By Henry Uche
Following the perennial environmental degradation in Nigeria particularly- the Niger – Delta region, experts have canvased a stronger legislation and policies that would profile the activities of individuals and body corporates with the aim of protecting the environment against degradation. They affirmed that Nigeria has national laws and policies designed to monitor the activities of corporate bodies especially the oil companies, but enforcement has remain elusive.
They made this known at a webinar put together by Institute of Directors (IOD) Port Harcourt Branch, following the excruciating economic hardship the people in the South South particularly Rivers, Delta and Bayelsa States have been experiencing since the era of oil boom in Nigeria.
Speaking at the session, the Commissioner for Environment, Delta State, Christain Onogba said there was need to redefine and strengthen the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) Act and other laws to let the State Governors have power to take decisive actions pertaining their environment rather than waiting for the federal government’s interventions.
Onogba maintained that, “There is need to enforce existing laws and enact new legislations to halt against environmental degradation to standstill. There is also need for everyone to plant trees, if 60 percent of our population plants five trees each, then we can be sure of restoring our natural forest reserves which has been destroyed by human activities over years.
“The National Assembly should look into the constitution and remove critical legislations like the mining legislation from the exclusive list to residual list when the State governments can fully take charge and care of their States, this is imperative because we need to take our environment very serious,”
On his part, a Senior Lecturer, Geology Department, University of Port Harcourt, Dr Ferdinand Giadom, decried the deliberate negligence and lackadaisical attitude of both the government and the people in the affected region in tackling the menace hard-on. Expressing anger, he said, “Our generation coming may not be happy with us, and history would speak unfairly how we mishandle our environment for our progenies.”
Taking a swipe, the Head, Environment Stakeholders Democracy Network, Jesse -Martin Manufor, alerted that everyone is involved in safeguarding the environment howbeit, the onus rest marginally on the government to put a stop to environmental exploitation by oil, mining and other extractive firms in the Niger Delta region.
Manufor noted that, “It’s indiscipline on the side of government that keep aggravating the plight of the people in that region. If they’re serious this Problem would have been a thing of the past. For God’s sake, Life is secred and must not be toy with by human economic activities. A situation where the minister of environment gives exemption to some oil companies to flare gas is unacceptable and must be condemned,” he said.
In the same line, the chairman/Chief Executive Officer, Niger Delta Projects consortium Ltd, Professor Jasper Jumbo, berated the federal government for its lack of Political will to not only failing to keep it words over the years but failing to monitor and enforce compliance with every move to redeem the degraded region.
According to Professor, the environment has been an eyesore and a nightmare to the people from inception of oil exploration in the region, noting that the need to dialogue with relevant bodies like the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to address this challenge squarely is indispensable.
“So many issues, accusations and counter accusations, agreement and disagreement have been there for decades among the federal government, affected people & environment, oil companies and other stakeholders regarding our abused environment, yet the problem remain unsolved, but for how long would this be?
“The federal government alongside every other party involved must remember that, ‘Justice must not only be said to be done but must be seen to be done.’ The future of our children is endangered by the hand of disruptive human activities. There are climes where the law strictly prevails whenever people breaks the rules of engagement particularly as it affects people’s health, in line with Sustainable Development Goals, but what do we have here?” he queried?
He charged the federal ministry of environment and other government federal and State agencies to rise and do the needful before the environment becomes irremediable.
Lending his voice, President & Chairman of Governing Council Institute of Directors Nigeria, Chris Okunowo, F.IoD reminded the federal and state governments of the implications of environmental degradation towards human health adding that if parties involved in solving the Problem does not rise now, the rate of deaths caused by hunger as a result of Water, Land and Air pollution in the environment which are caused by the activities of oil companies would become alarming.
“We shall continue to raise awareness and understanding of the environment dimension of sustainable development issues in Nigeria and facilitate information-sharing among policy makers, private sector actors and civil society representatives.
“We discussions shall develop form a framework for the effective implementation of existing regulations on the matter at hand and facilitate an ensures that individuals and communities are given fair attention by the government and other stakeholders on the issue,” stressed.
He added that the need to facilitate the development of a policy and institutional support framework that promotes an inclusion of all stakeholders on environmental degradation and facilitate a conversation amongst all stakeholders and the way forward is indispensable.