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Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Nigeria’s Tepid Response To Climate Change

By Emmanuel Onwubiko

President Muhammadu Buhari arrived Paris, France twenty four clear hours before today’s commencement of the Paris climate conference which runs till December 11th, 2015.

The COP21 (as it's technically called) summit which reportedly involves nearly 200 nations, is intended to produce a global agreement to reduce Carbon emissions and limit temperature change in a World in which the most advanced and industrialized nations of China, Japan and even the United States have persistently failed to adopt self corrective measures to reduce the effects of climate change emanating from their high volumes of industrial productions.

The Nigerian Environmental minister Mrs. Amina Mohammed who last week announced that President Buhari will indeed lead the strong Nigerian delegation to the Paris climate conference said his ( Buhari’s) presence demonstrates the governments serious commitment to provide and build effective national response to climate change.

But most Nigerians are not convinced that Nigeria has effectively established a workable framework to tackle the challenges that come with climate change.

This writer is aware that efforts made by the national parliament in the past few years to create a strong presidential response to climate change have yet to meet the light of the day. A committee of the Federal House of Representatives of the seventh session headed by a journalist Mr. Eziuche Ubani paid more attention towards the creation of a commission on climate change but there is no transparent body of evidence why no such body was created. The current National Assembly hasn't also expounded any concrete measure or legislative framework towards providing oversight functions to ensure best responses to the suffocating effects of climate change. Climate change illiteracy is high in Nigeria to such an extent that not many students are aware of the imminent and present danger of this phenomenon.

The Federal Ministry of Environment in Nigeria has really not done well enough in the past several years to wage nation-wide crusade of creating awareness for the general public on the significance of climate change and what the effects portends for the divergent economic sector of Nigeria such as forestry, wild life and the agro-allied industries.

Apart from conferences in which only few persons are invited and lectures delivered there is not a concrete agenda of national enlightenment of Nigerians on the issues of climate change and how Nigerians are expected to carry out their activities to mitigate the adverse consequences of climate change.

Conferences in Nigeria by Federal government agencies are done essentially for what the organisers stand to benefit and not necessarily to inform, educate and carry the commoners along. Most times towards the tail end of every budget year the ministries are in a serious bonanza of free for all conferences to retire the huge budgetary provisions allocated for such banalities.

Even President Buhari who is in Paris attending the global climate change event, not too long ago, was embroiled in a climate change related controversy trailing the proposed super highway project of the Cross River state's current government.

The 240 kilometer super highway from the Southern to the Northern part of Cross River State would when completed stretch from the end of the Cross River state capital of Calabar to Bekwara local council near Benue State. The environmental concern which arose from the project is the reported absence of environmental impact assessment report and the apprehension that the National Park in Calabar, Cross River State might be affected.

Nigerians were however told that the environmental warning regarding the superhighway construction project in which German and Chinese investors are showing interests will not affect the National Park in Calabar. The British High Commission and officials of the Federal Ministry of Environment reportedly warned the Cross River State administration about the danger of commencement of this gigantic road construction project without producing science based environmental impact assessment report.

Nevertheless President Muhammadu Buhari attended the flag off ceremony of this superhighway project even without informing Nigerians about what has changed regarding those environmental fears expressed by experts. Government usually take Nigerians for a ride in such major policy issues.

On the Presidential team that is now in Paris France for the climate change conference the question on the lips of observers is why President Buhari chose to head the delegation to France for the climate change parley when there is really nothing here in Nigeria that can be likened to a national response mechanism that Nigerians are part of.

For instance, over a decade now, successive Federal administrations have failed to implement measures to stop gas flares. Ansalem O. Ajugwo of the department of Hematology and blood transfusion, Madonna University, Elele, Nigeria wrote thus: "Nigeria flares 17.2 billion m3 of natural gas per year in conjunction with the exploration of crude oil in the Niger Delta. This high level of gas flaring is equal to approximately one quarter of the current power consumption of the African continent. Even though we have grown to be fairly dependent on oil and it has become the center of current industrial development and economic activities, we rarely consider how oil exploration and exploitation processes create environmental, health, and social problems in local communities near oil producing fields."

He continued thus: "Nigerian government has not enforced environmental regulations effectively because of the overlapping and conflicting jurisdiction of separate governmental agencies governing petroleum and the environment as well as because of non-transparent governance mechanisms. Neither the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA) nor the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) has implemented anti-flaring policies for natural gas waste from oil production, nor have they monitored the emissions to ensure compliance. The Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA) (ministry of environment) had the authority to issue standards for water, air and land pollution and has had the authority to make regulations for oil industry. However, in some cases their regulations conflict with the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR)’s regulations started in 1991 for oil exploration".

Nigeria must come up with a clear cut national policy on climate change and stop chasing shadows in international conference.

Is it for the financial benefits that may emanate from the Paris climate change conference that President Buhari of Nigeria has decided to abandon serious pressing matters to personally attend when the Federal Ministry of Environment and the Minister of State on petroleum can represent us?

There are indications that the current Federal government is only interested in lobbying to corner an aspect of the $16billion climate business plan of the World Bank for Africa rather than concentrate on laying solid foundations for the building of a national response to climate change. Nigeria after all is the largest country on the black continent.

Recently, the media in Nigeria reported that; "THE World Bank Group has unveiled a new plan that calls for $16 billion in funding to help African people and countries adapt to climate change and build up the continent’s resilience to climate shocks."

Titled “Accelerating Climate-Resilient and Low-Carbon Development,” the Africa Climate Business Plan, in a statement tracked from Online Media Briefing Centre (OMBC) by The Guardian of Nigeria, will be presented at COP21, the global climate talks in Paris, on November 30.

According to the information, the plan lays out measures to boost the resilience of the continent’s assets – its people, land, water, and cities – as well as other moves including boosting renewable energy and strengthening early warning systems".

“Sub-Saharan Africa is highly vulnerable to climate shocks, and our research shows that could have far-ranging impact on everything from child stunting and malaria to food price increases and droughts,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim.

“This plan identifies concrete steps that African governments can take to ensure that their countries will not lose hard-won gains in economic growth and poverty reduction, and they can offer some protection from climate change.”

Per current estimates, the plan says that the region requires $5-10 billion per year to adapt to global warming of 2°C.=

The World Bank and the United Nations Environment Programme estimate that the cost of managing climate resilience will continue to rise to $20-50 billion by mid-century, and closer to $100 billion in the event of a 4°C warming.

The information furtger revealed that: "the $16.1 billion that the ambitious plan proposes for fast-tracking climate adaptation, some $5.7 billion is expected from the International Development Association (IDA), the arm of the World Bank Group that supports the poorest countries. About $2.2 billion is expected from various climate finance instruments, $2.0 billion from others in the development community, $3.5 billion from the private sector, and $0.7 billion from domestic sources, with an additional $2.0 billion needed to deliver on the plan".

The Africa Climate Business Plan, says the World Bank spells out a clear path to invest in the continent’s urgent climate needs and to fast-track the required climate finance to ensure millions of people are protected from sliding into extreme poverty,” explains Makhtar Diop, World Bank Group Vice President for Africa.

Nigeria must show commitment to mobilise our people to more readily face the challenges of climate change and not necessarily for the Nigerian Government to focus on what it can get from multilateral funding institutions.

Perhaps in readiness for Nigeria to be qualified to benefit from such huge pay outs the current government has in the past two months in global meetings consistently affirmed that Nigeria is insolvent contrary to the claim by the immediate past administration that Nigeria is the fastest growing economy in Africa. Let the World Bank make sure that Nigeria has a verifiable and concrete national response framework before paying the country any grant from the ambitious climate change mitigation fund it's proposing for Africa.

*Emmanuel Onwubiko is Head of Human rights Writers association of Nigeria and blogs @;

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