Zarma and Nigeria’s Environment New Face
By Abdulsalam Mahmud
Unlike the previous ones, the Federal Ministry of Environment (FMENV) held its 2019 annual Ministerial Press Briefing, on the eve of the Presidential and Governorship inauguration ceremonies, on Tuesday, 22 May 2019. The event took place at the National Press Centre of Radio House in Abuja, amidst pomp, excitement and glamour.
But that will be the last day of the visionary, articulate, result-oriented, focused and methodical Surv. Suleiman Hassan Zarma, as Minister of Environment and member of the Federal Executive Cabinet (FEC).
At the Briefing, Surv. Zarma, noted that since the advent of President Buhari’s administration, the ministry has taken significant steps to ensure effective coordination and better management of the environment.
He said the area of land degradation, climate change and biodiversity were given unprecedented attention by the APC-led central government, in line with the vision of Ministry, which is “to ensure Nigeria develops in harmony with the environment”.
Zarma, recalled that the FMENV was created in 1999 to ensure effective coordination of all environmental matters which were then fragmented and resident in different line ministries.
He said the Ministry was charged with the responsibility of protecting the natural environment against climate change, pollution and land degradation, as well as conservation of biodiversity for sustainable development in the country.
“Articulating and enforcing environmental laws, regulations guidelines and standards; ensuring environmental awareness; and provision of effective administrative framework for environmental management, are some objectives we have religiously pursued since we came on board in 2015,” he added.
Parastatals and agencies under the Environment Ministry include National Agency for the Great Green Wall, Forest Research Institute of Nigeria (FRIN), National Parks Service, Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) and National Biosafety Management Agency.
Others are National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA), the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), Environmental Health Officers Regulations Council (EHORECON), and Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP).
The immediate-past Minister, pointed out that Nigeria’s rich natural environment makes the protection and sustainable use of her resources a high priority. Thus, the Ministry focuses on formulating and enforcing policies and regulations around the areas of desertification and deforestation, pollution control and environmental health, climate change, flood and erosion, together with environmental standards and regulations.
“FMENV has already prepared a National Policy on Erosion and Flood Control, issued the Nigerian Sovereign Green Bonds, succeeded in conserving resources through combating illegal wildlife trade, embarked on great green renewal, enhanced recreational services at National Parks and successfully launched the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP), in order to check environmental degradation, maintain the ecosystem and preserve Nigeria’s biodiversity, he said.
Reeling out other giant stride the Ministry has recorded, Hassan Zarma, said that the upgrading project of 12 Mini Parks to National Parks has already been initiated.
He disclosed that the National Forestry Trust Fund (NFTF) has been set up via gazette and has since commenced work, adding that the National Forest Investment Programme (NFIP) 2019 – 2023 has also been developed.
Zarma, said NEWMAP has supported the development of a framework for adoption of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) as low carbon alternative to firewood and kerosene, in a bid to reduce environmental pollution from the use of kerosene, as well as curtail tree-falling for use as firewood.
“To address the problem of desert encroachment, the National Afforestation Project Planted about 10 indigenous tree species on 834.6 hectares of land in 2018. Equally, we carried out research into the biotechnological approach to mass production and multiplication of endangered and economic tree plants,” he said.
He asserted that Nigeria has ratified the Kigali Amendment to phase down Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that deplete the Ozone Layer in 2018, and also ratified the Minamata Convention on Mercury last year.
“In the area of Climate finance, Nigeria during the life of this administration became the first country in Sub-Saharan Africa to issue a Sovereign Green Bonds to finance afforestation, Desertification and Renewable energy projects to the tune of 10.45 billion naira.
“Again, we successfully developed the draft National Policy on Solid Waste Management and Plastic Life-Cycle Management. In collaboration with NESREA, we also developed the National Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) Management Regulations,” he said.
While applauding the former Minister, Mr. Saghir El-Mohammed, Director of Press at the Ministry, said it was Surv. Zarma who ensured that the National Action Plan (NAP) to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought was reviewed and aligned with the 2015 – 2025 strategy, so as to boost the implementation of the United Nations (UN) Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
He added that the Erosion and Flood Control policy is what now guides the implementation of Erosion/Flood Control Projects in the country.
Mr. El-Mohammed, disclosed that Nigeria as party to the three climate change treaties (UNFCC, Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement) has been reporting to the Convention through her first and second National Communications (NCs) and the Biennial Update Report (BUR).
“Nigeria is championing the fight against illegal wildlife trade in the West African region, which has led to the development of a West African Strategy on Combating Wildlife Crimes (WASSCWS). In addition, and in recognition of the Minister’s outstanding efforts, Nigeria is now part of the Youth and Resilience and Adaptation Strands of the UN Secretary General’s Climate Action Summit coming up in September, 2019,” he said.
The Director of Press, added that Mr. Zarma was the brain behind the introduction of Flood Early Warning System (FEWS) Programme, for effective environmental governance and adequate nationwide flood forecasting and monitoring.
He noted that FEWS will also help to provide flood warning in advance to reduce flood disaster impact and ensure prompt response to impending flood, saying remediation work has since commenced in 16 sites across four LGAs in Ogoni land.
Speaking at the valedictory briefing, Mrs. Ibukun Odusote, FMENV’s Permanent Secretary, said Surv. Hassan Zarma profoundly built on the foundation laid by his predecessors in office, as evidenced in the landmark achievements recorded by the Ministry.
“The Honourable Minister’s milestone in the area of addressing various ecological problems facing different parts of the country, as well as his commitment towards ensuring the establishment of shelterbelts across the country, to guard against desert encroachment and desertification is indelible,” Mrs. Odusote maintained.
In the ‘Next Level’ of PMB, environmentalists and other critical stakeholders will be hoping to see another purposeful, brilliant and consummate technocrat been appointed as the new Minister of Environment. It is the only way to guarantee a consolidation of the magic wands Surv. Suleiman Hassan Zarma performed at FMENV. Nothing more!