The Children, Youths and Women Empowerment Initiative (CHiYoWo), Community Development Advocacy Foundation (CODAF) and Printrite have stated that at the rate the environment is being polluted and forests disappearing, Nigeria may soon run out of natural resources.
The rights group raised the alarm during an interactive session to mark World Earth Day, commemorated annually to demonstrate practical support for environmental protection.
The groups said in a joint statement that this year’s edition with the theme “Restore Our Earth” was apt, warning that “the rate at which the environment in Nigeria is being polluted and the rapid disappearance of forests indicate the Country will soon run out of its natural resources needed to sustain the nation.
“There is a stark reality that Nigeria may become one of the poorest nations in the coming years if it does not promote sustainability and effectively manage pollution and deforestation as a matter of utmost urgency.”
For the Executive Director of CHiYoWo, Ms. Tokunbo Ifaturoti, “starting from 1990 to 2020, the world has lost more than 420 million hectares of its forest to different land use projects. Between 2015 and 2020, the rate of deforestation was estimated at 10 million hectares per year, down from 16 million hectares per year in the 1990s.”
She said forests act as a food safety net during climate shocks, reduce risks from disasters like coastal flooding, and help regulate water flows and microclimates.
“Therefore, improving the health of these forest ecosystems and introducing community-based forest management practices will increase the resilience of human and natural systems and reduce the impacts of climate change.
Still on the World Earth Day, Benin Richard of CODAF stated that the world’s forests absorb 2.4 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, one-third of the annual CO2 released from burning fossil fuels.
“Continuous destruction of the forests will emit further carbon into the atmosphere, with 4.3–5.5 GtCO2eq/yr generated annually, largely from deforestation and forest degradation.
“Protecting and restoring this vast carbon sink is essential for mitigating climate change and preserving peoples’ health and sources of livelihoods.
“Over the recent years, there has been a massive interest in the palm oil business with devastating effects on forests in Nigeria.
“Both Edo and Cross Rivers states have seen a huge influx of companies evict farmers from their lands and carry out massive deforestation activities to build palm oil companies.
“The effect of these actions has had huge negative impact on the source of livelihoods for local farmers, their families and the local communities with enormous impact on the environment as well.”
The CODAF Director highlighted that pollution from different sources is the biggest environmental cause of diseases and premature death in Nigeria and across the globe, a case in point being the 2010 lead poisoning incident in 2010 in Zamfara State.
“Pollution of air, land, and water cause more than nine million premature deaths (16% of all deaths worldwide). That is three times more deaths than the ones caused by AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined and 15 times more than the ones also recorded from all wars and other forms of violence.
“Global health crises, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic further highlights the need for continued action in addressing environmental pollution.
“It is evident that the current trend of global diseases outbreak, incidence of illness and death due to COVID-19 are directly linked to increased pollution and climate change.”
Also speaking, Chief Executive Officer, Austine Igwe of Printrite, was very critical of the increasing cases of pollution and deforestation as a result of unsustainable production and consumption.
He emphasised the need for the world to critically address pollution because of its unacceptable toll on health and human capital, as well as associated GDP losses.
“The pollution that occurs in Ogoniland and other parts of the Niger Delta region shows a very high level of economic losses and health challenges.
“Pollution management seems to offer no regrets options that can alleviate poverty, boost shared prosperity, and address the vital demands of millions of people for healthier and more productive lives,” he added.
Igwe advised that the world needs to embrace alternative options to safeguard, reinforce sustainability, and restore natural and modified ecosystems.
“Systems and processes should be adapted to effectively address societal challenges to provide human well-being and biodiversity benefits across Nigeria and the world’s ecosystems,” he concluded in celebration of the World Earth Day session.