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Concluding Thought: @MBuhari Preach On Green Options

Nigeria, April 30th, 2015 - Emerging global trends have shown that modern-day environmentalism is different from what was obtainable in time past. Unlike when environmentalists were viewed as Earth-loving weirdos steeped in the tenets of the New Age Movement, today’s green people are perceived as practical problem solvers using a new paradigm of economics to conceive ways of managing Earth’s fast depreciating natural resources sustainably.
“The greater challenge is ours, to understand how to conserve nature’s gift, to adapt to nature’s evolution, to mitigate the hazards of the environment, and to seek for sustainability in all that we do
—Governor Babatunde Fashola
The reality is that green creates jobs, ensures safety, inspires knowledge and moulds democratic inclusiveness. A careful observation shall reveal that we are gradually rolling to a global era when people, events and materials shall be weighed by their environmental friendliness and sustainability profile. Germany, one of the best economies of the world, is set on totally transforming to a 100 per cent green economy. The Republic of South Africa — a nation that embraced renewable energy in 2011 — has already generated more than 4,500MW of electricity from the sun.

In Nigeria, Lagos State is a shining example. One cannot imagine the sordid dystopia the city would have become had its government not drawn out, instituted and thoroughly implemented a green agenda. Actually, it is easy to ignore the impact, because evil is more noticeable than good. But the records are real. The government planted over five million trees and created 196 parks with a Parks and Gardens Agency to maintain and sustain them. It is powering many public schools and health centres with solar energy. The Lagos Waste Management Authority has become a multinational entity of sort, rendering services to other African countries.

I make bold to state that it is these green options that distinguished Governor Babatunde Fashola from other governors, and effectively elevated him to a global pedestal in governance. He created more than 90,000 jobs through green initiatives, and set up an environment for statewide prosperity.

Likewise, all things being equal, Nigeria is about to get a green deal. Firstly, President-elect Muhammadu Buhari could change the face of the country by planting as many trees as possible everywhere he can find the space to do so. When I say tree-planting, I mean tree planting, not cosmetic, photo-op, “tree-sticking” exercises that we are used to, usually carried on as publicity shows by government personalities. Real tree planting involves a rigorous, research-based green process that brings with it a comprehensive agricultural value chain. It starts with species-to-location mapping; to nursery planting; to watering and nurturing; and then to fruition and harvest. It will create employment and bring foreign exchange to Nigeria.

Secondly, in mapping out ways to tackle insurgency and insecurity scourge in the country, Buhari must add to the solution mix the issue of climate change. Boko Haram was like a seed planted in a fertile ground; and the socio-economic atmosphere in the rural enclaves of the North-East provided a perfect fertiliser. The drying up of Lake Chad worsened the economic situation of the region and created a generation of unemployed youths who are easy pickings for terrorist recruitment agents. It is an apocalyptic vicious circle. Past governments have neglected our river basins; the incoming administration must not perpetuate the mistake.

And talking about water management, we must reckon that the nationwide flooding of 2012 was basically as a result of the opening of the Lagdo Dam by the Cameroon authorities bordering Adamawa State. Past Nigerian governments ignored building buffer dams as recommended by experts which would have taken the excess water from the Cameroon side.

Thirdly, related to the issue of insecurity is the menace of illegal refineries in the Niger Delta. We are all witnesses to constant raids and arrests of the so-called illegal crude oil refiners whose trade constitutes environmental hazard to the already endangered region. I am not impressed by the way the authorities deal with this issue.

The usual practice has been for the security operatives to descend on the illegal refinery; destroy every equipment and crude oil; and then smile to the cameras as the crude refining equipment goes up in smoke at the background. Meanwhile, how many of these officers come back to tell Nigerians how these “areas boy refiners” eventually regain their freedom, and go back again to the same trade?

Here, Buhari has to be creative. All the so-called illegal refineries should be properly profiled and the boys mainstreamed into the industry in an incentive-driven institutionalised refining structure, instead of random destruction. You can call it a carrot and stick approach. We must recognise that they are artisans and need to explore their talents and make money; and it is the job of the government to give them a legitimate platform. These capacities must not waste. Even in the developed world, criminals are mainstreamed by the authorities in technical crime-detection-and-prevention departments just in order to utilise talent. No knowledge is a waste.

Fourthly, the President-elect must distinguish himself by showing the will to end gas flaring in Nigeria. In 1969, then Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, gave the oil companies in Nigeria a five-year ultimatum within which to stop gas flaring. Five years came and passed, and the oil companies continued having a field day flaring. In 1984, the Supreme Court banned gas flaring and declared it “unconstitutional”, but the practice continued unabated. In 2000, President Olusegun Obasanjo declared zero tolerance for gas flaring, but nothing changed. In 2012, the National Assembly gave a deadline to oil exploration companies to stop gas flaring activities in all the oil fields in Nigeria; and up till now we are waiting for the deadline to take effect.

Buhari can achieve this by giving the marching order to oil multinationals to commence gas-to-liquid projects in order to convert the wasted gas to energy. In order to make this possible, he should insist that the abandoned government construction of meters for measurement of gas be completed. The people responsible have been dilly dallying.

Fifthly, the constant conflicts between itinerant pastoralists and host communities are getting out of hand, and might become another national emergency like Boko Haram. So, perhaps, it is time Buhari dusted up that PTF project tagged, “Rehabilitation of Livestock Production Facilities and Procurement of Inputs in Nigeria”, which was planned to solve once and for all what we generally know today as violent conflicts between Fulani herdsmen and farmers.

Among the revelations from the project as it progressed was the fact that most of the people that we today generally term as “Fulani herders” are actually non-Nigerian pastoralists from neighbouring countries (especially the Udawa pastoralists); therefore, the project recommended the introduction of “Transhumance Certificate” for Nigeria, to mainstream indigenous herders and gradually root out invasive elements.

Among other things, the project further observed that: The conflicts between pastoralists and farmers in the country are escalating; the Grazing Reserve Law of 1965 is still applicable throughout the Northern states but is not enforced; the law had not made provision for the protection of stock routes; there is no applicable law to support the establishment and development of both stock routes and grazing reserves in Southern Nigeria; there is an absence of facilities and infrastructure in grazing reserves and a lack of gazetting of grazing reserves; there should be integration of sedentary and semi-sedentary pastoralists with irrigation requirements.

I believe that the Ecological Fund is enough to fund this vital project which will create jobs and generate revenue for the country. No more shall our Ecological Fund serve as politicians’ slush funds. And with sanity brought back to these green funds, Buhari can write his name in gold within a short time.

By Greg Odogwu

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Concluding Thought: @MBuhari Preach On Green Options Reviewed by Olumide Idowu on Thursday, April 30, 2015 Rating: 5
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