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Nigeria’s rough road to Copenhagen: The story of a failed summit (2)

In red Cap, Chief  Ojo Maduekwe, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Representative of President Umaru Yar'Adua; Minister of Environment, Mr. John Odey and Nigerian Ambassador to the Nordic, Dr. Boladei Godknows Igali, at  plenary of the last Climate Change Meeting in Denmark: Photo: Eze Anaba.
In red Cap, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Representative of President Umaru Yar'Adua; Minister of Environment, Mr. John Odey and Nigerian Ambassador to the Nordic, Dr. Boladei Godknows Igali, at plenary of the last Climate Change Meeting in Denmark: Photo: Eze Anaba.

By Eze Anaba, just back from Copenhagen
A lot of obstacles dotted Nigeria’s path   to the  Copenhagen Climate Change Conference. While most countries started preparing for the Copenhagen summit immediately after the last meeting in Bali, Indonesia, in December 2008, the relevant agencies in Nigeria as usual went to sleep.

It was apparent that most nations that were serious about getting desirable deals in Copenhagen had commenced work after the Bali meeting, but indications showed that this was not the case with Nigeria.

According to an insider in the Nigerian Team to Copenhagen, Bali was the beginning of the problem with the Nigerian Road to Copenhagen. It was learnt that while the 2009 budget, which was to take care of the participation of Nigeria in Copenhagen was being considered, nothing was earmarked for the meeting. This lack of consideration of Copenhagen in the budget was said to have been caused by alleged bad blood among  some officials in charge of the ministry.

Some insiders queried why the personal misgivings among the ministers then could be allowed to affect an issue of national importance such as Climate Change which impact would negatively change the lives of millions of Nigerians and perhaps, the geography of the country itself.

Also, the National Assembly, especially the Senate, which had a standing Committee on Environment and Ecology appeared to have been busy on other matters apart from  environmental governance and  concern for climate change and its impacts on the country. The House appeared more receptive as it created a separate committee for the problem, although, belatedly.

Although at several fora, the Chairperson of the Senate  Committee, Grace Bent, had always spoken of her passion to tackle climate change. When an opportunity came for her to exhibit that passion in Copenhagen, her performance did not match the passion.  Her Committee knew the importance of the Copenhagen deal to Nigeria but allegedly failed to include the nation’s participation in the 2009 Budget.

While her counterpart in the House, Chairman of the House Committee on Climate Change, Mr. Eziuche Ubani, burnt himself out attending negotiation meetings and other side events for Nigeria under sub-zero temperatures, Senator Bent came in late into the conference and left shortly after.

Sources at the Climate Change unit of the Ministry revealed that lack of budgeting and the alleged high-handedness of the Senate Committee before the House of Representative created a separate Committee for Climate Change, were part of the major problems that confronted the nation’s participation at the COP15 meeting.

The scenario was also said to be so bad that when Mr. John Odey was redeployed in December 2008 from the Ministry of Information and Communications, after the budget had been concluded, he made  spirited efforts to redeem the situation.

It was learnt that but for the commitment of the minister, Nigeria would have either missed out in Copenhagen or performed  shamefully.

The minister was said to have constantly forced the officers of the Special Climate Change Unit to ensure that Nigeria did not fail at Copenhagen. He was said to have met with President Umaru Yar’Adua, the Vice-President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan  and many of his colleagues to stress the importance of Copenhagen to Nigeria, Nigerians and the development agenda of President Yar ‘Adua.

A source in the ministry revealed that when the Minister realised the exclusion of the Climate Change in the 2009 budget and the need to sensitise Nigerians on the causes and impacts of the problem, he embarked on courting the goodwill of development agencies and the organised private sector.

It was through this channel that the various roundtable meetings held to prepare Nigeria ’s position for the Copenhagen Conference took place. The source added that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), was a saving grace for Nigeria while MTN was said to have also aided the ministry’s efforts at sensitising Nigerians.

The dedication of the minister was visible at the meeting. Most of the time, he was always the last person to leave the Bella Centre venue of the Summit after having attended the usually long plenary meetings and regional consultative meetings of the African Group and that of Group of 77 plus China with his colleagues – the Minister of State Power, Minister of State Health and the Minister of Foreign Affairs as well as the seemingly indefatigable Nigerian Ambassador to the Nordic Countries, Dr. Boladei Godknows Igali.

The team ensured that at every meeting and consultative points, Nigeria’s position, which revolves round the demand for deep emission cut on the part of the developed countries, establishment of deep and easily accessible fund for adaptation in the developing countries, enhancing the capacity of local residents to adapt to the impact of climate change and transferring of relevant technology to aid adaptation and mitigation efforts in Nigeria and African countries, were topical on negotiation table.

The strength of negotiation by Nigeria was so strong that the head of the Special Climate Change Unit, Dr. Victor Fadeke, was a constant and vocal point at many press conferences and meetings of the regional bloc.

The strength of the Africa Group into which Nigeria had fused its position and that of G77 and China became the defining moments of the Conference at a time until the face-off between the US and China changed the text of what would have been a resounding success for Africa and the developing nations.

With the final text, Copenhagen Accord, which came of the summit, Nigeria and other African nations may now have to resort to national efforts at adaptation to the impacts of Climate Change. Copenhagen Accord has certainly become an eye-opener that if we are to adapt to the sweeping impacts of Climate Change, states and local governments in the country must buy in now to ensure a national approach to tackling the problem.

According to the Minister of Environment, “There is a need for Nigerians to be massively mobilised to adopt adaptation attitude to the impacts of Climate Change. We must also begin to mobilise ourselves to take measures to reduce the emission of the culprit gases responsible for global warming. The campaign against climate change should be taken as a matter of  national security due to massive negative impacts that Climate Change will have on our country.

As the world continues to find solutions to the looming challenges of global warming and climate change, Nigeria should not be left behind in preparing the  people for the impacts of climate change and strategies on tapping the opportunities therein.”

Supporting the position of the Minister, the Nigerian Ambassador to the Nordic warned that Nigeria and other nations of the world could afford in-action at this time. He said, “the effect of Climate Change such as melting glaciers, drowning islands and maritime communities and unprecedented desertification and drought, is sadly irreversible.

It impinges at the very core of economics, global ethics and the very survival of humankind. Therefore, the option of a Plan B in terms of inaction is completely unattainable.”

One thing that needs to be stated clearly is that tackling climate change would need a renewed dedication on the part of everyone in Nigeria, especially all the three tiers of government in the country. The states and the local government authorities have a great role to play in various adaptation and mitigation measures.


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