By – E Kelley
OPEN LETTER TO THE HONORABLE MINISTER OF ENVIRONMENT HAJIA AMINA MOHAMMED “A CONSUMER’S PERSPECTIVE”
I wish to congratulate you on your appointment as the Honorable Minister of Environment, yours surely is a fit and apt description of a “round peg in a round hole”.
I believe you will bring your enormous experience to bear on this most critical of Ministries, which affects every aspect of our lives as humans on the planet. Having worked at the top echelons of The United Nations, served as the Special Adviser to the former President on Millennium Development Goals and other International Organizations.
With the world’s attention focused on climate change at The COP21 Conference in Paris, France, bringing world leaders to reach an agreement aimed at stabilizing the climate and avoiding the worst impacts of climate change. Environmentalists and Scientists have warned of the dire consequences of global warming on the earth and all of us who inhabit it. If urgent steps are not taken to curb greenhouse gasses. It is in this context that I felt compelled to add my voice, as a consumer advocate to the debate on the role of the consumers on global warming. I think it is disingenuous for us as Nigerians to clamor for financial aid at COP21 when our behavior and attitude is not reflective of the concern for our environment.
The Federal Ministry of Environment, on its website states it’s mission as “Ensuring environmental protection and natural resources conservation for a sustainable development “. Some of its objectives include prescribing standards and making regulations on water quality, air quality as well as noise control.
The ministry has failed in attaining it’s objectives as here in Nigeria, There is no mechanism in place to measure the air quality and alert the citizens about the dangers inherent in pollution in our cities.
There is no National Policy for the protection of the environment and conservation of natural resources, the key is recognizing that every citizen is entitled to live in a healthy and safe environment, there is need to draw up a National Strategy to deal with climate issues, involving all strata of society, it is also very vital for Nigeria to invest in alternate energy sources such as wind, solar and bio-fuels.
The 36 states of the Federation and the FCT can access these funds, through counterpart funding, whilst also encouraging private partnership. The National Assembly and State Assemblies need to enact laws encouraging green measures and energy efficiency as well as enacting proper laws to enhance the regulation, development of the natural resources and control of pollution
It is imperative to undertake an inventory of the country’s resources such as land, forest, water and mineral resources, using latest information technology and classify this in an electronic database. The classification of Nigerian wide life conservation parks as National Heritage sites and establishment of an agency to maintain these parks is very important.
Public cleanliness remains a challenge for most Nigerians, some cities have made commendable efforts to maintain some level of cleanliness and must be applauded, state like Lagos State and Cross River States. It is important that initiatives and programs in partnership with the private sector are kicked off to motivate the general public to embrace a clean and green lifestyle, to sustain a green environment for present and future generations.
A very critical aspect of this initiative should be public education, enlightenment and stiff penalties for offenders. An Anti-Liter campaign should be initiated and the relevant laws enacted to give teeth to the campaign all across the country. This message should be spread to all segments of the society, starting from the Primary schools, Secondary schools, Tertiary institutions, public institutions, religious organizations, civil society groups, market places. It is important to give the people responsibility for their environment.
Setting Aside a “Clean-Week” Initiative annually to promote environmentally friendly activities across the country. Setting competitions for the cleanest city initiative and tagging financial incentives and grants to the city which wins the award.
State Environmental Boards should be encouraged to strengthen the environmental inspectorate departments and establish help lines and other interactive platforms, letting members of the public aware of the contractors responsible for the cleaning of the various districts of their cities. So they can take pictures of uncleared refuse heaps and contractors responsible can be easily brought to book for negligence.
Another important aspect is encouraging people to minimize the use of biodegradable plastic bags. Recently a number of cities around the world have started imposing special levies targeted at discouraging the use of these bags. In 2008 Rwanda banned the manufacture, importation, sale or use of these bags. Penalties include prison terms and stiff fines. Travelers arriving Kigali are searched to remove plastic bags from their luggages. International agencies have applauded the prohibition, stating that it has helped in positioning Kigali as one of the cleanest cities in Africa.
The British Government only recently imposed the 5p tax on shopping bags. Several cities around the world have either out rightly banned these bags or imposed a sales tax on businesses which use them. In Nigeria these non-biodegradable bags are flourishing, all with the ubiquitous “Pure Water” available in every major city.
It is important to educate citizenry of the harmful effects of these non-bio degradable plastics on the environment. Some people might dismiss this as unnecessary claiming that we have bigger problems to tackle but we cannot expect to be taken seriously among the comity of nations, when most of our cities are filth hubs, with mountains of rubbish despoiling the environment. If we cannot out rightly ban we can reduce the use of non-bio gradable plastic bags. Burning of these bags releases toxic pollutants into the air and they also clog drainage systems, as well as provide a breeding ground for mosquitoes in the drains. Plastic bags can last for 1000years in landfill.
The Rwandan Government gave tax breaks to companies who manufacture these plastics bags to recycle rather than produce them creating a new market for environmentally friendly bags.
Bags can be made from bio degradable materials let’s put our researchers in our universities to work