A brief on Earth Day and Nigeria

Deserted image of southern Nigeria COP26 FOREST

Every April 22nd marks Earth day. It is a day for calling on world leaders and individuals to act on improving the earth’s health. This year’s event is the fiftieth and it happens in a time of global health pandemic. Earth Day in Nigeria should be day citizens and government alike use in renewing commitment to a healthy environment. A look at the origin of Earth Day advocacy shows high significance to Nigeria.

In 1970, some angry environmentalists in the United States staged a protest against oil spills in California. This protest is what results in what the world marks as Earth Day today. Similarly, Nigerian environmental challenges have their root in oil discovery. Oil spills in Ogoniland and other parts of oil-producing states are enormous causing loss of human lives and ecosystems.

When it comes to development, the place of the planet cannot be overemphasized. From raw materials to quality of air and from life support systems to outbreak of COVID-19, the earth plays a major role.

Specifically, Nigeria depends on crude oil and natural gas as the main source of livelihood which its process of exploration degrades the environment greatly. Today being Earth Day gives us an opportunity to debate and demand a better relationship with the environment in order to guarantee sustainable development.

Earth Day and Nigeria

Let me start with an observation, no country that fails to get its economy right can properly protect its environment. The advanced economies continue to sell environmental sustainability ideas to developing countries, but the truth of the matter is, these countries lack the capability to focus on environmental-related issues. They are struggling to live and survive, and some of them are in deplorable states as a result of crises. A crisis like political, insurgency and ethnoreligious are ravaging some of these countries. Even where there is no obvious crisis, the state of their economies makes them not prioritize the healthy environment.

For example in Nigeria, governments do not have the luxury of delivering environmentally sustainable programs. Though in paper government at all levels are responsible but in reality, they are not. Understandably, it is a tough decision for the government to choose a sustainable path, however, that’s the only way to develop.

Come to think of it, how can the government stop drilling more oil wells and the country won’t collapse. Similarly, how will Nigerians stop falling trees even if they know forest help in climate change mitigation? Furthermore, how can open grazing stop when the majority of those involved are not aware of its consequences. Tell me how farmers will stop enlarging farmlands when Nigeria has one of the least farms produce yields in the world. Additionally, why would be excessive use or exploration of water or land resources when there is no alternative source of income. In fact, developed or western countries’ actions on the environment are not what Nigeria can afford even with billions of dollar aids.

Environmental friendly development pathways for Nigeria

Despite these obvious challenges, it is possible for the government to develop and still achieve sustainability with holistic measures. These will include measures like; data-oriented to poverty alleviation programs, better functioning Ecological Fund and realistic commitment to SDGs.

Data-oriented poverty programs

To start with, the current Coronavirus pandemic and the giving of palliatives to poor and vulnerable households are generating controversy because of a lack of verifiable and credible data. Development data is very important in designing and measuring poverty eradication programs. We do not need data that largely assume figures. A comprehensive database of individual Nigerian is foundational to reducing poverty incidence. By having this database, the government will know the number of people who depend on natural resources for living and design programs that substitute their dependency. Also, government diversification agender will work better because it will be based on individual community needs, which is a move away from the current plan. Poverty-environment nexus is a well-established phenomenon in sustainable development practice, and the Nigerian government needs to approach environmental sustainability from this perspective.

PPP Ecological Fund

The country’s Ecological Fund needs to evolve beyond current functions for Nigeria to toll the path of sustainability. The current reality where the Fund serves the interests of politicians will leave the country in a regressive state. Structuring the Fund to accommodate corporate businesses and selected non-governmental organizations will improve its transparency and service delivery. The new structure should come in the form of an increase in government contributions to the Fund. For example, 15% of crude oil earnings and 2.5% in taxes of corporate income. Furthermore, the funds should have an additional function of building sustainable infrastructure like renewable energy and waste to wealth projects. With these, the development will focus more on the environment than just mere economy.

Commitment to SDGs

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are 17 goals adopted by the United Nations member states in 2015 with the ambition to eradicate poverty, protect the environment, and reduce inequality by 2030. The goals have 169 targets and 232 indicators. These targets and indicators are to ease monitoring of the progress of the global goals. Achieving these goals is attaining environmental sustainability. Therefore, the government needs to ensure the achievement of these goals through a commitment to the principle of Agenda 2030.

So far, it is obvious how human economic activities in Nigeria continue to degrade the environment’s health. Activities like crude oil exploration, logging, and open grazing contributed the majority to the poor state of Nigeria’s environment. To curtail this, development data that tackles poverty, PPP-modelled ecological fund that builds sustainable infrastructures and commitment to achieve SDGs that deliver the goals’ targets are necessary. All said and done, there are still more to attaining sustainable development than with this article present. Forthcoming series will build on this.

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