The Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has said that the state’s holistic approach to tackling issues of environmental degradation is driven through the joint effort of oil palm plantation owners and other actors, including primary school pupils, to ensure the buy-in of relevant stakeholders.
The governor said this during the opening ceremony of the 29th National Conference and Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Nigerian Environmental Society (NES) themed: “Narratives of the Nigerian environment needs, a holistic approach,” held in Benin City, the Edo State Capital.
Obaseki said that over 3,000 gully erosion sites in Nigeria were man-made, calling for attitudinal change by the citizenry, to ensure a lasting solution of erosion and environmental degradation.
He said the state government has reclaimed about 284,000 hectares of land in targeted watershed areas, noting, “In Edo State, we are concerned about the rate of deforestation. Consequently, we set up a forest commission to regulate our forest resources. From the almost 635,000 hectares of forestland that we inherited from the British colonial system, we have less than 150,000 hectares left.”
He continued: “We have made available about 135,000 hectares of badly degraded forest land for oil palm plantation with a commitment from the investors to reforest one hectare of forestland for every four hectares of oil palm land that we gave them.”
The governor noted that the huge resources spent on solving the gully erosion problems in the country could have been channelled to developmental programmes.
“We have spent huge resources on controlling and trying to recover erosion sites. The money could have been spent on building schools, hospitals, roads and other infrastructure to make life better for the people”.
Obaseki said as a preventive measure, every Edo pupil would contribute to protecting the environment, noting “Each child in Edo Basic Education Sector Transformation (Edo-BEST) Programme is now expected to plant one tree on his or her birthday.”
He said with the EdoBEST programme, the state is re-enacting the basic education sub-sector and has made it mandatory in the curriculum for pupils and students to be equipped with the knowledge about their environment.
“We treat environmental issues as if they are not important and don’t deserve our full attention. The global experience this year has shown the magnitude and dimension of the environmental challenges the world is now facing. Our society must take environmental issues seriously because we are the potential casualty of any environmental disaster”.
National President, Nigerian Environmental Society, Prof. Lawrence Ikechukwu Ezemonye, commended Governor Obaseki for formulating and implementing environmentally-friendly policies which have made the state a force to reckon with in the country.
The highpoint of the conference was an honourary Fellowship Award bestowed on the governor by the society for his contribution to the environment.