As the world commemorates the World Environment Day with the theme, “Connecting people to nature”, the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has called on the Nigerian government to go beyond joining the rest of the world to commemorate the event, and to take concrete actions to resolve the myriad of environmental challenges of oil pollution, deforestation, erosion and landgrabbing besetting the nation.
According to the ERA/FoEN, its recommendation is premised on the reminder by the United Nations that there is an intricate link between land, water, air and all living things. The UN General Assembly first designated June 5 as World Environment Day in 1972 as a means of connecting people with the environment and building of a more sustainable world for generations yet born.
In a statement issued in Lagos, ERA/FoEN said that while the theme of this year’s celebration is clear on what each nation is mandate to do, Nigeria seems to be at crossroads with its ever-widening disconnect in respect to the environmental challenges confronting the people and policies elucidated to solve them.
ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Godwin Uyi Ojo, was quoted in the statement as saying: “This year’s World Environment Day should make the Nigerian government reflect on the parlous state of our environment, particularly the ruined environment in the Niger Delta that successive governments have exploited for their own ends rather than treat as an environmental emergency issue.”
Ojo noted that all the geo-political zones of the country are either impacted by climate change or reckless extraction, starting with the north where the Sahara Desert and desertification has continued to march down from the north to the south; and to the Niger Delta where oil multinationals have sustained their massive environmental assault on farmlands, rivers and lives.
He explained that the most glaring example of government insincerity in respect to the environment is the delayed implementation of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Assessment on Ogoniland, even after the governing structures and other essential ingredients for take-off of clean-up were said to have been put in place by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
He asserted that while these issues have continued to mount, monies from the Ecological Fund meant to address them are either stolen or misappropriated, even as he added that, successive governments have failed to take concrete actions to address climate change, or protect the air and water.
The ERA/FoEN boss explained that in the area of policy it is still puzzling that the proposed Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) which at conception was a single one which directly sought to address oil pollution, poor development and some of the key oil-inflicted crisis in the Niger Delta has ended up being balkanized into three, including the so-called Petroleum industry governance bill passed recently which only focuses on revenue sharing and investment, and not the people and environment. In particular, the Petroleum Host Community Fund that recommended 10% equity payment to be devolved to communities has been left out.
On the way forward, Ojo stressed, “It is now time for this administration to show good example by righting the wrongs of the past and this should start with commencing the cleanup of Ogoniland in line with the UNEP recommendations. This should be a prelude to carrying out a comprehensive environmental audit of the entire Niger Delta and other impacted regions including the establishment $100 billion fund for the clean up and remediation of the entire Niger Delta.”