Abuja — The Senate has taken steps at establishing the National Desertification Control Commission with the holding yesterday of a public hearing on desertification in the country aimed at putting finishing touches to the bill before it is passed into law.
Speaking at the one-day public hearing organised by Senate Joint Committees on Establishment and Environment, Senate President David Mark identified desertification as the most severe of all the environmental challenges facing the country hence the need for an agency to fully concentrate on the menace.
Mark, who was represented at the occasion by Senate Majority Whip, Mahmud Kanti Bello (PDP, Katsina North), said "almost every part of the country is characterised by one problem or the other. However, desertification in some views is undoubtedly the severest and most profound in terms of devastation, destruction and magnitude."
The Senate President said reports has shown that desert has overtaken about 1650 square kilometres of frontline states adding, "From knowledge, between 50 to 70 per cent of Yobe, Borno, Jigawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Kano, Katsina, Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara and Adamawa States have been overtaken by desert.
These states with a population of 42 million people, account for about 43 per cent of the country's land area. Other states are also affected in different ways by similar menace.
While expressing his full support for the bill, Senator Mark said "The country is one of the negatively affected in sub-Saharan Africa by the processes and debilitating effects of desertification.
Consequently, the number of communities, local and state government where livelihoods are being eroded on a continuous basis should be a source of grave concern to all of us. These and other disturbing reasons predicate the essence of this bill as conceived by the crafters."
Efforts by the Chairman Senate Committee on Environment and Ecology, Senator Grace Folashade Bent (PDP, Adamawa South) to include other environmental issues into the proposed desertification control bill met stiff opposition from Senator Kanti Bello who warned that the committee's assignment must not be derailed.