By Odimegwu Onwumere
?The Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Climate Change, Hon. Eziuche Ubani, speaking in an occasion in Abuja, said that government has not done its best in terms of proper responses to climate change.
At a meeting with officials of the Department of Climate Change, Federal Ministry of Environment, October 2013 at the National Assembly, Ubani after going through the budget recital on Environmental matters, said that from the low funds being proposed for climate change, Nigeria is in danger of being left behind.
There is lack of information and knowledge about climate change and Nigerians are reluctant to accept the reality. There is low level of awareness about climate change in Nigeria, and the way it is presented to the public.
?Government policies have not really encouraged and supported the contributions to adaptation of individuals, households, community organizations and enterprises,? said a Port Harcourt-based Journalist.
?More than half of bush burning throughout Nigeria is deliberately lit, costing millions of naira damages annually,? said a source.
?In its budget last year, the department of climate change in the Ministry of Environment had a budget that was under N500 million, and the whole country was to be managed climate challenge-wise from the microscopic budget,? Ubani lamented.
?This was a big blow to the ministries of agriculture, transportation, aviation, water resources to make their budget climate change mitigation-compliant,? enthused a source.
Part of the dangers to climate change is gas flaring, which?the Nigerian Supreme Court in 2005 saw as illegal having formally banned it in 1984 and declared it ?unconstitutional?, yet statistics showed that companies operating in the Niger Delta region have not stopped, but have only reduced flaring to 10% since 2007.
Ubani had said that this goes back to the country?s lack of understanding of the climate change mitigation in all its ramifications.
?Some of these gases stay over 100 years before they dissolve. Even those on ground don?t actually dissipate or dissolve, they have a long life span with severe consequences.
?Some contaminate underground water. The ones that go to the atmosphere like carbon have the potential to impact the ozone layer, which is why we have shifts. Impacting the ozone layer means that there is distortion in the balancing, resulting in varying weather patterns,? said Ubani.
The House of Representatives in a testimony in 2009 set December 31, 2012 as the new date for the achievement of zero gas flaring in the country. But an Act to amend the Associated Gas Re-injection Act, No.99 of 1979 Cap.A25 laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004,?was later exhausted.?Less than 50% has been achieved.
“Nigeria is burning off an equivalent of USD1.4 billion dollars annually, but this is profoundly in a most contemptuous disregard to laws and judicial declarations against gas flaring…
?We are not talking about the dangers of fumes from generators to human health and climate change,” a Port Harcourt-based Engineer Philip Owhonda said.
The Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke on Monday, March 4th, 2013, said that the country has a ?new target?, which is not to bring a total end to gas flaring but to meet 22 per cent of gas flaring reduction by 2017, which is characterised as ?on the short-term?.
The World Bank said that while flaring has been cut by 30% since 2005, $50bn worth of gas is still wasted annually.
Ex-head of State Yakubu Gowon, pointed out in 2011, how Nigeria had lost her leading role in Liquefied Natural Gas production to countries such as Qatar and Australia.
The Bureau of Public Enterprises study, estimates Nigeria?s losses to gas flaring at between $500 million and $2.5 billion a year.
?The lackadaisical approach of government to climate change has become a problem to even food supply and loss to biodiversity and, fuelwood unavailability. Government is instigating off disaster in the environment by not upholding to its promises,? decried an expert.
The Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Climate Change also admonished on raising cattle that it should not be about the continuous movement of animals in the bush.
?They can be compelled to be in some kind of location where some incentives are provided for the growth of pasture,? he advised.
He believed that the herdsmen have to embrace mechanised farming or the country has to devise other ways for which pasture can be grown much more quickly, so that in a very small area a lot of pasture can be grown that would sustain a large number of livestock.
?If we don?t do things today and decide to leave them for?tomorrow, the cost and consequences will be bigger. The choice before us is to say, let everybody continue to produce and graze and then let the desert be coming. Let us be having desertification up to a point we are not able to even grow or raise one herd of livestock,? he counseled.
According to him, there are ways that these can be managed through irrigation. ?If there is irrigation in place that means that they can have pasture.?
Ubani held that people thought this might be capital intensive and the illiterate nomadic farmer can?t flow with such an idea, but ?it is feasible if everybody understands the dangers posed by adverse climate change.?
Although, Nigeria has signed up to the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change, Hon. Ubani presupposed that what the citizens need to do is to have the wakefulness that there are changes in the environment and that they need to understand the causes.
?We need to understand the actions that we need to take in the policy process to be able to address them at the national, state and council levels?
?We have to check the way we hand permits for logging in the rural areas for example. This is just one example of the things that require changing. These are the sorts of action as opposed to the understanding of the causes and what we need to do,? Ubani stated.
He adjoined that there is need to mainstream climate change mitigation in the country?s budgets and bring that into the country?s development process to say that for instance in 2020 or 2050, carbon emission must have been driven down to a particular level. According to him, there should be the creation of organisations that would preside-over climate change mitigation.
?This is the governance architecture that we need to put in place, which we do not have now. This means embracing programmes that would contribute to the quantum of efforts to bring down Nigeria?s emission of Green House gases or to respond to those changes that we know. Rather than just budgeting, like that to say, they can also say that okay they are planting a number of trees to bring down carbon emission. Those are not quite in place now,? Ubani said.
Odimegwu Onwumere?is a Port Harcourt-based Media Consultant.