As the world celebrated the 2017 World Environment Day yesterday, members of the House of Representatives pushed for the establishment of a commission to control and manage erosion across the country.

They are projecting N989.8 billion as total budgetary estimates for its first year’s operations, to cover the agency’s recurrent and capital expenditures. The financial projections are requirements to determine the rationale, veracity and budgetary implications of every establishment bill proposed by the legislature.

Erosion is a serious environmental menace destroying the property and means of livelihood of many Nigerians in communities across the country. Tackling the problem will bring great relief to affected citizens and communities.

According to the provisions of the bill, the projections will be subjected to periodic audit by the auditor-general of the federation while the appointment of the executive secretary of the commission will be made by the president for an initial term of five years.

Leading a debate on the bill, which passed through the second reading on the floor of the House yesterday, its sponsor, who is the House Chairman on Environment and Habitat, Obinna Chidoka, said it was time for the Federal Government to harness efforts towards the management of erosion in the country.

He said when established, the commission, which would be known as Erosion Control and Prevention Commission, would further stipulate erosion control structures for the construction of roads, housing estates and all constructions involving earth movement.

Chidoka said the commission would also “carry out regular and extensive survey on the extent of erosion in the country and be able to forecast areas under threat, formulate policies and guidelines for prevention, control and management of erosion in the country, and coordinate and promote research activities on erosion control, management and prevention.”

Others functions include “monitoring the state of preparedness of all organisations or agencies which may contribute to the control of erosion in the country, and outline guidelines for acceptable land use practices and regulatory framework on soil conservation and erosion control.”

The lawmaker expressed regret that in the global age when countries speed up policies and actions aimed at tackling the menace holistically, Nigeria is still witnessing a situation where erosion is destroying buildings, farmlands, forests and grasslands in parts of the country.

“Erosion has devastated inland transportation and communication networks. Families and communities that had lived together as brothers and sisters have been separated by the menace.

“Arable lands have been degraded in leaps and bounds by erosion, and each year, its ferocity appears on continuous ascendancy. Studies have shown that there are more than 2,500 gullies in the south east of Nigeria alone, “he added.

Lawmakers who also contributed to the debate, backed the initiative, agreeing that when set up, the commission would protect the environment.

Meanwhile, the British Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria, Harriet Thompson, has said the impact of climate change may result in Nigeria losing an estimated $460 billion by 2050.

At the 2017 World Environment Day in Abuja, she explained that her position was based on the 2011 Climate Change Vulnerability Index (CCVI). “In addition to global climate risks, there are immediate local impacts of carbon economy in the country,” she said.

According to Thompson, “We are pleased that $1billion has been committed by the Federal Government and international oil companies for Ogoniland cleanup and hope progress can continue swiftly. The United Kingdom’s commitment to tackling global change and Paris Agreement is as strong as ever.”

She said they would continue to play a leading role internationally and would deliver on commitments to create a safer, more prosperous future for all as well as connecting people to nature in order to protect the earth.

On illegal refineries, she argued that they hope for better solutions to combat the damaging effects of oil bunkering in Niger Delta.

Also, UN Resident Coordinator, Mr. Edward Kallon, said since the first commemoration of the World Environment Day in 1974, millions of people across the globe have taken part in activities, ranging from neighborhood cleanup to international negotiations.

“This will assist in controlling emissions and building of information/knowledge regarding national sources of GHGs and impact of climate change on sustainable social and economic development,” he added.

Kallon also maintained: “As a trusted partner, our collaboration has resulted in the signing of Paris Agreement and its ratification by President Muhammadu Buhari, while UNDP Nigeria has also supported the review and approval of National Policy on Environment.”

And following the withdrawal of President Donald Trump of the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, experts have called for collective efforts by government, Nigerians and non-governmental organisations to protect the environment.

They said the call became necessary because over 600,000 deaths occur worldwide every year due to the effect of climate change, and 95 per cent of these deaths are in developing countries.

They spoke at an event held at the University of Lagos by the Society For Environmental Toxicology and Pollution Mitigation (SETPCOM) to commemorate the global celebration with the theme “Connecting People with nature.”

A professor of zoology, molecular biology and ecology, Adebayo Otitoloju, who led the call in an interview with The Guardian said government must be at the forefront because they can direct us through the right policies. “Individuals have their roles to play but government, NGOs and all of them have a very important role to play as members of the same global society,” he said.

Otitoloju said that President Trump, by his decision, had given up his leadership on environmental issue to other nations around the world. “What Trump has done, to a large extent, is just to say America is no longer the leader when it comes to environmental issues around the world and that is unfortunate. He seems to be looking at it basically from a perspective; it is always an issue when people look at things just from the economic perspective.

For the Safety, Health and Environmental Manager, Network Group Division, MTN Nigeria Communication Limited, Mr. Fyneray Mbata, a collective approach towards the protection of the environment is an appropriate response to the shock of the U.S. withdrawal from the agreement.

Mbata, who chaired the event, stated that connecting people to nature implored us to get outdoors and into nature, to appreciate its beauty and its importance.

According to him, billions of rural people around the world spend every day connected to nature and appreciating their dependence on natural water supplies and how nature provides their livelihoods in the form of fertile soil.

He expressed regret that humans are among the first to suffer when ecosystems are threatened, whether by pollution, climate change or over-exploitations, which erode precious biodiversity and threatens the survival of elephants, rhinos and tigers as well as many other species.

By The Guardian