Nigeria’s federal government has blamed the ongoing deforestation across the country on state governments and other powerful interest groups who protect loggers that produce charcoal for sale.
Minister of Environment, Mohammed Abdulahi, who made this known yesterday while speaking with newsmen at the State House, Abuja, disclosed that each time the federal government moves against the menace to save the environment, there was a push back at the subnational level on the ground that the trees belong to the states.
Answering questions on felling of trees for charcoal, the Minister said: “No other administration has tackled this issue like the Buhari administration. The challenge we are facing under deforestation and charcoal is engaging Nigerian Governors Forum because of the Land Use Act.
“The federal government is just a policy provider and doesn’t have that control over state government land to work out a modality which Kaduna State government has keyed in properly.
“It has invested some hectares of land to plant and we are working with the local governments. So, we are projecting other states will follow suit.
“What we further did to have some level of control, apart from timber legal standard, we have what we call National Trust Fund (NATF) which is essentially to track in areas where there is so much pressure on our forests.
“After tracking it, raise red flag and then engage those communities and the state governments so that a solution can be brought and have and a level of arrest of the continuous challenge to our forest.
“What we did not tell you, is that the activities of the people in the charcoal business with all due respect are being supported by a number of powerful people in the sub-national level. And if we try to do some level of enforcement, they will tell you, we own this territory, you are federal government and you cannot enforce your rule and policy on us.
“So, that is part of the challenge in terms of controlling these activities. But in spite of this, the task force is still there, going after some of them on ad-hoc basis, trying to find out who and who is involved, who licensed who. We are doing our best to curb the situation.”
Abdulahi further disclosed that the present administration has so far planted five million trees as part of its target to plant 25 million trees by the year 2030 under its afforestation policy.
Commenying on Governor Charles Soludo, describing Anambra state as the capital of erosion in the country and what the government was doing to arrest the situation, the Minister said: “on Anambra being the erosion capital of Nigeria, again some of these things boils down to the nature of our federal structure.
“Part of the problem is that, initially, federal government use to intervene in states erosion matters under Ecological Fund. But the states insisted that they be given their share of the ecological funds.
“So, since then, Mr. President being a democrat, gave directives that every FAAC meeting, deductions are made and paid to states from Ecological Fund. But in spite of that, the federal government through the Ecological Fund office still intervene in states to support erosion challenges in several states.
“So as much as we want to intervene and correct some of these anomalies, we are also inhibited by funding issues. Again, that was the basis for which the federal government created NEMA so that the issues of erosion are handled in every state. There are a huge gap in the management of erosion particularly in the south East states of Anambra , Imo and Enugu.
“So we are doing our best to support them but we are also calling on the states to live up to their responsibilities and utilize those funds they get from Ecological Fund effectively, this way we can support ourselves.”
On the issue of national environmental sanitation policy, he said: “ours is to drive this policy and get the buyer in of stakeholders. Usually, what we do when we have this polices drawn up, we have what we call the validation process where the state governments, ministry of environment and agencies in charge of sanitation to jointly go through the document and implement the policy jointly.
“With all due respect state governors have politicized the process of sanitation exercise and programmes. While you find some states banning sanitation exercise and you find others instituting the exercises. So there are discordance tunes in this exercises. But again, because of the nature of our arrangement, we cannot force it down the throat of state governments but in FCT we have level of control working with the Abuja environment sanitation agency particularly has it had to do with plastic pollution in Abuja and the activities of developers because they have been trying to encroach into the Jabi Lake. I’m glad to inform you that we have form an alliance with the FCT and we are set to inspect through a joint Taskforce to those areas and see what we can do to enforce sanitation.”
The Minister said with litigation issues over, President Buhari in the next couple of days will flag off the groundbreaking of the center of excellence for remediation and that of the power project and the hospital.
He said with inhibition out of the way, the ministry is on course to deliver on President Buhari’s directives on Ogoni clean up.
According to him, the federal government has concluded plans for the next stage of the Ogoni clean up exercise, adding that “ President Buhari will flag off the next stage of the clean up, the hospital center of excellence project, among others in the next few weeks”.
Speaking on the Ministry’s efforts at halting environmental degradation, the Minister stated that the Ministry developed the National Drought and Desertification Policy and National Drought Preparedness Plan, as well as engaged in global effort on Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) by 2030 with the completion of target setting of 15.3% per annum.
Others include participation in the AFR100 Initiative (African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative) which aims at planting 100 million trees in Africa, an initiatives, which he said “has restored over 6,191,363 hectares of degraded forest land in the following states Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Jigawa, Katsina, Bauchi, Gombe, Zamfara, Sokoto, Kebbi and Kano among others.
“In keeping with the promise of Mr. President to plant 25million trees by the year 2030, the Ministry coordinated the planting of about 20 million trees in the country, while also establishing cottage apiary for youth empowerment”.
He revealed that a National Forestry Trust Funding (NFTF) was established, to drive the National Forestry Investment Programme (NFIP), 2019 – 2023: to the tune of N259,217.09 million, with five key areas of investment support, such as landscape management, forest governance issues, forest information systems capacity building and cross-sectoral issues, identified.
“We have also secured approval of the President on the establishment of 10 new National Parks.
“This effort is pursuant to the country’s resolve to further enhance conservation activities, increase the amount of forest cover under protective management, improve internal security and ultimately reduce the negative impacts of climate change in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals and enhance socioeconomic development for the nation.
“The New Parks include: Edunenun Marine Park, Apoi Marine Park (Bayelsa State), Kogo National Park (Katsina State), Oba hills National Park (Osun State), Kampe National Park (Kwara State), Falgore National Park (Kano State), Hadeja Nguru Wetland (Jigawa/Yobe State), Alawa National Park (Niger State), Pandam National Park (Plateau State), Marhai National Park (Nasarawa State)”
Also speaking on Climate change, Abdullahi noted that Climate Change has become a major threat to sustainable development in Nigeria.
According to him: “The country’s response to tackling climate change challenges has become a multijurisdictional, multi-sectoral, multi-disciplinary, and multi-resource initiative.
“As a country, we are vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change and the response measures. The impacts of climate change in the Country is evidenced in the reduction in crop yield, decreased fresh water availability, disruption of economic activities: petroleum resources, fisheries, destruction of infrastructure.
“Other major concerns include major flooding and Increased Storms in the Niger Delta, Flooding Across the Country, Increased Aridity in the North, Water Shortage in the North- Drying up of Lake Chad and Climate-induced security challenges.
“Government has signed a 700 million dollar agreement in the 19 Northern States to ensure land remediation, oasis recovery, through the Agro Climatic Resilience for Semi-Arid Landscapes (ACReSAL) project.
“We also signed the Effectiveness Agreement with the EIB for 175 million Euros for land recovery, erosion control and watershed management in 23 states namely Crossriver, Imo, Anambra, Enugu, Abia, Ebonyi, Delta, Edo, Ekiti, Ondo, Oyo, Ogun, Kogi, Nasarawa, Niger, Plateau, Gombe, Borno, Kano, Katsina, Sokoto and Kaduna”.
Deji Elumoye in Abuja