Climate Change And Sustainable Development
Sunday, Feb 19th
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STEVE Nwosu, the Sun’s Editor’s commentary entitled, “Boko Haram and the rest of us” on the back page of Sun, newspaper on January 25, 2012 provided the basis for this write-up. For those who have discerning spirit and heart in the field of Sustainable Development, Environment and Climate Change, the emergence of Boko Haram would not be too surprising. The government over the years, climatic variations and neglect for sustainable development practice – coupled with corruption, the IMF and some experts in the World Bank who are unable to fall into the line of sustainable economic development in the 1970s through late 1980s inadvertently encouraged poverty in Nigeria. The effect of the Structural Adjustment Programme(SAP) of the late1980s and early 1990s on the Nigerian environment has been well documented by experts under the auspices of Nigerian Environmental Action Study/Team. But the other problem is that our experts are largely ignored by our governments and their studies are always kept in cabinets of politicians and some public office holders.
We should not forget that the international economic bodies of the West relied heavily on archaic principles of making money at all costs from developing nations at the expense of the health and education of citizens, especially in Third World Countries, which must be why World Bank for example – would not frown against the dumping of banned pesticides especially those classified as “Dirty Dozen” in the some parts of the North, Kwara and Ogun States of Nigeria in the past. I had carried out extensive investigations on these for the African Science Monitor as far back as 1992. That was the year that World Bank’s Chief Economist, Mr. Lawrence Summers said that in his “neo-colonial economic’ theory that he would rather ignore environmental consideration in order that developing countries would develop in what was classified as “A Toxic Memo.”by the civil societies and environmentalists. It was thus gratifying that subsequently from the 1990s; the World Bank strengthened its base and entrenched environment in its operations.
Before I progress, it is pertinent to mention that the World Bank in the past two decades has released its own “State of the environment” reports to show how it has integrated environment into its development projects. Charles S. Pearson in his work “Down to Business-Multinational Corporations, the Environment and Development” published by World Resources Institute states clearly how developed countries’ multinational corporations undermine less developed countries (LDCs) through the establishment of ‘dirty industries’ and by extension, dirty business in the name of economic emancipation. This means, a company is established in the LDCs without Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), the owners make profit while the workers die slowly and get no compensation from industrial fumes and hazards. At a time there were over 2,000 industrial accidents in Nigeria yearly and I have been to companies where people lose their hands and eyes without the owners blinking an eye to reward the affected persons. Now back to the main focus of this piece.
Before the World Bank began to focus on sustainable development, the Nigerian Environment Action/Study Team (NEST) had carried out programmed to enlighten Nigerian government on Sustainable Development and Environment. During the military era, one of such programmes was entitled; “Sustainable development in Nigerian’s dry belt-problems and prospects.” It was a workshop organized in Kano in 1990 which was supported by Fredrich Ebert Foundation, the German, non Governmental Organisation. Colonel Idris Garuba of Kano State was there. There were traditional institutions and experts. The proceeding of that workshop was edited by Professor K.O. Ologe.
Today, regrettably, many people wonder how the North now became a fertile ground for this dastardly and evil level of religious extremism and fundamentalism that now blindly calls for a theocratic government, all over the country.
The ingredients to fertilize the religious zealots can be traced to environmental in balance and climate variations which occurred many decades ago. These were the remote causes, although historically, the immediate cause can be found in the past eight years of democracy where some politicians who were looking for votes and allies in religious terror machines made pledges of establishing theocratic institutions based on Islam. We have forgotten we once had drought and rinderpest epidemics which affected agriculture in Northern part of Nigeria. At the NEST workshop in 1990, an expert, Sabo Bako, Department of Political Science, Ahmadu Bello, Zaria delivered a paper on “Ecological Crises and Social Conflict in Northern Nigeria’s Dry Belt. “ Dr. Kole Ade-Odutola who now teaches in Florida State University, USA was at that event. In the paper delivered by Bako, he traced the emergence of the notorious Maitatsine sect, the group that can be tagged as the “forerunner” of the now dreaded Boko Haram.
According to the political scientist, the social groups that participated in the Maitatsine urban revolts which broke out in Kano in 1980 Maiduguri in 1982, Kaduna, 1982, Jimeta Yola in 1984 and Gombe in 1985” (the same geo political zone of current terror and bombings) adding that these are burgeoning predominantly Muslim Sahelian towns which hosted the victims of ecological disasters of brought desertification and rinderpest epidemics which ravaged the rural areas of the semi – arid and arid parts of Nigeria and West Africa in the 1970s and 1980s killing the cattle of millions of people. The social scientist spent four years on the study and he found that most of the persons who took part in the religions riots were originally “peasant farmers and pastoralist who were impoverished, devastated and dispossessed of their means of subsistence and production, such as farmland and livestock, in the course of the long and severe ecological crises which debilitated their environment. Many of them were found to have migrated to other towns in “a chaotic state of absolute poverty and social dislocation in search of food water, shelter jobs and mean’s of livelihood.
In addition, the Almajiri system which the expert recalled was contained in the Justice Aniagolu report, Bulunkutu El-Badawy Report, Jimeta – Yola Uwais Report and Gombe Report, today have been lost to the archives of Federal Government printers was also a breeding ground for desperate and willing religious zealots and extremists. There are isolated cases of those who are children of the rich, like Abdul Mutalab who stray into such groups. More importantly, Bako emphasized that the “complete separation imposed by the introduction and intensification of large-scale commodity production, fuelled by petroleum dealers both in the rural areas by international capital (World Bank Agricultural Projects Agro-allied industries state capital through River Basin Development Authorities in commoditization of labour land and the movement of labour from moral area the urban industrialisation and attraction of labour from the moral areas studies carried out on the Maitatsine rioters showed that some of them were from Chad, Cameroun, Niger , Mali, Sudan , Morocco and Upper Volta. It is pertinent to mention that of those questioned about the reasons for their migration, about 80 per cent laid claim to drought. It’s not only humans that migrated as a result of ecological disaster in recent decade ,there were reports that butterflies and birds known in the far north had migrated south wards.
In my New Frontiers column in National Concord (Thursday, January 29,1998) I reported under the caption ‘Northern Nigeria birds give danger signal” that, Dr. Gus Ezealor of the IBA project, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria indicated that Xerophilous birds have been leaving their habitation in Northern Nigeria to other areas. Ezealor who was speaking at a workshop organized by Gothe Institute, Lagos, Nigerian Conservation Foundation, (NCF) and Nigeria Environmental Law Society that year said that he studied these birds for over a decade and a half and found that no fewer than 17 different birds in dry northern most part of Nigeria have found their ways towards the southern part. Birds known to be living in Kano and Kaduna have moved down south. Amongst these birds are; Arabian Bustard, Savile Bustard, Cream Coloured Couiser, African Coloured Dove/ European Turtle Doves, Double Breasted Barfet. Etc
We need to go into Steve Nwosu’s fear in his article where he states that no one knows what happens to the electronic wastes and refrigerant gases that the itinerant Hausa man from the north scavenges or pays a token to collect from our streets in the southern part of the country. I am really concerned about that. Nwosu thinks that these wastes could end up being made into “explosives” or bombs. Details of how and why electronic wastes are being tackled will be published soon in a comprehensive environmental investigation which I carried out with other experts across the world. Meanwhile, I will answer Nwosu and those who might have similar fear. Over twenty years ago, the World under the United Nations began a policy to monitor wastes from “cradle to grave.” In other words, to monitor materials from the day they are made to when and where they are being discarded.
Last year, the BBC in an investigation on how electronic waste from UK end up in Nigeria tracked some to Alaba market in Nigeria and Ghana. The dumping of toxic waste in Nigeria (see Nigeria; On the Trail of the Environment, by Tunde Akingbade Triple E, Lagos, 1991, Authorhouse, Indiana, USA, 2008) led to the creation of Basel Convention on Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes in Geneva, Switzerland in 1989. I was lucky to have been taught by the first Secretariat, Mr. Pierre Portas at International Institute for Journalism, Berlin in 1990. The Basel Secretariat later created two linkage Centres in Ibadan, headed by Professor Oladele Osibanjo and opened by Dr. Evans Olu Aina, the first Chief Executive of Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA) before our very eyes some years ago. The centre caters for English speaking West African countries and the other one in Senegal caters French speakers.
However, they all network on issues of waste management including; tracking, sorting, treatment and recycling. Some people have now understood the business and economics of waste management or environment and they have keyed into this process by engaging low income earners, scavengers etc to collect wastes for them and pay them for such materials which are either recycled or re-used elsewhere. There are industries in Lagos that are involved in this. A large multinational is involved in the collection of PET bottles which are recycled not far away from the Sun’s office in Lagos. Some metals are taken up north for recycling and some end up in some Asian industries where they found them cheap because of the cheap labour the scavengers in Nigeria or Ghana provides.
Again, it’s pertinent to mention that there is another UN convention known as Montreal Protocol. It was done in Canada in 1987 to check the depletion of the Ozone layer in the atmosphere.
It was discovered that there was a huge hole about the size of the United States in the oxygen-like layer which shields the earth from the ultra-violet rays of the sun. This hole could cause skin and eye problems in humans and animal, affect agriculture and cause food insecurity etc. The Protocol led to the phase-out of Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS). Again Professor F. B Dayo, had been very much involved in this with United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO). UNIDO had given a lot of money to Nigerian companies since 1990s for technological transfer to move from ODS to gases that do not deplete the ozone.
Apart from refrigerant companies there are other foam making companies that were beneficiaries. That’s why you see some refrigerators or Air Conditioner with the label, “CFCs free.” One can go on and on. However, while these are the reasons why a lot of people go into waste generation to make money, there is no denying the fact that all over the world, criminals penetrate virtually every sector of the economy to carry out their nefarious activities. The important thing that security agencies should do is to check suspicious metals or wastes because sometimes, experience has shown that weapons are hidden in such materials. They should not molest innocent scavengers and waste collector who are trying to earn a living in this, “dog-eat-dog society” of our as Ken Saro Wiwa once said.
More than looking out for scavengers of waste, security agencies might help in this quest in unraveling the mystery behind the spate of bombings by checking the influx of environmental refugees who have no means of sustaining their living but end up under the trees and bridges where they receive all kinds of indoctrination which sometimes as a study in the University of Ibadan carried out by Dr. Aderinto showed tasted drugs from Indian hemp to cocaine. These are the gateways to suicidal tendencies and crime. Has anyone thought about the utterances of Gaddafi, former Libyan leader that Nigeria should break into Christian South and Muslim North and the aftermath of the collapse of his regime and the reported downward movement of his loyalists with guns, weapons and all kinds of dangerous things into or through Niger Republic?
*Akingbade lives in Lagos.
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