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The Challenge Of Biodiversity In The Niger Delta

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Issues of insecurity and poverty in the Niger Delta region were at the front burner of a recent project steering committee meeting of the Niger Delta Biodiversity conservation programme.
The Niger Delta Biodiversity conservation programme is a United Nation’s Development Programme (UNDP)- sponsored programme to preserve the natural resources of the region from extinction.
Information obtained from the website of the organisation defines the goal of the programme as a contribution towards the sustainable use of the significant biological diversity in the Niger Delta to uplift the living standard of the people.
According to the UNDP, “the project is to mainstream biodiversity management priorities into the Niger Delta oil and gas sector development policies and operations.”
Aligned with the Global Environment Facilities (GEF), the project also seeks to strengthen the policy and regulatory framework for mainstreaming biodiversity.
The UNDP also said that, “the project will target Nigeria’s oil and gas sector which is the backbone of Nigeria’s economy.
The Niger Delta biodiversity project is currently running in four states of the region. The states are Akwa-Ibom, Delta, Bayelsa and Rivers States.
Thus, the project steering committee meeing which held in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State captial was to take stock of achievements recorded so far with a view to planning ahead.
The meeting was attended by all members of the committee, including traditional rulers, officials of the conservation programme, community leaders, members of the civil society, top civil servants, members of the academia, journalists and others drawn from the four implementing states of Rivers, Akwa-Ibom Delta and Bayelsa.
Day one of the meeting featured the project over view, progress report, actions from last project steering committee (PSC) meeting states/key, achievements of 2017, implementation, midterm review, state/community updates by the four states as well as updates by oil companies.
Also featured were special sessions on project implementation challenges/ risk, state government commitment, community, oil companies engagements, project sustainability and recommendations.
Day two witnessed the presentation of priorities for 2018, draft work plan for 2018 as well as discussions and endorsement of the 2018 draft workplan.
National coordinator of the programme, Dr Mathew Dore said that within the past three years, the UNDP has evolved measures towards the preservation of rare animal and plant species in the Niger Delta region.
Dr Dare added that, several studies were carried out within the last three years on variety of issues, one of which was reforestation, stressing that in this world of climate change, the UNDP was aligning and engaging with oil bearing communities to protect globally endangered species.
Accordingly, over 54,000 trees of various species have been planted across the four implementing states. Dr Dore listed communities that benefitted from the tree planting programme to include, Esit Eket, and Odio in Akwa-Ibom state, Kwana, Magho, Afara Etche and Alesa Eleme in Rivers State.
In Bayelsa , Ogbogolo Samgbe, Oluasiri, Zarama, Ayama, Adigbe and Biseni were beneficiaries of the tree planting programme while in Delta State planting and scoping were carried out at Umuaja, profiling of Abigborodo community in Delta North, engagement of the people of Abigborodo in mangrove tree planting, while a study on the use of raffia palm was carried out in the community.
Furthermore, in Delta State, trees were planted in Patani, Udipbori, while the existing man and animal relationship were preserved by ensuring the survival of the West African dwarf crocodile in Emu community in Ndokra West Local Government area.
Dr Dore said that several communities in the region were taught on the conversion of water hyacinth to produce organic manure.
He described the Niger Delta as a complex ecosystem, adding that the problems of poverty, hunger and deprivations in the region have made it difficult for people to conserve their natural resources.
Also speaking, the former Regional Manager, Environment, Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC), Engr Charles Oforo, said that sustainability of the project depended on the collaboration between the UNDP, multinational oil companies operating in the region, the various state governments and the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). Engr Okoro said that the communities must be made to see the project as their own, while the government must take the issue of conservation seriously. He particularly criticised the NDDC for not giving serious attention to issue of biodiversity conservation in the region, adding that the three percent annual budget of oil companies to the commission are not meant for the purchasing of vehicles but to empower the people and preserve the Niger Delta ecosystem.
Also speaking Professor Maxwell Iweghue of Delta State University, Abraka, regretted that the governments were not giving attention to the issue of biodiversity conservation in the country.
The university don also decried the lack of drainages and parks in most cities in the country, adding that time has come for the society to appreciate the importance of the ecosystem and take practical steps to preserve them.
He commended the UNDP for the efforts so far, but stressed the need for more awareness programme on the importance of conservation.
For Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Delta State, Mrs Ukem Ajofo, the state government is ready to assist the UNDP to actualise the project in Delta state.
A traditional ruler, HRH, Samuel Ekaso, from Odio Community Eket, urged for more effort by the UNDP to check the ravaging effect of the Nipa palm in communities in the Eke area of Akwa-Ibom state.
He also called for a trust fund for communities with a view to empowering them to protect their environment.
Each of the states affected in the programme also took time to highlight areas of challenges in the implementation of the programme.
The four states which spoke on implementation of challenges/risk identified bureaucracy, lack of government commitment, issues of conservation, poverty as well as inadequate manpower in forestry management in the region as some of the problems they experience. They also identified youth restiveness, incessant demands for compensations by communities in the region and lack of alternative source of livelihood for the people.
The states stressed the need for poverty eradication programme, employment and training of forest guards in the region, while illegal oil bunkering and pipeline vandalisation be checked. The Niger Delta region has lost several of its animals and plant species to oil exploration and exploiting activities and the call for conservation is coming at a time when the region needs to regenerate itself with a view to preserving its resources to generations unborn.
Moreover, Nigeria is a signatory on the ban on trade on endangered species and the African convention on the preservation of nature and natural resources.

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We’re Hopeful Of Passage Of Water Resources Bill -Minister

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The Minister of Water Resources, Mr Suleiman Adamu, has expressed hope over the passage of the National Water Resources Bill before the National Assembly.
Adamu expressed the optimism while answering questions on the sidelines of a two-day training for Water Resources Correspondents, Editors, and News Analysts in the Nigerian Water Sector’  with theme, ‘Reporting Water in its Perspective’.
The Tide source reports that the training is to build capacity of reporters on water resources sector by having deep knowledge of terminologies and issues in the water sector.
The Tide also recalls that the Bill, which was introduced in the 8th Assembly, caused outrage as some Nigerians interpreted the law as a power grab by the federal Government.
“It is part of our roadmap as far as I am concerned. We will continue to engage with the National Assembly, now that they have come back from recess, we hope to engage.
“At the same time, we are talking to all other antagonists to allay the fears to accommodate whatever apprehension. We are very confident that we’ll get that bill passed,” the minister said.
He further stated that it was wrong for a section of Nigerians to completely criticize and condemn the whole Bill instead of pointing out areas that needs to be reconsidered.
“It doesn’t make sense if you have problem with the Bill; identify the key issue or problem if there is need for amendment instead to completely condemn just because of one or two items you are not satisfied with.
“In the National Assembly, you have public hearing, and we will still go back,” the minister said.

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Community Residents Flay Dumping Of Sachets, Bottles In Drainages

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Some residents of Eneka Community in Obio/Akpor  Local Government Area of Rivers State have condemned the indiscriminate dumping of water sachets and bottles in drainages and along the road in the community.
Speaking in an interview with The Tide in the community, they said the situation is not only an eyesore but responsible for incessant flooding being witnessed in the community.
Mr Chibuike Adim, indigene of Rumuoji Eneka condemned the practice, adding that it is this practice that blocked the gutters and caused flashed flooding in some areas in the community.
Adim called on the state government to save the community from the practice by constituting the tax force to check this habit.
He also said those who engaged in this practice are not only uneducated but also foolish, stressing that such people must be dealt with according to the law.
Also speaking, Miss Patience Odum also condemned the practice but added that there is no designated refuse dump site in the community.
Odum also urged for the provision of refuse receptacle in the area while the Rivers State Waste Management agency (RIWAMA) should also monitor the activities of the people.
Also speaking, Miss Alice Nsikak, a student of Rivers State University said the practice has become a big problem to the community as the entire drainages are blocked.
She stressed the need for sensitisation of the residence against the practice.
Nsikak also called on government to improve the method of refuse collection by providing waste bin to homes on the streets.
According to her, “people could be asked to pay little amount of money every month”, adding that the proposal will check the menace as well as check flash flooding in the community.
Also speaking with The Tide, Mr Ndubuise Ogom confirmed that dumping of plastic materials, refuge and pure water sachets in the drains is a very common practice in Eneka and also felt very bad about this practice.
This practice, added, must be stopped by government by promulgating laws to punish offenders. This if done, will prevent people taking part in such practice. He suggested, a fine of N1000 be slammad on those dumping refuge and plastic containers in the gutter.

By: Oribim Nyanaa Ibama, Elendu Obochi Esther & Inimgba Favour Victor

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Environment

UNESCO Laments Impending Collapse Of Biodiversity …Says Human Survival At Risk

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The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has raised alarm at the unprecedented speed which biodiversity is collapsing globally.
The Director-General of UNESCO Ms Audrey Azoulay, expressed this concern at the UNESCO 33rd session of the the International Coordinating Council of the Man and the Biosphere (MAB-ICC) Programme in Abuja.
Biodiversity refers to the variety of life on earth at all its levels, from genes to ecosystems, and can encompass the evolutionary, ecological, and cultural processes that sustain
The director-general said that with the impending collapse, not only was human survival at risk, but also the beauty and the diversity of the world.
She said that the collapse was from the treetops to the ocean depths and from vertebrates to invertebrates, adding that no species was spared.
“This is the spirit driving UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme. It is what makes it so pioneering and so valuable.
“We all have to stand on the earth itself and go with her at her pace. With this impending collapse, not only is human survival at risk, but also the beauty, the diversity of the world.
“But this collapse is not inevitable: there is still time to make peace with the planet,” she said.
According to her, there is the conviction that we can re-forge our relationship with nature, that we can reconcile development and environmental protection.
“We must harness the power of education to rebuild our relationship with nature. UNESCO is fully mobilised to ensure that the environment becomes a key curriculum component by 2025.
“This is in line with the commitment made by the 80th governments we gathered at the Berlin conference last May.
UNESCO, a custodian of knowledge and know-how concerning biodiversity, has been developing concrete solutions to environmental challenges for over 50 years through the MAB programme and its network of protected sites, covering nearly six per cent of the planet.
With 714 biosphere reserves in 129 countries, including transboundary sites, UNESCO seeks to reconcile humans and nature and demonstrate that it is possible to use biodiversity sustainably while fostering its conservation.
The Minister of State for Environment, Chief Sharon Ikeazor, said that the world was facing planetary crises of climate change and biodiversity loss.
According to her, this global loss of biodiversity is threatening the security of the world’s food supplies and the livelihoods of millions of people including indigenous people and local communities, especially in the African region.

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