see how the government can help maintain and support them, starting with Abuja.
By Adesuwa Obasuyi