3 March 2009

Nigeria: Senator Opposes Establishment of Desert Control Commission

Contrary to the position of her colleagues and fellow senators from the Northern part of the country supporting the establishment of a Desert Control Commission Senator Grace Folashade Bent (PDP, Adamawa South) and chairman of the Senate committee on Environment and Ecology is opposed to the establishment of the commission.

At a public hearing jointly organized by her committee and that of Establishment and Public Service gathering views on the Bill, Bent said there was no doubt that desertification is a menace that has attracted both national and international attention with adverse impacts which have direct links to poverty and threat to national security. "Farmers and herdsmen are in constant war for the grazing land which is in shortfall occasioned by the movement southwards as a result of desert encroachment.

"However, it is pertinent to note that in the Senate committee on Environment and Ecology, there is standing before it, a Bill on the National Environment Agency (NEA) as there have been calls from the Northern senators for the establishment of the Desertification Commission to address the menace and serious threats posed by desert encroachment on northern states. The committee, after wide consultations and consensus of stake holders and experts on the environment, resolved that the Desertification Commission be broadened to include all ecological problems in the country under a Federal Agency to be known as the National Ecological Agency to proactively, holistically and equitably tackle the various ecological problems country-wide-desertification, gully and sheet erosion, coastal and tidal erosion, invading sea weeds etc."

Senator Bent argued that the Agency was expected to subsume the functions of the national committee on ecological problems saying, "it is based on this backdrop that I support the creation of an umbrella body rather than a unitary one to attend to a specific issue."

Apparently angered by the position of Senator Bent, Senate Whip, Mahmud Kanti Bello (PDP, Katsina North) cautioned her not to drag the public hearing into undue arguments saying, "the specific assignment given to this committee is the Desertification Control Commission Bill, so there is no need to bring up other issues here. I want to warn that this joint committee must restrict itself to the terms assigned it by the Senate."

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