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Tackling climate change problems in Nigeria  

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By Martins Abochol

Climate change has become a global concern with harmful effects as seasonal cycles are disrupted. For example, food production and water supply are adversely affected by the effects of climate change.
The impact of climate change induces new challenges in the global campaign against extreme poverty and diseases, particularly in developing countries like Nigeria.
Experts predict that in many sub-Saharan African countries, climate change could mean more frequent drought, floods and water scarcity.
They fear that the new challenges will make it difficult to achieve the objectives of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), as they somewhat threaten the progress already made in the fight against extreme poverty and disease
Speaking on climate change, the Minister of Environment, Hajia Hadiza Mailafia, said that the Federal Government was mindful of the adverse consequences of the phenomenon, adding that it was striving to sensitise the citizens to the dangers of climate change.
The minister made this known in Abuja at a Ministerial Press Briefing organised to mark first anniversary of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.
She said that the ministry would soon launch a public awareness campaign on climate change so as to educate the people on their expectations, particularly in the areas of adaptation and mitigation.
Mailafia announced that a graduate programme on climate change issues would soon be introduced in two Nigerian universities, under the aegis of the German Initiative on the West African Science Service Centre on Climate Change and Adaptive Land Use.
According to her, the two institutions which will run the programme are Federal University of Technology, Akure, and Federal University of Technology, Minna.
The minister also announced that the special climate change unit of the ministry had been upgraded to a full-fledged department, as part of efforts to combat the adverse effects of climate change in the country.
Besides, Mailafia said that Nigeria had collaborated with other ECOWAS member states to develop a West African Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (WACCAS).
“The development of nationally appropriate mitigation action plans via ECOWAS, as well as the establishment of a special climate change trust fund have been some of the achievements of the ministry,’’ she said.
On the state of the country’s forests, the minister noted that Nigeria’s total forest cover had depreciated from six per cent in 1997 to 10 per cent in 2010.
“The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has recommended that 25 per cent of total landmass of a country should be under forest cover,’’ she said.
Mailafia also noted that the number of states that were ravaged by desert encroachment had increased from 11 to 13.
She, however, listed the 11 states that were seriously affected by desert encroachment as Adamawa, Kebbi, Kano, Katsina, Jigawa, Bauchi, Borno, Yobe, Zamfara, Gombe and Sokoto states.
She bemoaned the fact that between 50 per cent and 75 per cent of Bauchi, Borno, Yobe and Gombe states were prone to desertification
“Thirty-five  per cent of Adamawa, Jigawa, Kano, Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara and Katsina states are prone to desertification, while 10 per cent to 15 per cent of the neighbouring states are also desert-prone,’’ she added.
As part of efforts to check the growing menace of desertification, Mailafia said that the ministry had distributed 22 million assorted seedlings to communities under the Presidential Initiative on Afforestation.
“These seedlings were also distributed to institutions for the establishment of woodlots and forest reserves, as well as for the greening of premises,’’ she said.
The minister said that the ministry was intensifying efforts via the Green Wall Sahara Initiative to ensure the preservation of the environment.
In the area of e-waste management, Mailafia announced the ban on the use of two-stroke engines in the country.
“A two-stroke engine is an internal combustion engine that completes the process cycle in one revolution of the crankshaft.
“The importation of old vehicles and cars with two-stroke engines into Nigeria is very dangerous to our environment because such vehicles are causing pollution,’’ she added.
Mailafia vowed that her ministry would, in concert with the police and the FRSC, ensure the people’s compliance with the ban on the import of such vehicles.
“We will even stop the usage of such vehicles in Nigeria because the amount of smoke that comes out of them pollutes our entire environment,’’ she stressed.
On waste management processes and strategies, the minister announced the establishment of an integrated waste management facility in Ekiti State, as well as the setting up of scrap metal recycling plants in Kaduna and Sokoto states.
Mailafia also pledged the government’s commitment to ensuring the adequate provision of waste bins across the country.
“We are looking into ways of partnering with  private  organisations in efforts to distribute these waste bins to all parts of the country because we cannot do it alone.’’
As regards environmental laws, Mailafia expressed the ministry’s acceptance of the Presidential directive that the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) should enforce all environmental laws.
She, nonetheless, stressed that NESREA must ensure strict compliance with environmental regulations, while enforcing all the laws relating to the environment.
“The safety and health standards of Nigerians must not be compromised; the health of Nigerians must not be equated with economic gains.’’
On the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of projects, Mailafia said that 34 impact mitigation monitoring exercises had been carried out on EIA-approved projects in all the sectors of the economy.
She said that the ministry had also carried out a review of the environmental audit and certification of 29 existing facilities.
The minister said that the environmental impact assessment of the facilities of Etisalat Nigeria Ltd, a telecom  service provider, had just been concluded, adding that the appraisal and certification of the communities chosen for new base stations of the company would soon be carried out.
Nevertheless, Mailafia said that there were no plans to scrap the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA).
She noted that NOSDRA, a parastatal agency of the ministry, certified 1,119 oil-impacted sites and successfully carried out the cleanup the Bonga oil spill that occurred on Dec. 20, 2011.
She also noted that NOSDRA was also able to control the fire outbreak at Chevron Nigeria Ltd.’s KS Endeavor Drilling rig in Funiwa, Bayelsa, on Jan. 16.
Besides, the minister stressed that the Department of Erosion and Flood Control of the ministry had completed 62 projects in different locations across the country.
Mailafia said that the ministry had established 13 web-based Flood Early Warning Systems (FEWS) in Makurdi, Kebbi, Ibadan, Abeokuta, Port-Harcourt, Akure, Minna, Sokoto, Ilorin, Benin, Kebbi and Kaduna.
“The ministry has also installed two stand-alone automated FEWS equipment at Ogun-Osun River Basin Authority,’’ she added.
The minister disclosed that the ministry’s Department of Renewable Energy had established 50 megawatts solar farms in Kaduna and Katsina to provide alternative and clean energy sources for the people.
All the same, experts have been advising the Federal Government to give priority attention to the sensitisation of the people, particularly farmers, on how to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change.
Mr Ademola Akintola, an expert in agro-climatology, stressed that tangible efforts should be made to educate small holder farmers in the northern part of the country on the need to adjust their planting periods due to climate change.
Describing the impact of climate change on agriculture as severe, Akintola stressed that the phenomenon constituted a major challenge to global food production.
He said that the consequences of climate change were more severe on peasant farmers, reiterating the need to make that group of farmers to see the wisdom in adjusting their farming programmes periodically.
“We are calling on government to intensify its public awareness campaign to educate more farmers, so as to enable them to prepare for the challenges of climate change.
“Adequate sensitisation of farmers will foster the evolution of a dynamic calendar that will enable farmers to achieve their optimal goal of boosting production,’’ Akintola said.
Sharing similar sentiments, Mr Ewah Eleri, the Executive Director, International Centre for Energy and Environmental Development (ICEED), emphasised that climate change was generating serious threats to agricultural production.
“As millions of Nigerians are engaged in agriculture, climate change is, perhaps, the greatest challenge they face.
“Besides, climate change is a daily challenge facing all the citizens, as it affects our economy in many ways,’’ he said.
Eleri stressed that the negative impact of climate change on agriculture could not be over-emphasised, as “ 42 per cent of our entire GDP is from agriculture.’’
He, nonetheless, lamented that Nigeria had not paid enough attention to weather changes.
“Climate change is a clear bread-and-butter issue; it is a daily challenge confronting the everyday life of all Nigerians.
“For instance, we have nearly 70 per cent of our workforce engaged in agriculture and just about one per cent of all our farms are irrigated.
“What it means is that 99 per cent of Nigerian farmers depend totally on rainfall,’’ Eleri said
Observers are of the view that the government should initiate more pragmatic measures to tackle the growing menace of climate change.
They say that the citizens, particularly farmers, should be educated on how to lessen the impact of the current climatic condition. 
Source: NAN

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