John ODHE, Yenagoa
The menace of climate change in South-South Nigeria otherwise known as the Niger Delta region is largely caused by oil and gas industrial activities since 1956 when oil was first struck in commercial quantity at Oloibiri community in Ogbia local government area of the present day Bayelsa state.
Stakeholders in the environment sector have been worried and calling for collaboration amongst governments at all levels, the academia and the private sector in order to tackle and find lasting solution to the environmental problems facing the region.
This concern was raised recently by various stakeholders who spoke in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa state capital at this year’s World Environment Day celebration with the theme:” Only One Earth; The Impact of Human Activities On The Mother Earth: Bayelsa in Focus” organised by the Nigerian Environmental Society, Bayelsa State chapter.
Over time, different stakeholders have identified ignorance, greed and nonchalant attitude especially by the International Oil Companies towards environmental issues as the main reasons for the degraded ecosystem and have been calling for deliberate transformative actions to protect the environment and revive as well as halt the continuous biodiversity loss.
A former National President of Nigerian Environmental Society, Engr. Olu Wai- Ogosu had said during the commemoration of the 2022 world environment day that actions such as logging, dredging, air pollution, solid and liquid waste disposal have caused so much devastation to the water bodies and the forrest thereby denying the people of enjoying the beautiful and serene tourist environment the South-South is endowed with. Wia-Ogosu noted that environmental education and awareness programmes are key in the sustainability of Mother Earth, adding that the appropriate mechanism be deviced on the best way to pass the message of environmental awareness to the rural communities on their roles and responsibility in protecting the environment.
He lamented the absence of synergy amongst the ministry of environment, urban and regional planning and the ministry of transportation, stating that this has led to policy somersault and ineffective and lopsided implementation of programmes targeted at remedying the devastated ecosystem.
Also, an environmental rights advocate and traditional ruler, His Royal Majesty, King Bubaraye Dakolo, the Ibenanaowei of Ekpetiama Kingdom and Chairman Bayelsa State Council of Traditional Rulers has attributed the emergence of artisanal crude refineries fondly referred to as’kpofire’ to bad governance which led to many youths investing their knowledge in the illegal business, saying that the only way to end the menace is to tackle the problem from the root instead of branding the youths as criminals.
Another environmental expert, Prof. Enioma Adekunle, Dean Faculty of Science, Federal University of Otuoke and Coordinator Women in Science, has advocated the application of knowledge in waste management thereby converting waste into useful and resource materials to create wealth and employment. Adekunle noted that the Federal University, Otuoke has converted waste in order to stabilize the degraded soils of the Niger Delta region and the remediation of the contaminated hydrocarbon soil.
She maintained that the institution has turned waste into useful products which are used as growth enhancers in the cultivation of exotic crops which hitherto are not cultivated in our environment.
Similarly, the Chairperson of the Nigerian Environmental Society, Bayelsa State chapter, Dr. (Mrs) Douye Markmanuel has asserted that this year’s world environment day with the theme: “Only One Earth” is historic as it marks 50 years since the first United Nations Conference on human environment held in Stockholm Sweden, emphasising that the conference has been able to put environmental sustainable development programme on front burner in global agenda.
Markmanuel believes that environmental crises such as global warming, climate change, flooding, drought, erosion, poor air and water quality, ozone depletion, biodiversity loss, terrestrial, aquatic and atmospheric pollution are caused by ecological imbalance in the functionality and connectivity of the ecosystem.
She noted that as a Non-governmental Organization, NGO made up of professional experts in diverse field l, it is committed to the promotion, development and sustainability of the environment as well as propagating public understanding, stimulate awareness through advocacy, training and supervision, it is open to robust collaboration in tackling environmental challenges in Bayelsa State.
Also concerned about the devastating effects of climate change in the Niger Delta is a cousin to former President Goodluck Jonathan, and environmental activist, Barr. Azibola Robert who has again, raised the alarm over what he described as mindless pilfering of the Niger Delta rainforest.
The environmental activism in Barr. Robert was reactivated recently at his hometown, Otakeme in Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa state during an event he organized and tagged: Burn-fire. The event which took place in the evening witnessed bum-fire, killing, roasting and eating of full goat meats, chicken and fishes as well as dancing to drive home the message of his campaign against climate change.
Azibola Robert, during the event, said the occasion was to once again draw the attention of the public to the dangers of climate change and the need for the Niger Delta region to join the international community to fight the menace. He identified indiscriminate cutting down of trees as well as gas flaring as some of the major causes of climate change in the oil-rich region.
The activist lamented that he had earlier made a 14-day expedition into the Ogbia forest and found out that most economic trees such as mango trees locally called Ogbono and others which helped in production of oxygen to the atmosphere have been cut down by wood loggers.
“I am campaigning against those who come here and cut down our trees. Our animals have been killed and our forests have become empty. Our cultural heritage is gone. There is nothing for our children to inherit from us anymore. The world is taking action against climate change carbon emission resort. We are part of the world and we can’t do otherwise.” he said.
Azibola further postulated that though scientists have predicted that the world would come to an end on its own in the next 4.6 billion years when hydrogen which powers the sun would have been exhausted, it was preposterous “for us to destroy the earth in our generation through the destruction of our environment. While he blamed environmental degradation on failure of governments at all levels, the environmental rights activist also blamed community leaders for allowing private businessmen to destroy their God given heritage because of little pecuniary gains.
He called on the government and the people to embark on radical tree planting to regenerate the already pilfered environment just as he advised the general public to imbibe the culture of consuming domestic meats instead of bushmeats which may not be safe for consumption due to infections that may be found in them.
Indeed, the fight against climate change and environmental degradation should be a concerted effort of all stakeholders both in government and the private sector as well as the individuals. We have only one mother-earth. Destroying it by our own hands is most foolhardy.