By Imanuel Jannah*
ABUJA – The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Paul Thomas Arkwright, has said President Muhammadu Buhari** should look to strengthening bilateral collaboration with the United Kingdom in the areas of environmental safety.
He disclosed this while sharing his thoughts on the theme of sustainable development and stakeholders’ participation in the green economy.
Arkwright said he believes Nigeria needs to be part the global green economy, by weakening its dependence on oil and strengthening its green industry.
He said Nigeria’s joining of the global green economy is important going by the 2011 UNEP report which concluded that there were high levels of oil pollution exposing local communities to contaminated groundwater and soil in the Niger-Delta.
He commended President Buhari and the Honourable Minister for the launch of the clean-up of Ogoniland in June, and reiterated that it is only through working together that the federal government can make sure the Nigerian environment is protected and improved for generations to come.
“I believe we can do more to support growth and innovation in a new global green economy. Nigeria needs to be part of that positive agenda, and the global green economy, weakening its dependence on oil and strengthening its green industry. I firmly believe this is an area where we should look to strengthen our bilateral collaboration. This requires us to be innovative and to support research that can help to improve social and environmental safety. The UK and Nigeria are well-placed to do this together.
“In addition to the global climate risks, there are immediate local impacts of the carbon economy in Nigeria. The 2011 UN Environment Programme (UNEP) report outlining the findings of an independent and comprehensive study of oil pollution in Ogoniland in Nigeria concluded that there were high levels of pollution exposing local communities to contaminated groundwater and soil.
“So I commend the President Buhari and the Honourable Minister for the launch of the clean-up of Ogoniland in June, and we are aware one billion dollars has been committed by international oil companies to this oil clean-up exercise. We hope and expect that these funds will boost employment and drive development among Ogoniland communities devastated by
contamination from spills.
“In the UK’s bid to ensure a safe and secure environment, our Department for International Development (DFID) runs a £14 million Facility for Oil Sector Transparency and Reform project to reduce the many incentives for misuse of power and capture of oil revenues in Nigeria. In part it also attempts to help address the environmental challenges in the Niger Delta.
“Our UK minister for Africa, Mr. Tobias Elwood was in Nigeria recently and he visited Abuja and Port Harcourt. Minister Ellwood overflew part of the Niger Delta and saw first-hand the devastating environmental damage caused by decades of oil spills and the challenges of policing the riverine areas to prevent oil bunkering and illegal refineries. He and I visited a community in Ogale (Rivers state) that has been severely affected by oil spills caused in part by archaic pipeline infrastructure, and drew black and oil scented water from a well which, according to the UNEP 2011 report, held water containing 900 times the World Health Organisation level of benzene.
“Our DFID funded FOSTER project has helped with establishing a strong foundation for support of the cleanup of Ogoniland by engaging with members of local communities drawn from four local Government areas in Ogoniland. Through this and other ways my team on the ground here in Nigeria is helping as we can, and I can assure you that the UK will continue to do so.
“A significant percentage of UK’s climate finance is flowing to Nigeria. As of September 2015, sixty two million UK pounds from the UK’s Global Environmental Fund and Clean Technology Fund had been put to projects in Nigeria to support adaptation and the wider fight against climate change.
“And our message to companies in the UK and globally is that climate change is a threat and an opportunity: the “Green economy” in the UK was valued at £120 billion in 2014. This green economy represents amazing opportunities for Nigeria too. And I agree with the Honourable Minister that the private sector is key to this.
“I want to reiterate that it is only through working together that we can make sure our environment is protected and improved for generations to come. I spoke with the Honourable Minister for the Environment on this just a few days ago. We agreed that the challenges were huge, the opportunities also significant, and the only way to move ahead was through global
partnership. I commend the work of the Nigeria Environmental Society and the many other strong voices within the NGO sector helping to support this, and I am delighted to learn of the close collaboration between the NES and relevant institutions in the UK,” he said.