interviewBy Usman A. Bello
Lokoja — Commissioner for Environment and Physical Development in Kogi State, Architect Muhammed Sule, said agitations for a climate change is uncalled for. In this interview, he spoke on efforts of the state to keep Kogi clean and other issues.
Nigerians are agitating for the setting up of climate change commission. Do you think it can solve the problem?
Well, whether commission or no commission one has responsibility to see that we have a sustained environment.
It is as a result of man's activities, industrialization and excessive wealth because you see a family having many cars and in the process of using them they emit carbon-monoxide into the air and also because of industrialization you have a lot of pollution.
The commission is actually necessary because it is the man who created the problem that will actually find solution if not we would be out of existence. So this is the reason you have so many conferences and the issue of having a commission came up, because knowing the effect of the change people can't just sit down and watch.
Basically, what Nigeria started along with other countries was to see that we start tree planting and state governments were encouraged to embark on planting to check all these. I believe that whatever the coordination of all these activity towards the climate change reduction, the commission would be able to do that and I believe that is the essence of agitation for the commission.
But as for me, I believe that since we already have a ministry of environment, I think such things could be done by the ministry because we have had too many commissions and if we have a section of the ministry charged with this responsibility and the states too have theirs, they would be able to coordinate the activities rather than having a commission.
The effect is enormous and all hands must be on deck.
The climate bill passed by the National Assembly is yet to be signed into law by the president, what is your take on this?
Well, I don't know what must have caused it but I know you don't just see a bill and signed it into law, it has to pass through a process. As far as I know, if it is not an executive bill, they have to look at it critically. The president is a very committed person, who wants the best for the country and will definitely sign it into law.
What is your ministry doing to clean up refuse dotting the state despite the monthly sanitation?
You know we are virtually developing and there are so many economic activities in the state. Everybody is trying to work hard to survive and in the process generating a lot of waste.
On the part of the government, we can't just live them like that, it has to be evacuated so we constructed a dump site but because of the people's poor sanitation, rather than dumping the waste in the designated sites, they throw it anywhere.
When it is raining, you see people dumping wastes in drainages for rain water to carry them away. The monthly sanitation exercise that was introduced was to draw the peoples' attention to their responsibility and to ensure that the environment is clean because most sicknesses today are as a result of dirty environment.
We hope to make it effective through the law that has just been reviewed and passed by the State Assembly. The law spelt out the penalty for defaulters because there is the need for a little bite so that the people would appreciate all that we have been preaching.
The law empowers the mobile court to sanction any defaulter, so these are the measures we have put in place to ensure its effectiveness. We have also put two compacting trucks to support the existing facilities for easy evacuation of waste. And for us to sustain it, we have contracted private individuals to come and help in the recycling process of these waste. With the waste to wealth programme, we would be able to manage the waste.
There are concerns over the impacts of global warming, flood and drought in some parts of Nigeria. How is this impacting on the state, looking at its proximity to the River Niger?
Global warming is a universal problem over which there have been conferences and workshops on the way out but on our part, what we have done is to increase planting of more trees in the state to reduce the effect of global warming which was as a result of man's activities and industrialization.
Our area is prone to flooding, especially the lower area close to the River Niger and last year's experience was devastating. To prevent that, we have formed committees with representatives in all the local government councils especially areas that are prone to flooding, who enlighten the people about it.
Most of the people have heeded the advice and have moved out of those areas and resettled on higher areas that are not prone to flooding.
Also, erosion has been a problem especially in the eastern parts of the state because of the soil nature there, places like Ankpa, Idah, and Ofu among others.
The state has invested billions of naira into solving the problem, at a point Ankpa was virtually cut into three but with the help of the governor, we have been able to put that behind us.
How prepared is the state in the event of any disaster?
Like I said, the disaster we are anticipating is flood because of the region we are and we have already set up committees to work out the modalities of arresting it, they have been sensitizing people on that. What we have done now is to see that they leave the areas that are prone to the anticipated disaster. These are things that we have put in place so that people would not be taken unawares if such incidents happen.
As an Architect, how do you think housing for all can be achieved in this country?
The government approach that 'they must do it all the time' has been the problem but the recent involvement of private developers around Abuja and other parts of the country has to some extent improved the situation. On the part of the government, all they have been doing is to build and sell. What we have done here in Kogi is to provide houses for our workers and our governor has gone to the extent of building government houses in all local government headquarters, about 220 houses were built. But as you know our population is not controlled which means that our need will keep increasing and in this part of the world every one wants to own a house but because of our economic strength not everyone can have it. In other parts of the world, what they do is that they tax companies or organizations and your own is just to provide credit facilities for your staff which will be spread over a time for them to own a house.