By Adile Iroajugh
Serious contemporary environmental challenges such as climatic changes, biodiversity loss, land degradation and general erosion of the natural resources are no more the news. The news today is the commitment of both global and various national government to mitigate their impacts on both human and the environment. The world is currently witnessing unprecedented environmental challenges, human and other social activities are being disrupted. Human lives and property are being lost as a result of the negative impact of the many environmental challenges we faced. The poor and less privileged members of the society are the worst affected. Government seems ignorant or overwhelmed by the many environmental challenges.
Last December, I witnessed an avoidable auto-crash along the Onitsha-Owerri expressway that jolted me. The driver of the car, a young man in his early or middle 30s and other five passengers in the car died on the spot when their car ran into a diversion barricade along the road as a result of an erosion site that has eroded part of the expressway. I quickly recalled that the diversion has been there for over one year. I felt so bad that nothing is being done by either the state government who may claim that the road belongs to the federal government, or the federal government who feign ignorance of the plight of Nigerians uses the road under such deplorable state.
The ugly incident was one among many negative consequences of the poor and deplorable states of the environment. The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary described the environment as the natural world in which people, animals and plants lives. However, only the people have the ability to alter the natural world and to enjoy it in the way they want, animals and plants are not given that ability. The ability of the two are only limited to replenishing the natural state of the environment. My worry is, when people would learn that the environment is their natural gift from God and treat it with much deserved care and concern. When would people learn that their success and failure depends on their commitment to better their environment?
The global community came to this awareness in the early 1980 when the then Secretary General inaugurated the UN World Commission on Environment and Development to formulate ‘’A Global Agenda for Change’’. The outcome of the commission’s report led to convening of the first United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), also known as the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit from 3 to 13th June 1992. The major outcome of the conference was the formulation of a new agenda for the 21st century also known as ‘’Agenda 21’’. A major thrust of the agenda which is summarized as item one in the preamble reads; ‘humanity stands at a defining moment in history. We are confronted with a perpetuation or disparities between and within nations, and a worsening of poverty, hunger, ill-health and illiteracy, and the continuing deteriorations of the ecosystem on which we depend for your well-being. However, integration of environment and development concerns and greater attention to them will lead to the fulfillment of basic needs, improved living standards for all, better protection and managed ecosystems and a safer, more prosperous future. No nation can achieve this on its own, but together we can in a global partnership for sustainable development’.
No nation can overcome its development and environmental challenges by mere participation or speaking in a global environment and development or sustainable development partnership building forums. We have witnessed high delegate participations in such forum in the past and current leadership of Nigeria participating in such global forum. What we are yet to witness is a passionate commitment and efforts to implement the outcome of such forums locally in Nigeria. Recently the Ministers of Environment, Amina Ibraham Mohammed and that of Information, Lia Mohammed were in the media to defend President Mohammadu Buhari’s participations in similar global forums. Interestingly, the ministers said that President Buhari’s major thrust for participating at these forums, of particular interest to me was the November 30 – December 12 United Nations Climate Change Conference, held Paris, was to advocate for a new global image for Nigeria. The ministers’ explanations just demonstrated our leaders’ ignorance on key reasons for participating at such global forum.
Meanwhile, the major thrust of the Paris Conference is to evaluate and compare global and national score-cards on the successes and failures recorded in implementation of ‘Agenda 21’. Common on! how many of our past and current ministers have heard of, not to talk of reading anything portion of the agenda 21; yet the agenda provided development guidelines for every ministry, every department and every agency of government, even the private sectors.
I won’t blame President Buhari for any gap in his motive for participating in any such forum; he is just returning to mainstream global affairs after over 30 years break. And even the last time he was in the limelight, he was so busy strengthening local affairs that he missed out on most global issues. How I wish he would be guided well and equipped with the correct brief for every global forum he is bill to participate to avoid the huge waste that characterize Nigeria’s participations at such forums in recent past. I wish that the Ministers would also pay more attentions in interpreting outcome of such global forums to Mr. President than waiting to publicly defend reasons for participating at such forum. I don’t think any sane Nigerian would demand reasons for Mr. President’s participation if outcome of every global forum are localized and Nigerians witnessing the positive implementation of such outcome.
However, much as these ministers are passionate in defending President Buhari, they should constantly remind him that underlining any UN global forum is the idea that humanity has reached a turning point, growing cycle of insurgents and internally displaced people, degradation of ecosystems, global warning, poverty and hunger and other consequences. Secondly, we cannot continue with present policies which are deepening economic divisions which increase poverty, hunger, illiteracy and cause the continuing deterioration of the ecosystem on which life on earth depends. President Buhari should know also know that beyond participating or speaking in global change agenda forums, he should lead the eco-revolution. This is very essential in order to shift Nigeria onto a pathway to a more sustainable and equitable future.