By Rotimi Ajayi
A lot of words have been spoken by the Federal Government over its commitment to tackle the challenges of Climate Change in Nigeria. The challenges are no longer in the realm of will-be. They are here in Nigeria and they are taking tolls on the country increasingly.
Every study commissioned by the Federal Government and the report submitted to the Government through the Federal Ministry of Environment has continued to warn of the dire consequences of this problem which other nations are taking more seriously. Nigeria has also spent millions of dollars in participating in international meets on how to globally tackle the challenges.
The enormity of the challenge, which has started manifesting in expanding deserts of the North, heat waves across the country, looming devastating sea-level rise, threat to agricultural productivity among others had led to initiatives made under late President Umaru Musa Yar Adua administration to establish a very strong institution that will drive and oversee the implementation of the National Climate Policy.
These initiatives resulted in different bills for the setting up of either the Climate Change Commission or the Climate Change Agency. The initial leaning of the leadership of the Senate Committee on Environment and Ecology, then under Senator Grace Bent was to put up a Commission while the House Committees headed by Duro Faseyi and Ezeuche Ubani favoured the setting of an Agency.
Eventually the Bill was harmonized in favour of an Agency and forwarded to the President for assent. The Bill had been with President since last year and all hopes were raised that the President would certainly assent to the Bill given the importance of the institution to be set up to Nigerian development drives.
Speaking to the fourth session of the Lagos State Summit on Climate Change in Lagos last week, the Minister of Environment, Mrs Hadiza Ibrahim Mailafia hinted about the efforts being made by the Ministry to upgrade the present Department of Climate Change to an Agency.
At the time she was speaking, it was certain that any member of the audience who had been following the progress of work on Bill would have believed and hoped that possibly the President had given the assurance to give the assent.
Such belief and hope may have turned out to be a chimera as information coming from top government source that should know last weekend revealed that the Bill had been returned to the National Assembly untouched.
It was not certain why such a bill would be returned but there is the possibility of its having stayed more than statutory period expected of the President to assent to a bill before such Bill will be returned to the National Assembly for reprocessing. Now what is the implication of the Climate Change Bill?
The first implication of the Bill being returned is that it would take longer time for it to come for the Presidential assent again and the longer it stays, the more damaging the impact of climate change as Nigeria would have no concrete institution to transform policies to action.
Similarlym Nigeria may be in danger of not benefitting from the international financial layout of the UNFCCC as coordination of real project that would qualify for finances may be difficult with the bureaucracy in the Ministry.
Given the snail-speed decision-reaching pattern of the President, it is certainly not surprising that the President slept away while the Bill lapsed into coma. What is however surprising is that the President who was part of the administration that started the efforts of getting the Bill raised in the first place suddenly developed clay feet on assenting to the Bill.
This is the time the President is expected to show personal leadership on the issues of Environment given his antecedent, his academic background and the fact that challenges of environment could put huge spanner in the whole transformation agenda he drew up for Nigeria.