Environmentalists recall that the theme of the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) –”Let’s Grow the Future Together’’ — is apt in engaging governments and stakeholders globally in purposeful environmental activities to ensure the security of future generations.
The observance of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought Day in Ankara, Turkey, on June 17 presented another platform for the world leaders and stakeholders to reiterate the need for more pragmatic approaches to checking land degradation and desertification.
Prior to Ankara convention, the international community had on June 17, 1994, in Paris, expressed concern that “desertification and drought are problems of global dimension affecting all regions’’.
Therefore, in a renewed effort, stakeholders resolved in Ankara to achieve a balance in the rate at which land is degraded and restored by taking concrete actions to avoid, reduce and reverse land degradation, referred to as having achieved Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN).
During the observance, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for an urgent action to protect and restore the world’s degrading land in a bid to reduce forced migration, improve food security and address the global climate change emergency.
He noted that the world was losing 24 billion tonnes of fertile soil and dry land to degradation, expressing concern that the development had reduced national domestic product in developing countries.
Similarly, Mr Ibrahim Thiaw, Executive Secretary of UNCCD, said that land degradation and competition over access to land and water had triggered more bloody conflicts across the world.
“More lives have been claimed in conflicts over access to land and water than Boko Haram insurgency in some northern parts of Nigeria.
“Every day, you have more conflicts among people that are competing for access to land and water; the root cause of the competition is access to natural resources,’’ he observed.
He said that land restoration could not be left in the hands of governments alone, calling for a review of the land tenure system to woo private business investment.
“This means there should be some concession for the business sector to participate in land restoration.
“It means that if a business restores a land, it gets concession on the land for 50 years or more, so that the land remains restored rather than leave it barren.
“Otherwise, why would I invest in land restoration if I had no right on that land; if the land continues to belong to someone else,’’ he asked.
According to him, restoring land will reduce forced migration and keep people on the ground to generate their own incomes and live their own lives and land restoration is about security.
However, analysts note that Nigeria and 121 other countries, in the last four years, have been committed to taking voluntary, measurable actions to check land degradation by 2030.
Also, the Drought and Desertification Department of Federal Ministry of Environment reports that Nigeria’s other LDN national target is to reduce land degradation by 20 per cent by 2030 in degraded hotspots of the country.
“For the land productivity dynamic, it is observed that 360,340 hectares of forestland have shown declining productivity while 178,620 hectares of forestland show early signs of declining,’’ the department reports.
For effective checking of desertification, the Federal Government says it hopes to rehabilitate 1,722,660 hectares of cropland showing declining land productivity and 10,565,040 hectares of cropland showing early signs of declining land productivity by 2030.
The Federal Ministry of Environment also says the government hopes to halt the conversion of forests and wetlands to other land cover classes and increase forest cover by 20 per cent by 2030.
Apart from these efforts, environmentalists note that Nigeria is a key participant in the Great Green Wall for Sahara and Sahel region, an African-led initiative against desertification inaugurated in 2007 by the African Union (AU) to restore the continent’s degraded landscapes.
The wall — 8,000 kilometre-long — stretching across the entire width of over 20 countries in the continent will be the largest structure on the planet.
The initiative is to restore 100 million hectares of currently degraded land and create 10 million green jobs by 2030, among other benefits.
This notwithstanding, Pima Hoffman of African Climate Reporters, a non-governmental organisation, calls on AU to declare a state of emergency on forestry to halt continuing desertification among the 55 member states.
It observes that “millions of animals have been forced to migrate while some have gone extinct due to continuous hunting activities, bush burning, wood cutters and timber commercial sellers.
“Such irrational human activities need to stop if we wish to survive in this planet because without forestry, no one will live in this earth.
“Many African forests today face serious extinction problems; this has brought about reduction of visiting tourists and archaeologists and other forestry experts from international countries to the region.’’
Hoffman says the AU ought to authorise all member states to be more committed to tree planting to combat increasing desertification.
In his view, Prof. Nasiru Idris of Environmental Science, Nasarawa State University, Keffi, says desertification and drought remain the most pressing environmental problems facing Nigeria.
“Nigeria loses more than 350,000 hectares annually to advancing desert, the dunes are threatening life-supporting oasis, burying water points, and in some cases, engulfing major roads in the affected areas.
“Increasing agricultural intensity and livestock over-grazing and increasing demands for fuel wood have led to a rate of deforestation estimated to be 3.5 per cent, one of the highest in the world, ’’ Idris observes.
Environmentalists note further that desertification and land degradation issues will receive more serious and proactive attention by Nigeria ahead of the 14th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) in New Delhi, India in September.
They express the optimism that during the session, the world leaders will review the progress made to control and reverse further loss of productive land from desertification, land degradation and drought.
They, therefore, call on the Federal Government to be active in the session because Nigeria is among countries mostly affected by desertification, land degradation and drought more than all the European Union parties to UNCCD.
Ojetimi wrote in from News Agency of Nigeria.
Towards Improved Children Protection Services
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), abuse or violence in all its forms is a daily reality for many Nigerian children and only a fraction ever receive help.
The National Child Welfare Policy of 1989 defines a child in Nigeria as anybody who is 12 years or below; however, a draft decree put into law now sets the age of the child in Nigeria as 18 years or below.
Violence Against Children (VAC) is defined as constituting all forms of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect, negligence, exploitation or for commercial purposes of which result poses harm to a child’s health, survival or development.
It takes different forms, including physical, psychological and sexual; often times, it also takes the shape of disciplinary measures. In recent times, children are even used as human bombs and in any combat or non-combat roles in the conflict in north-east Nigeria.
Studies also show that six out of every 10 children experience some form of violence, one in four girls and 10 per cent of boys have been victims of sexual violence. Often times, the children who reported violence receive little or no form of support. In all of these, the physical, mental, social and even economic burden of VAC is enormous.
Identifying the huge consequences of VAC, world leaders in 2015 made a commitment to end all forms of violence against children by 2030, as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari launched the same campaign tagged “End Violence Against Children by 2030,’’ on Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016.
Following the launch and with increasing incidence of different forms of VAC, including rape, trafficking, Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C), there have also been various clamours to end VAC in the country, of which requires a holistic approach.
A study by UNICEF, the first of its kind in Nigeria, shows that about half of Nigerian children reported some form of physical violence by a parent, adult relative, community member or intimate partner prior to attaining the age of 18.
The studies, “A Financial Benchmark for Child Protection, Nigeria Study, Volume 1’’ and “The Economic Burden of Violence Against Children’’ were based on data gathered from 2014 to 2016 and the survey done in 2018.
The study on the Economic burden of VAC, reveals the cumulative loss of earnings as a result of productivity losses across diûerent types of violence against children to be N967 billion ($6.1 billion), accounting for 1.07 per cent of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
This amplifies the urgency to act on reducing or outright stopping of VAC. However, achieving this will involve increasing efforts on Child Protection Services; efforts that will include awareness on prevention strategies, the implications of VAC and the consequent penalties as even cheaper options.
Ms Juliane Koenlg of UNICEF, Abuja, said that the most important thing is still to increase the awareness on the prevalence of violence against children in Nigeria which is high.
“It is a huge problem, especially on its impact on health and economy in Nigeria; the child needs protection. “If we look at child protection services, we are looking at preventive.’’
“It also has consequences on the educational attainment which we have seen in economic growth productivity loss due this consequence.
“Nearly N1 billion is lost due to creativity loss, while N1.4 trillion is lost to VAC.’’
A child rights advocate, Ms Ifeoma Ibe, says governments must be committed to reducing VAC in Nigeria.
According to her, at the economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) First Ladies Forum in October 2017, the 15 member states, of which Nigeria is among, agreed to adopt a range of measures to protect children from violence, abuse and exploitation.
“We must strengthen our national child protection systems to prevent and respond to violence, abuse and exploitation against children.”
Lending her voice, Rachel Harvey, Regional Adviser of Child Protection, UNICEF, had at the launch of the campaign to end VAC by 2030 in 2016, said that the Federal Government must adopt proactive measures against violence through quality services.
According to her, child protection services must be staffed by trained professionals to help children recover from their experiences.
“Also, perpetrators should be held accountable for their actions by strengthening the capacity of the justice sector. Children and the general public must know that violence against children is unacceptable and know where to seek help when they become victims,’’ she said.
Shedding more light on the problem, Harvey said: “The Nigeria Violence Against Children Survey found that adults who have suffered violence as children, are much more likely to perpetrate intimate partner violence.
“Failure to end VAC also impacts the country as a whole; it leads to substantial economic losses and constrains development. Ending VAC has been linked to sustainable growth not only by the international community, but through the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals.
According to her, it involves religious leaders, NGOs and the media as they have fundamental role in breaking the culture of silence on violence that children suffered.
Aside from the efforts of governments and what the laws stipulate, many stakeholders believe that VAC can be stemmed right from the homes.
This is especially as the National Child Welfare Policy of 1989 specifies that “parents and the society at large, are under an obligation to provide their children with proper education and to protect them from exploitation arising from early marriage, employment and their negative influence that infringe on their rights’’.
A child protection specialist with UNICEF, Mrs Sharon Oladiji, agrees that Nigeria has many laws protecting children in the country, but the laws are not adequately implemented.
She calls for the creation of family courts vested with jurisdiction to hear cases that would help protect the child and prevent trafficking.
“We have good laws, but what we have suffered is implementation; government should also provide the establishment of voluntary homes to take care of children that are suffering,’’ she said.
She tasked parents on their responsibilities of proper upbringing of children in order to reduce the rate of child rights violation in Nigeria.
“If a child is well brought up, issues of molestation and abuse will not occur. “When you raise a child well he goes out to become a good person, when a child has problems in the home he goes out and demonstrates it,’’ she says.
Also, Mrs Eliana Martins, of the Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Nigeria, Lagos State branch, believes that parents have critical roles in reducing VAC through the proper upbringing of their children and wards.
“Instilling good morals in the upbringing of children will help to mould a child’s personality for a more responsible adulthood. If you teach your children good values, definitely they will imbibe these values as they grow up and the women, especially have to rise up to this task.
Mr Denis Onoise, a child protection specialist, UNICEF, reiterated the need for “Call to Action’’ by governments and stakeholders to add child protection budget line to national chart of accounts.
He said that based on studies, currently, only 14 per cent of child protection expenditure in Nigeria was devoted to critical prevention services.
According to him, there is also need to formalise an End VAC National Act Plan and establish VAC helpline.
“These will improve the delivery of child protection services across the country,’’ Onoise said.
Ihechu is of the News Agency of Nigeria.
Insecurity, Traditional Rulers And Community Policing
The hue and cry about insecurity in Nigeria reached an alarming crescendo when the daughter of Afenifere’s leader, Reuben Fasoranti, Olufunke Olakunrin was killed by suspected herdsmen at Ore junction, Ondo State on July 12.
The ensuing reactions were charged, emotional and combustible.
President Muhammadu Buhari swiftly offered a soothing response; he directly commiserated with Fasoranti and reassured Nigerians of Federal Government’s commitment to the protection of lives and property.
In the aftermath of Olakunrin’s death, alongside other incidents of killings, the Pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, ordered killer herdsmen to leave South-West now or face serious confrontation. The organisation said that a lot of people had been killed due to the activities of killer herdsmen between 2015 and 2019.
An Afenifere chieftain, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, said the quit order was because of the killing of Olakunrin.
Determined to assuage feelings and find lasting solutions to the reoccurring security challenges, Buhari directed the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, to confer with traditional rulers and get their input vis- a-vis adopting community policing.
Consequently, on July 20, Osinbajo held separate consultations with the Akarigbo of Remoland, Oba Babatunde Ajayi, and the Awujale of Ijebu Kingdom, Oba Sikiru Adetona, all Ogun monarchs.
Osinbajo was accompanied to Ajayi’s palace by Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun.
“As you know, there are many significant security concerns all over the country, and there are concerns also in the South-West. So, I am here on the instruction of the president to consult with the traditional ruler, the governor and others on what to do to beef up security and to generally improve the security architecture.
“Of course, you know that Kabiyesi is not just a traditional ruler, but a very important part of the government. That is why we are here; to talk to him and agree on few modalities for beefing up security; and ensuring that we are fully conscious of all that is going on, just to be sure that peace and security reigns here and across the country.’’
Osinbajo expressed optimism that by God’s grace, Nigeria would overcome all its problems and set itself on the path of peace and prosperity. The vice president, who also visited the palace of the Awujale of Sagamu, said the monarch was one of the most important voices in the South-West.
He said they had discussed on the important steps to take in order to improve the security architecture generally. According to him, the monarch has given a lot of insight; his own views, on what needs to be done, how to go about it, and what has been done already.
“But very importantly, he showed his commitment to ensure that there is peace and security, and that everybody lives in peace with one another and maintains the highest level of security.
“We are consulting with many of the traditional rulers across the country, but there are concerns in the South-West now. The president has spoken about the role of traditional rulers in maintaining peace and security in their own localities. As we know, they are the closest to the grassroots; the closest to their communities.
“One of the critical things we expect from our community policing efforts is some integration between the traditional rulers, the community and the police; and efforts they are making to improve intelligence; and we need to understand what is going on.
“We need to know who is where, and what exactly is happening all around, so they can be transmitted to the more formal security agencies, such as the police and the army, depending on where and what the situation is,” he said.
In the same vein, Osinbajo, on July 23, met with Osun monarchs at Osun Government House, Osogbo. The vice president, after the meeting, said that community policing was one of the methods that may be adopted to improve security.
In his contribution, Osun Governor, Gboyega Oyetola, who was represented by his Deputy, Mr Benedict Alabi, applauded the Federal Government’s efforts in nipping the security challenges in the state in the bud.
“On behalf of the government and people of the state, we appreciate President Buhari’s administration for being pro-active and for showing interest in the security of our people in the state and in the South-West,’’ he said.
Buhari also held a consultative meeting with South-West Obas on July 31 at the Presidential Villa. Buhari said that the vice president had already begun consultations with some Obas and he had been receiving feedbacks and observations.
He said that the consultations were important because traditional rulers formed a critical part of governance structures, especially in their respective communities, where they felt the pulse of the people being the closest to the populace.
The president said that the dynamics for safeguarding security kept changing and stressed the need to adopt modern, technological and people-centred methods in achieving the goals. Buhari said that as the traditional authorities in their communities, government and the security agencies would be relying on them to monitor the communities. The president also announced other measures government intended to adopt to tackle security challenges.
“Some of these interventions include an expedited commencement of community policing, a robust revamping of police intelligence gathering capacity and the significant boosting of the number of security personnel in our local communities.
“This, in specific terms, will include recruiting a lot more police officers and doing so right from their local government areas, where they would then be stationed in the best practice of community policing.
“Working with the state governments also, we intend to beef up the equipping of the police force with advanced technology and equipment that can facilitate the work of the security agencies.
“I will be issuing directives to the appropriate federal authorities to speedily approve licensing for states requesting the use of drones to monitor forests and other criminal hideouts.
“We also intend to install CCTVs on highways and other strategic locations, so that activities in some of these hidden places can be exposed, more effectively monitored and open to actionable review.
“ We will equally continue to bring in our military when needed to complement the work of the police, including possible deployment of troops on certain highways on a temporary basis, and the use of the Air Force assets to bomb hideouts where criminals are located,’’ he said.
On his part, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, who spoke on behalf of the Obas, said that the president had agreed to fast-track the monitoring of the forests in the region with the use of technology such as drones. He said that policemen and officers would be recruited among people born and living in the various communities in the region.
“We can use that strategy to avert tension going on now in the South-West,” he said.
Deserving no less attention was the recent kidnap of a pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) and four others, along Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, and the killing of a Catholic priest, Rev. Fr. Paul Offu along Ihe-Agbudu Road in Awgu Local Government Area of Enugu State. The incidences, among others, buttress the call for drastic and effective measures to be adopted to tackle insecurity across the country.
Undoubtedly, bringing traditional rulers into the security architecture will enhance intelligence gathering and effective community policing that will reasonably address the nation’s security concerns.
Okoronkwo, writes for the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
Boosting Nigeria’s Cassava Competitiveness
The Presidential Initiative on Cassava, launched in 2003 during the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, was designed to promote cassava as a viable foreign exchange earner for Nigeria.
Then President Goodluck Jonathan sustained the programme by launching the cassava flour initiative. The progamme was meant to bring to the fore, the potential of cassava cultivation and to encourage Nigerians to consume cassava bread made from cassava flour.
The initiative was commended as it would help reduce the cost of bread, because of the high cost of wheat, as Nigerians currently cherished and consumed bread made of wheat. Stakeholders are worried that cassava bread is yet to become popular, while the desired production level of cassava is yet to be achieved.
They blamed the development on poor attitude of farmers to cassava cultivation and lack of technology and the needed infrastructure to churn out cassava flour and called for viable policy to strengthen cassava cultivation and processing to encourage farmers to cultivate cassava.
Cassava Compact Leader, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Mr Adebayo Abbas, who spoke on the need to strengthen cassava policy, stated that cassava remains one of the most consumed food crops in Africa. According to him, the potential market for cassava products is large and growing.
Abbas stated that Nigeria is the highest cassava producer in the world, producing a third more than Brazil and almost double the production capacity of Thailand and Indonesia.
He stated that cassava had been recognised to become agro-industrialised across the African continent to achieve key poverty reduction and economic growth target.
According to him, Africa imports annually about 50 million tons of food, such as rice, wheat, maize and sugar, worth over 35 billion dollars and such food imports have been projected to increase to nearly 100 billion dollars by 2025. He said such increase in food imports is a risk to the balance of trade for most African countries and it also represents a unique opportunity for crops such as cassava.
“Cassava grows well in the continent because it can replace up to 80 per cent of our food imports, especially in processed forms such as flour, native and modified starches, sweeteners and beverages,” he said.
Abbas stated that for cassava to become an important carbohydrates source in Africa, the triangle of productivity, processing and rural infrastructure must be met. According to him, farmers must have access to technologies to raise cassava productivity from the current 10 to 15 million tons per hectare in many African countries to 20 to 25 million tons.
Abbas said that incentives for investment in processing would be achieved through the development of robust supply chains and government’s policies that reduce transaction costs for processed cassava. He noted that rural infrastructure is as important in cassava farming as technology or investment in cassava processing.
The National President, Nigeria Cassava Growers Association (NCGA), Mr Segun Adewumi, called on the Federal Government to review cassava policy in order for the commodity’s value chain to penetrate the international market. To him, the cassava industry has gone beyond growing for consumption and if properly harnessed would generate huge foreign exchange.
He stated that the government and other stakeholders must cooperate to ensure that Nigeria’s cassava penetrate the international market. Adewumi said that many players are interested in cassava farming but the environment has not been conducive, especially the issue of price.
The Chief Executive Officer, Psaltery International Company, Mrs Yemisi Iranloye, also called on the government to promote the cassava business, through the review of government’s cassava policy to meet international standards. Iranloye stated that the present cassava policy for starch and cassava flour have been there since 2005.
She said that the policy had not been reviewed, noting that the last policy was made when there were not many players buying cassava products in Nigeria and there was no standard in the cassava business. According to her, the policy had been in place when there were no big processors, stressing that there was need to review the cassava policy.
She added that just as the review of cocoa, palm oil and other farm commodities’ policies, cassava is now used to produce food grade starch sold to breweries, packaging and confectionary industries. Iranloye said that the starch industry had a lot of challenges, adding that it must be encouraged in order to compete in the international market.
“Most times, when there is price drop in the international market, the multinationals often expect the price to also drop in Nigeria.’’
She, however, noted that the case is not always the same when the price goes up in the international market, but negotiation is however ongoing to get to the desired destination.
Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Muhammed Umar, said that the Federal Government raised the production of cassava from 36.8 million MT in 2013 to 54 million MT, and also developed efficient value-added chains for high quality cassava flour.
He said that the ministry was working with a Malaysian firm to establish one cassava starch processing plant of one ton per hour capacity in each of the six geo-political zones. This, according to him, will complement the 2-3 tonnes per day plant earlier established.
“Also, in the current fiscal year, provision has been made to equip Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), with tissue culture laboratory with modern equipment to enhance rapid provision of quality and disease resistant cassava planting materials,” he said.
As requested by players in the cassava business, the Federal Government should strengthen its cassava policies to enable the country generate reasonable foreign exchange from export of cassava products.
Ogunshola and Olaifa write for News Agency of Nigeria.
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