ENVIRONMENT FG too overbearing on issues of environment – NES
Olu Andah Wai-Ogosu
is the National President of the Nigerian Environmental Society (NES) and a delegate at the ongoing National Conference. In this interview, he discusses some of the environmental problems plaguing Nigeria and proffers solution on the way forward. Excerpts:
are the current environmental issues affecting Nigeria presently?
we have episodes, we visit places like the flood of 2012, we visited affected communities to educate them on how to reduce the impact of hazards, we do advocacy, and also in Bayelsa, in 2012, we visited the people where water became a problem. And also in Ogoni, six years before, UNEP came in and we were there with advocacy and fact finding to highlight the problems there.
What yardstick does the society use to measure the impact of its activities in these areas?
All the branches I mentioned earlier submit reports to the national body of NES and we relate with other organisations to have a feel of our performance. And don’t forget, we are down at the grassroots and have periodic environmental campaign where we have contact with the people. There is high level of awareness among people when it comes to environmental issues, anyway. In some areas when you go there, you have to interact with the youths or their leaders there.
But do you agree that there are overlapping functions from agencies like NESREA, NOSDRA etc?
Yes, there are overlapping functions in ministries, departments and agencies resulting in conflict in mandate where you have two, three agencies discharging a similar function and that is a problem. But we don’t have problem with NGOs who are our partners.
What is the solution?
We have to look at the constitution and fine tune areas in the concurrent and exclusive list and, secondly, the Federal Government is too overbearing when it comes to issues of environment, it should only concern itself with policy and regulation and enforcement, but are they well equipped in terms of capacity and infrastructure, no. The solution lies in devolution of power, weaken the centre so that other arms could be more functional or we could pool all of these into one body like an Environmental Protection Agency.
As a member of the national conference, how do you intend to use the platform in tackling the environmental issues?
Like I said, the environment has been battled from the north to the south and any damage done to the environment affects health, education, agriculture, not to talk of political crisis. So we will use the confab to drum home the fact that we are facing a major ecological crisis and if we don’t look at how we manage it, we may not have the desired environment in the next few decades. The seasonal flooding we have, our attitude to surface water, we will use the medium to draw attention to these, including ground water. Because of population in Kaduna, River Rima is almost gone; we are going to suggest the way forward. The structure of government, is it favorable to the environment? No, so we will look at that too. Our position paper will be made available to all the delegates.
Do you think the conference will make any impact at the end?
We have seen that kind of scenario. Other conferences have held in the past, but have their outcomes been implemented? In my opinion, what comes of the conference, if we do not implement it, we will not leave anything for future generation.