By Rotimi Ajayi
Since the appointment of Bukola Saraki, PDP Senator representing Kwara Central as the Chair of the Senate Committee on Environment, he has consistently spoken about the need to strengthen Environmental Governance in Nigeria especially in relation to threats and challenges of Climate Change.
The desire and expressions of the Senator alongside those of members of his committee cannot be taken lightly given the fact that he was a two-term Governor of a state and as such would have seen personally the amount of environmental degradation in his state and even other states while he travelled domestically as Governor.
All documents produced by Climate Change experts in Nigeria and the ones produced by Federal Ministry of Environment have all clearly pointed out that great dangers lie ahead if Nigeria does not move effectively now to begin to implement both adaptation and mitigation measures against climate change and global warming.
The dangers are in the Nigerian First Communications to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the National Adaptation Strategy and Plan of Action, the draft National Climate Change Policy, series of Ministerial Reports to the President, the National Forestation Policy and virtually all the speeches of the last three Ministers of Environment.
In terms of words, there have been so many spoken about the dangers that global warming is bring to Nigeria and some of these dangers are already manifest in some States in the country yet, nationally, the response has been anything away from commendable.
Last week, leading the members of the Senate Committee on Environment and Ecology on oversight visit to the headquarters of the Ministry of Environment, Senator Saraki again harped on these dangers and the need for concerted immediate action to mitigate the pains that will come.
His comment came after a good presentation of the challenges to the Committee by the Minister, Hadiza Ibrahim Mailafia. Every responsible government official connected to Environmental Governance in Nigeria has always underscored the need for nationally-focused actions to safeguard our environment. They have equally spoken of the very poor financing mechanism for the Environment in Nigeria.
These were all commendable up till immediate past but not anymore. The troubles ahead demands for paradigm shift. The budget are being cooked at the National Assembly at the moment and so the onus is now on the Committees both at the Senate and House to consider the issues of Environmental degradation as a major budget issue and correct the present under-budget profile for the ministry.
Speaking at Security meet in Abuja last Friday, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation stated that the Government decided to commit the lion’s share of the 2012 budget to security in the face of the new challenges in the country. While this might sound imperative, the present administration’s logic of what actually constitute security is warped and unsound.
Attacks from Boko Haram and other militias in the Niger-Delta are challenging but buying uzzis, AKs, SMGs, Lazer Guns, and vehicles only run in the face of the problem. The problem of insecurity has very close connection to natural resources availability and access and this in turn has strong ties to issues of the Environment.
When erosion depletes cultivable land in the South East, and oil pollution, gas flaring make life unbearable in the Niger-Delta, able-bodied people could be dislocated to perceived resource rich areas and on getting there, the effects of the environmental degradation could make such critical resources needed insufficient for both the locals and the migrants.
The result will be social tension which could snow-ball into arms conflict. Now tackling the arms conflict, as the Government is doing now, has never really solved the problem which should be holistically approached. So with the budget being prepared, the Committees should not push the issues of Environment Budget to the background. This is time to act the talks of the past.