30 April 2012

Nigeria: Tackling Environmental Challenges in the North-East


As states of North-eastern Nigeria gear up for another wet season, it is pertinent to give thought to the environmental challenges it will bring. This is because barely three months into the raining season in parts of South-West and South-South they have begun to face serious difficulties with regards to flooding.

Around the world, issues about the environment are no longer treated with levity. It has been observed that tackling environmental challenges can save lives and property, thus enabling socio-economic advancement.

The North-Eastern region of Nigeria is confronted by environmental challenges ranging from air pollution, to a very harsh weather temperatures, desert encroachment, and improper waste-management and flooding during wet season.

It is note-worthy that most of these challenges are man-made. For example, the problem of flooding is as a result of improper flood management systems around the North-Eastern States. An examination of the slums in these states will prove this point. Drainage systems, where they exist, are not properly built.

Some are built halfway, after which the normal land continues. As a result, when it rains, human movement becomes a challenge as one is expected to contend with flood water.

The problem of flooding is compounded further, by improper waste disposal. Sometimes when it rains, flood water carries along waste that may get stuck in front of homes.

Usually these wastes are left unattended to and eventually become breeding grounds for mosquitoes, cockroaches, rodents and houseflies, carrier organisms of dreaded ailments as cholera and malaria. Over the years, the major hindrances to achieving a safe environment for the people of the North-eastern Nigeria include the nonchalant attitude of the ggovernment of the various states that makeup the region.

The government is not alone in this; environmental workers in their place of employment are not committed to their jobs, which include sensitizing the people on how to reduce or manage environmental issues, and chastising environmental law offenders.

Thus the system is saturated with people and many responsibilities, but without any desire to fulfil them, hence making efficient and strategic environmental management a mirage.

In order to effectively tackle the challenge of environmental protection in the North-eastern Nigeria, there must be a total restructuring of mind-sets and the system.

Government and environmental workers in the region must rise up to the task of ensuring that adequate environmental measures such as the construction of drainages to curb the problem of flooding, and the planting of trees to tackle desert encroachment, are put in place. Also, certain practises such as improper waste disposal and open-air defecation or urination, should be made punishable offences by law.

Further measures should be put in place to tackle road-side trading in order to ease congestion on major roads and ensure free vehicular and pedestrian movement. While the need to attend to the environmental challenges in the North-East presently, maybe quiet demanding, the long-term benefits should be given consideration.it is expected that by responding to the call to properly handle this challenge, the North-Eastern States of Nigeria will be put on the map as some of the most developed States of the Nigerian Federation in the nearest future.

Queen Chidinma Onyenma is with the Mass Communication Department, University of Maiduguri

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