The Consulate General of the United States of America has said that Mr. Tunde Akingbade, environment journalist with The Guardian who won the United Nations/Prince Albert II of Monaco Prize Medal for Climate Change Coverage 2012 brought honor to Nigeria.
In a letter signed by Ms. Rhonda J. Watson, Public Diplomacy Officer of the Consulate General dated June 19, 2013, the US Consulate General said it was delighted to know that Akingbade also received a CNN recognition in 2012 in the Environment Award category.
“As an alumnus of the International Visitor and Leadership Program, you are a living example that one can strive for and attain excellence in all fields of human endeavor,” the statement noted.
The Consulate General praised Akingbade for advancing environmental protection in Nigeria as well as the field of investigative journalism.
The statement added; “It is particularly note worthy that you have devoted the greater part of your life to advancing the field of environmental protection and, in so doing, you brought honor to the nation and will leave a worthy legacy for future generations.”
“We at Public Affairs Section of the United States Consulate General, Lagos are delighted that the years of service that you have given to educating Nigerians on climate change, global warming, waste recycling, volunteerism and immense contributions you have made in the field of Investigative Journalism have once again been rewarded in this way,” the statement further noted.
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PATIENCE Jonathan, the First Lady and Permanent Secretary in the Bayelsa State Civil Service, a position to which she was promoted last year to national outrage, is in the news again for the wrong reasons.
Having decided to now conduct her public outings with an official podium of “First Lady” complete with the country’s coat of arms and national colours, it seems there is no limit to the odium Nigeria would endure in her hands. For the wife of the President, occupying a ceremonial office that is unknown to Nigeria’s constitution and laws, to use the coat of arms in the manner she does amounts to a desecration of national symbols and disrespect to all Nigerians. This odious practice should be stopped immediately and President Goodluck Jonathan should lead the way as the man who has sworn to abide by the constitution and uphold its tenets. It is bad enough that the First Lady’s deviation from the norm is manifesting in the President’s household, it is doubly sad that he has seen nothing wrong with it. No doubt, Madam Jonathan deserves praise for her tireless efforts at improving the lots of Nigerian women. Her campaigns on the political scene did more a lot to impact on her husband’s political fortunes. She is indeed a force for good. But introducing a seal of her own is a little over border.
It all seemed a joke when, in February, Patience Jonathan, surrounded by her friends and family members, first made her address on a customized podium adorned with the country’s official seal. From all indications, the practice appears to be her new fancy, disrespectful as it is of the country’s sovereignty and cherished ideals. Naturally, the question that has necessarily been provoked is: on what basis could the ‘office’ of the First Lady, unrecognised by the constitution, carry a seal bearing the nation’s coat of arms and the national colours?
This is a joke taken too far and a clear violation of the constitution of Nigeria. It is surprising that this indiscretion escaped the attention and advice of the civil servants or, perhaps, worse still, enjoyed their approval. Whatever the case, this saga is a clear demonstration of how much erosion dignity and professionalism have suffered in the nation’s civil service. Besides, if those who are expected to guide the first wife on the unconstitutionality of her actions failed in their duty, can the President himself claim ignorance of his spouse’s debauchment?
Notably, this is not the first time Madam Jonathan would be involved in conducts unbecoming of her station as the President’s consort. Her several goofs in public are now well documented in an unedifying diary of her person and position. She often behaves like an all-conquering empress as she takes on governors and elected leaders at the slightest opportunity in ways that embarrass the nation. Sometime in the middle of last year, the Governor of Bayelsa State Seriake Dickson elevated the First Lady to the rank of permanent secretary without a portfolio in the civil service of Bayelsa State, ostensibly in accordance with the constitutional power conferred on him but certainly in total disregard of decency.
On her part, the beneficiary justified her promotion on the point that she had been a teacher in the state, when in reality, she had been away from her job since her husband was elected Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State, and up to his ascension of office as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. On another occasion, she sent the Minister of Water Resources, Mrs. Serah Ochekpe, to represent her at a book launch in honour of President Olusegun Obasanjo at the latter’s Presidential Library in Abeokuta.
These episodes bring to the front burner issues of law and ethics in governance, and they constitute avoidable pressures on the polity. The First Lady has no power to commandeer a serving minister to do her bidding. A minister is a servant of the state, appointed by the President, not his wife. That action was a clear violation of sections 147 and 148 of the 1999 Constitution which vests in the President the power to appoint a minister who may be assigned a “responsibility for any business of the Government of the Federation, including the administration of any department of government.” Surely the First Lady’s office does not fall into the category stipulated by the constitution.
Patience Jonathan’s actions are not only too brazen but clearly unconstitutional, an act for which the President could be held accountable. The time has, therefore, come to remind Mr Jonathan that Madam Jonathan has stepped out of bounds, this time adorning her ceremonial station with the seal of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and she must be reined in immediately.
Her action ridicules Nigeria in the comity of nations and President Jonathan needs to demonstrate that he understands the implication of the leadership position he occupies and back it up with corresponding action.
Truly, Nigeria has been unlucky to have many leaders seemingly incapable of appreciating basic ethics of governance even when they are ever so quick to cite precedents for their actions from countries like the United States of America. This, however, is often done dishonestly. The ‘First Lady’ has no place in the constitution and clearly is a ceremonial position from which the lucky spouse is expected to use her personal comportment to enhance her husband’s image. In America where it evolved in the nineteen century, it was manifestly for delivering some public good, especially those involving charity and humanitarian exertion. First Ladies in America never seek to interfere with the President’s job, never dare attempt to usurp the powers of their husbands, let alone drag them to the dangerous grounds of infringement of the basic laws of the country and the consequent threat of impeachment.
In Nigeria, the impunity now being displayed by those saddled with the responsibility of running the nation’s affairs has rendered the country a fertile ground for breeding the improbable. The Patience Jonathan First Ladyship, in its power grab, is one such absurdity.
First Lady’s status is a moral pulpit from which the highest of values cherished by a nation are expected to be espoused, especially by example. It is no podium for unconstitutional actions, substantive or symbolic.
Author of this article: EDITOR
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GOVERNOR Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State has frowned at the vast amount of food going to landfills; a situation he says creates more methane and significantly contributes to global warming.
Methane is one of the most dangerous greenhouse gases (GHG) and has been implicated in global warming and climate change in recent years.
Fashola spoke through his Deputy, Princess Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, who represented him at the World Environment Day celebrations in Lagos, last week.
The theme of the event was: ‘Think.Eat.Save: Reduce Your Footprint’.
Fashola noted that climate change affects agriculture, particularly food production. He said: “We have already begun to see some of the impact. Only last year, severe flooding across Nigeria showed us the damage that can be wrought by climate change.”
He said that the avoidance of food waste means efficient land use, improved water resource management and positive impact on climate change.
The governor listed some food waste reduction tips to help reduce methane in the state’s landfills. These include: carrying out waste audits and product loss analysis for high waste areas; working with suppliers to reduce waste; offering discounts for near-expiration items; redesigning product packages to avoid waste; limiting menu choices and introducing flexible portioning; creating staff engagement programmes; increasing food donations; following storage guidance to keep food at its best; and requesting smaller portions of food.
Mr. Tunji Bello, Environment Commissioner, lamented that many Nigerians take the environment for granted because “it has never crossed our minds that most of the resources from nature, most especially food, need to be economically deployed.”
Bello said, “this administration strongly believes that a drastic reduction in food waste would have positive repercussions on climate change through more efficient use of land and better water resource management. If food is wasted, it means that all the resources, input and efforts deployed in the production of food items are also lost.”
According to the Commissioner, “the culture of wasting food cannot be a guarantee for providing adequate food for the people. It would be an aberration to believe that there is enough food in the world, even when millions of people are starving. The situation of plenty food can become a truism, if we all stop food waste, so that we can conveniently change the course of human history.”
Bello urged Lagosians to abide by the ‘Waste not, want not’ motto.
He said: “We simply can’t afford to waste up to half of the food produced in our territory. The administration of Governor Fashola unflinchingly believes that the Think.Eat.Save campaign would definitely help reduce waste in our environment, and we are committed to its pursuit.”
There was a drama presentation by a group, led by renowned playwright, Bode Sowande. It was entitled ‘Mammy Water’s Wedding’. The play was about ecological problems facing the earth, depicting Water as a bride and Earth as a bridegroom.
Bode Sowande said: “The morale of the play is that, should we desire to enjoy the love of Mother Nature, holistically, we must have ecological balance in all directions and all levels of our lives.”
The Guardian gathered last week that Lagos State seized the opportunity of the World Environment Day (WED) celebrations to engineer the campaign, to address the worrisome issue of food waste in the light of its socio-economic and environmental implications on the state and the country.
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Author of this article: By Tunde Akingbade
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Author of this article: By Tunde Akingbade