Mrs Sharon Ikeazor, the Minister of State for Environment on Wednesday expressed support for the establishment of National Institute of Environmental Studies to help address various environmental challenges across the country.
Ikeazor made this known in a statement by Mr Saghir el Mohammed, the Director Press of the ministry in Abuja.
She said made the commitment when the National President of the Nigerian Environmental Society (NES), Dr Dorothy Bassey and her team paid a courtesy visit to her office.
She said that the establishment would offer necessary expertise for certification of practitioners and the provision of much-needed manpower to address environmental issues in the country.
According to her, the establishment of such an institute has become necessary to streamline the practice of environmental scientists and enthusiasts in the sector.
“The establishment is also important to enable provide essential expertise certification and competency in handling various aspects of climate change, ecosystems and environment as a whole,’’ she said.
Ikeazor, however, assured the NES of the ministry’s readiness to collaborate with the organisation to enable enhance in the protection and conservation of the environment.
She said that the ministry would as well support the organisation in the implementation of the recent approved National Solid Waste Management Policy, National Forestry Policy and National Gender Action Plan on Climate Change.
She said that the National Gender Action Plan on Climate Change was to mainstream gender into climate change action that would further create jobs for women, youths and other vulnerable Nigerians.
“As part of environmental remediation, the Federal Government is committed to Mangroves restoration and protection across the country.’’
The minister called for collaboration from the NES to further deepen the knowledge and the creation of awareness among Nigerians on the numerous benefits to life sustenance and the ecosystems.
She decried the situation where Nigeria with about 11,600sq of coastline, spanning Bakassi Peninsular in Cross River State to Badagry in Lagos State had not one per cent of Marine protected areas.
“That is why the ministry is planning to roll out a National Mangrove Restoration Plan as it avails the country several benefits in terms of controlling coastal erosion, serve in the restoration of polluted areas and protect marine animals that provide a livelihood to the people.’’
Ikeazor, while enumerating actions taken by the ministry on environmental protection, she disclosed that the ministry was in the middle of amending the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) Act.
She said that in the amendment that was being put together, the NES had been listed as a member of the NOSDRA board.
Ikeazor, however, promised to renew her earlier appeal at the appropriate time to Mr President upon her assumption of duty, to grant assent to the NOSDRAS Act.
“As the environmental regulator of oil and gas activities in the country, NOSDRA requires all the legal and administrative backing to operate successfully.
“What we have in the Ogoni clean-up today is lack of regulation and environment assessment of oil exploration in Nigeria with an amended bill, NOSDRA will be well equipped to check such excess and protect our environment.
“The environmental degradation in the Niger Delta, especially the Port Harcourt soot, the artisanal refining and the ‘kpo-fire’, are all as a result of inadequate regulations and non-compliance with Environmental Impact Assessment.”
Bassey had earlier said that the visit was in pursuance of the society resolve to intimate the ministry of their activities, seek an avenue for partnership in the protection of the environment and to enhance advocacy.
She said that the partnership was to serve as a vehicle to disseminate the ministry’s messages and policies to the grassroots and get the necessary feedback.
She said that NES was a foremost environmental body in Nigeria created in 1985 with presence in 26 State, adding that their activities were geared toward development and protection of the environment.
Bassey, however, solicited for the support of the minister and other stakeholders to facilitate the passage of the bill establishing the institute into law.
“We as a group has over the years sponsored the bill to establish a National Environmental Institute of Nigeria in the National Assembly without success.
“We recently represented it for consideration. The bill is to ensure that only those with requisite skills and expertise should be allowed to take part in environmental issues and consultancy.’’
Mr Abel Enitan, the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, commended the organisation for taking interest in the ministry’s activities and their commitment to environmental issues.
‘’I can only assure you that the ministry is ready and desirous of partnering with a serious, credible and well-organised entity, society and groups to drive the agenda of making our environment more conducive and sustainable in line with the socio-political mandates of this administration and other levels.’’