By Ugochukwu Chimeziri
Only a comprehensive review of the 1999 constitution and enacting of laws to regulate man’s activity on the environment can stave off an imminent environmental chaos in the country.
This was the consensus of stakeholders from both public and private sector and civil society groups that converged on Abuja, yesterday (December 10) at the opening of a National Environmental Consultation organized by Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, Nigeria and the Federal Ministry of Environment.
The consultation which had as its theme: The Nigerian Environment and the Rule of Law, coincided with the commemoration of the 2008 World Human Rights Day.
Vice President Goodluck Jonathan who declared the event open stated that the setting aside of December 10 yearly for the commemoration of the human rights day by the United Nations is hinged on the need to protect and respect human rights.
Jonathan who was represented by Principal Secretary to the Presidency, Chief Mike Ogiadhome, said that the mission of protecting the environment through the emerging prisms of the rule of law is in tandem with the present administrations philosophy on good governance.
Praising the ERA initiative of organizing the consultation, Oghiadome went further to say that the environment can only be protected when government and non-governmental organizations work together on the principle of consultation, collaboration and cooperation.
Minister of Environment, Housing and Urban Development, Chief Chuka Odom acknowledged that Nigeria is bedeviled by a host of environmental challenges including desert encroachment and erosion, which he said, are fallouts of environmentally-unfriendly extractive activities.
Odom welcomed the active involvement of non governmental organizations in issues of environmental advocacy even as he noted that the task of salvaging the environment from present chaos must not be limited to the ministry.
He praised ERA’s campaigns to end gas flaring and other oil-related pollution in the Niger Delta and described the consultation as a timely intervention to save the nation from the environmental chaos which is engulfing the entire globe.
Presenting an address on The Status of Environmental Governance in Nigeria and the Quest for Legislative and Constitutional Reforms, former House of Representatives member, Uche Onyeagucha noted that the existing laws on the environment in the country bothers on ad-hocery.
Onyeagucha went on to carpeting legislators for remaining ignorant on the need for environmental legislation, majorly because …
Earlier, in his welcome address, ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Nnimmo Bassey criticized the Federal Government for not taking a clear stand on environmental issues such as gas flaring and the moves by biotechnology companies to introduce genetic engineered foods into Nigeria.
He flayed the lack of clarity and coherence between official actions in the petroleum sector with regard to ending gas flaring in the country, even as he averred that in spite of pressure from Niger Delta communities and civil society on the devastating effects of gas flaring, government has failed to harken to a November 14, 2005 court ruling in Benin outlawing the practice in the Niger Delta.
On moves by biotech companies to introduce Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) as a solution to Nigeria’s food crisis, the ERA executive director frowned at the idea, even as he described as unfortunate, separate announcements from the ministries of agriculture and science on adopting a GMO blueprint which will allow for introduction of GMO to farmers.
He insisted that any opening up of the Nigerian environment to untested technologies relating to the environment is a negation of local laws and international conventions such as the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety which the Nigerian government is signatory to.