Concerned about the degradation of environment due to desertification in the north of Nigeria, the administration of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has endorsed the upgrade of the great Green Wall Programme Implementation Unit (GGW/PIU) into an independent agency. The creation of the National Agency on Great Green Wall (NAGGW) by the administration is to urgently and holistically address the challenges of rampaging desertification in the region.
And to ensure that the agency achieves the long held dream of effectively containing Sahara Desert’s determined southwards movement and improve agriculture President Jonathan has appointed Alhaji Goni Ahmed, an agricultural scientist and respected environmentalist as the Chief Executive Officer.
Part of mandate of Goni and the agency, the Economic Confidential magazine gathered, is to ensure proper management of trans-boundary ecosystem management, sensitization and awareness, development of alternative sources of energy, gender mainstreaming, scientific expertise and research, capacity building and knowledge sharing.
Addressing his staff recently on the challenges before the agency, Mr Goni said the problem of environmental degradation has become a global phenomenon, with some developing nations like Nigeria standing the risk of major consequences like desertification, erosion, soil infertility and ultimately depreciation in agricultural production.
He therefore called on stakeholders to support the Great Green Wall Programme so as to deliver dividends to Nigerians. He said support and assistance from stakeholders for the project and the agency would ensure that threats of desertification facing the region was brought under control. The key areas that required assistance in the programme include nursery rehabilitation, shelterbelt establishment, sand dune stabilization, agro-forestry, farmers’ managed natural regeneration and integrated water and natural resources management.
Early in life, Goni had prepared for future excellence in his chosen career, which encompasses arresting deforestation, health safety, agriculture and environmental activities by acquiring relevant knowledge and professional qualifications. He holds Diploma Certificate in Agriculture from Ahmadu Bello University; Certificate in Crop Production and Protection from International Centre for Agriculture and Higher Diploma in Forestry from Federal School Forestry, Ibadan.
In addition, the Economic Confidential learnt that he also obtained Overseas Certificate in Forestry from Cambria College of Agriculture Forestry, United Kingdom and Master Degree in Environmental Forestry, University of North-Wales, Bangor.
Goni started his working experience with Chad Basin Development Authority, Maiduguri where he headed the Forestry Department and Extension Division in the 1980s. He was also Forestry Specialist and Advisor to European Union Assisted Project in the North-East between 1991 and 1992.
He also worked at directorate level at the Natural Resources Conversation Council and Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEMA) before he moved to Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Limited (NLNG).
At NLNG, Goni held various positions which included Senior Environmental Advisor, Head Environmental Affairs and Head of Government Relations between 1997 and 2011. He also had a stint at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) where he worked at the Environmental and Safety Department from 2005 to2008. There he developed the Corporate Health, Safety and Environmental Policy. He was also involved in Pollution Control and Spill recovery work in addition to Environmental Management.
In the course of his national assignment, he has attended several national and international seminars and workshops on environmental matters and forestry activities
The Great Green Wall initiative is a pan-African proposal to “green” the continent from west to east in order to battle desertification. The vision of a great green wall is to combat ecological degradation. The vision evolved into an integrated ecosystem management approach in January 2007, when the African Union adopted declaration 137 VIII, approving the “Decision on the Implementation of the Green Wall for the Sahara Initiative.” It is a strategy adopted by African leaders, supported by the international community and development partners, to fast track the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), roll back poverty and address the specific risks and vulnerabilities in our dry lands.
With a professional appointed to pioneer the affairs of the agency, the project is sure to achieve its objectives of checking the advancement of desertification and erosion as well as restore eco-balance, even as it creates sustainable jobs for thousands of unemployed youths.