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Confab rejects special court for environmental issues, endorse resource democracy

ABUJA—Applause and knocks greeted the report of the Committee on Environment when it was presented to the plenary of the on-going national conference in Abuja on Monday.

In particular, the committee’s recommendations demanding the removal of the Land Use Act from the 1999 Constitution and the establishment of a special court to deal with environmental issues received mixed reactions from various delegates, depending on which tribal grouping they belong to.

Retired Justice Abdullahi Mustapha said it was appalling to realise that every agency of government wanted establishment of special courts to handle its issues.
He was of the opinion that existing courts had the capability to handle such issues if reformed and properly situated.

During the clause-by-clause consideration of the report and its recommendations, this suggestion was voted out.

Another recommendation that was hailed by some and condemned by others was the suggestion for resource democracy which the conference described as the right of the people to own and manage their resources by prospecting for and developing such resources in their territories.

This recommendation, in spite of the knocks it received from a section of the delegates, was retained by the committee during consideration of recommendations, through a voice vote.

While presenting the report, chairman of the Committee, Senator Florence Ita-Giwa, had said every decision arrived at was exhaustively researched and debated, while experts in various areas of environment-related disciplines were invited for professional inputs and suggestions.

All the same, some of the delegates found faults in areas covered by the committee, while others as Ledum Mitee from Rivers State, pointed out factual errors and inconclusive analysis in specific areas.

Chief Edwin Clark, who turned 87 on Sunday, said there was nothing new about most of the recommendations of the committee; explaining that what was lacking was the political will on the part of the leaders to accept suggestions and have them implemented.

He said:  “We in the riverine areas, live on top of water but we have no water to drink. We cannot farm. We cannot do fishing. The vegetation has changed.

The committee had in its analysis pointed out that climate change has already led to serious desertification in northern Nigeria, affecting at least 11 states with the serious implication of dislocation of populations and livelihoods.

It observed that southward migration of pastoralists in search of grazing grounds could well be one of the key factors leading to conflicts with farmers in other areas.
It recommended dedicated actions to save Lake Chad from complete disappearance while forest reserves should be established, protected and properly maintained by the both the federal and state governments.

The committee stated the need for government to encourage communities to imbibe the culture of tree planting, strict regulation and enforcement of logging activities and creation and proper funding of a reforestation and a forestation agency to handle all anti-desertification projects.


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