By Raji Usman and Ismail Isah
The environment constitutes the totality of the surrounding of man. Individuals, communities and nations have become increasingly conscious of the impact of the environment on the wellbeing of the world and the people. Activities of individuals, communities, corporate organizations and indeed governments have been cited among factors responsible for the depletion of the environment over time. Man, like other creatures, has altered his environment and continues to disrupt the ecosystem in ways that endanger the environment.
While individuals have a responsibility to protect the environment against degradation, government at all levels has even greater responsibility of ensuring environmental sustainability in the overall best interest of the society.
Though Nigeria is a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol, there are indications that the country has not been vocal in advancing the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and other international conventions on the protection of the environment. Despite the perceived slow progress made by the country in addressing environmental issues, some state governments are believed to be working assiduously on measures to guarantee environmental protection and sustainability.
For example, Governor Idris Wada of Kogi State has made the protection of the environment a cardinal focus of his development agenda. On assumption of office, Governor Wada stated that the future of Kogi State depends on the creation of a sustainable environment where people and all natural endowments in the state would co-exist in a manner that protects the state from adverse impact of sudden and expected environmental factors such as rainfall, heat, wind etc.
The governor who noted that he was conscious of the peculiarities of the weather condition in Kogi State, especially Lokoja the state capital and its environs, promised to accord the environment a special attention in his development agenda.
In nearly four years of the administration, several measures have been put in place to mitigate adverse effects of environmental degradation on the people of the state.
One of such measures taken by the administration of Capt. Idris Wada to ensure the protection of the environment was the decision to preserve the over 482,000 ha/Km2 of forest and game reserves that were hitherto at the mercy of poachers and timber contractors in the state.
In order to forestall the associated negative impact of the frequency and intensity of extreme weather on the lives and properties as well as the socio-economic development of the state, Climate Change Department was established in the Kogi State Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources.
This move according to the Commissioner for Environment, Mr. Tayo Aremu was to empower the ministry to offer timely advice to Ministries, Departments and Agencies like Agriculture, health, Water Resources, Disaster Management office, and Commerce in relation to weather for proper and early planning. The department of Climate Change is also to provide timely and accurate weather information to mitigate associated hazards to life and property by extreme weather conditions.
In response to the extensive flooding that affected the state in 2012, Governor Wada has also embarked on the 1.5 Billion Naira worth of Beach Embankment project on the bank of River Niger to protect lives and property as well as other valuable resources in the event of flooding by the River Niger. The project has taken off, and when completed is also strategic in enhancing the beauty of Lokoja the state capital which is a gateway to the Federal Capital Territory.
Kogi State under Captain Wada has also keyed into international programmes to improve the environment and ensure sustainability. The UN-HABITAT’s Resilience Action plan which is currently being developed for Kogi state; and the World Bank assisted Nigeria Erosion and Water Shed Management Project (NEWMAP) are two cardinal programmes from which the state is currently benefiting. The UN-HABITAT programme has four targeted cities in Kogi state; Lokoja, Dekina, Kabba and Okene selected for modernisation to attain modern city status comparable to any city in the world.
The State Government recently inaugurated the steering committee for the Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP), with the call on the members to strive to ensure that issues of erosion and water shed management receive a priority attention in the state.
Speaking during the inauguration of the committee in Lokoja, Capt. Idris Wada urged members of the committee to ensure that its efforts stem the tide of erosion and other manifestations of environmental degradation in the State.
Membership of the NEWMAP committee who were drawn from the ministries of Environment, Agriculture, Rural Development, Water Resources, Finance and that of Land, Housing and Urban Development, and other relevant MDAs, underscores the importance of the task before the committee.
The Governor who called for urgency in meeting the timeline of the World Bank-assisted project in Kogi and seven other states in Nigeria, charged the committee to provide a multi-sectoral approach that is in conformity with global best practices in tackling erosion and watershed challenges.
Kogi State is among the first seven States benefiting from the programme which is a partnership between the Federal Government of Nigeria and the World Bank.
Apart from these major interventions to ensure sustainable environment, the state government also recognizes the fact that Human Population growth is at the root of virtually all the world’s environmental problems. The present administration provided very vast dump sites at various locations in the state to accommodate solid wastes thereby preventing illegal dumping of waste within the metropolis.
Other measures put in place by the administration of Capt. Wada include the proposed establishment of a waste recycling plant at Felele, regular evacuation of drainages within the state capital and major cities, provision of public dustbins on major streets to enhance daily collection of solid wastes, construction of VIP toilets in strategic locations within Lokoja metropolis to prevent open and indiscriminate defecation and the attendant health hazards and the enforcement of monthly sanitation exercise in the state.
Governor Wada’s impact on the environment is a worthy example of government in mitigating the negative effects of environmental degradation in the face of emerging threats to the wellbeing of the people and the society.
Raji Usman and Ismail Isah write from the Kogi State Ministry of Information, LokojaNo tags for this post.