Lagos State Governor, Mr Babatunde Fashola (SAN), Tuesday joined other notable friends of the environment in planting trees to commemorate the 75th birthday of the founder of Fight Against Desert Encroachment (FADE), Dr Newton Jibunoh, stating that the environment was the most topical issue of the day as it would determine the economy, the health status of the people and the sustenance of businesses.
The governor, who spoke at the Wahab Iyanda Folawiyo Senior School, First Avenue/Osborne, Ikoyi venue of the ceremony, said between 2008 and now, Lagos has planted about 4.2million trees, a figure which he said is still not enough.
He added that if there is any reason why anybody should change his mind if he has never planted a tree before or felt the earth with his hands, he should consider that all those who have fraternized with the Conservation Foundation have lived on to become 90 and beyond.
"Really, businesses, factories, car assembly plants will be consumed if the environment wins this last battle. It is the final battle. Our engagement with nature has been one of a constant battle. Many times we have won, the engineers have propelled us to greater heights to overcome nature and control it.
"But somehow, somewhere, I think we have taken a little too much and nature is fighting back. If nature wins, it will be very perilous for our planet, but we can begin to tease nature by giving her back some things," the governor said.
He explained that trees will become the first line of defence against flooding, erosion, desertification adding that if one cannot connect desertification with heavy rains, increasing price of food or with lost farmlands, dwindling resources to sustain and nourish the people then it will be difficult for such a person to connect anything.
He stated that many parts of the world are losing their arable land and it would not be out of place to ask that every home in Lagos must ensure that they find a small place to plant at least one tree.
Fashola saluted the celebrant for dedicating four decades of his life to a cause that he is not the sole beneficiary expressing the hope that the day will become significant for all of those who witnessed the ceremony.
He recalled that some days ago he was at the Lekki area where he saw a cluster of Ekki trees, which was the last, adding that for those who are familiar with the tree, it is an invaluable tree that is used to make footwears.
He said the government was trying to regenerate and replant the trees but expressed the fear that the trees have only stayed alive because those who make a business of felling trees have perhaps not found a chain saw strong enough to attack it, adding that it is everybody's business to protect the cluster.
"For our engineers, architects and all of us who impact nature, who build roads, football pitches and all of such structures. We must be sensitive to how we build, how we lay out the plot and how we interfere with the natural cause of water because they have life changing consequences once we make those decisions," he explained.
Speaking earlier, the chairman of the occasion and former Permanent Secretary in the Federal Public Service, Chief Philip Asiodu, said it was commendable that the occasion was devoted to planting of trees which is one of the most effective things man can do now to reverse the very destructive impact which man has brought upon the earth in the quest for development.
He said trees were the most effective agents for trapping carbon dioxide and reducing its accumulation in the atmosphere where it could only increase global warming and the climate change which threatens the future of the earth as a viable habitat for man.
Asiodu recalled that at Independence, more than 30 percent of Nigeria's land surface was covered by forest but today that has reduced to less than four percent and a continued deforestation that enables people to go to inaccessible forests to log while very little replanting has occurred.
He informed that in 1988, the central government in Nigeria and the States adopted a policy framework to restore 25percent forest cover within 20 years to the country in keeping with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) recommendation to all countries, stressing that 24 years after, no attempt had been made to implement it.
Asiodu said by the latest gesture, Jibunoh was reminding everyone of their duty to do whatever they can in their various capacities to make Nigerian embark upon the implementation of a well developed 20 year plan to restore Nigeria to at least 25 per cent forest.
He said it was also befitting that the tree planting campaign was taking place in a school compound, adding that the future of conservation lied in persuading the young ones to believe in the critical need for sustainable use and management of natural resources.
He added that the seedlings being planted at the occasion will be visible within seven to 10 years and said he expects that the celebrant will be alive when he clocks 85 to come and see a confirmation of his gesture.
In a goodwill message, the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero who was represented commended Dr Jibunoh for his persistence and consistency which have continued to educate the public.
He added that he has used over 40 years of his life gathering scientific evidence on the effect of desertification and recommending the best approaches to combating it.
The celebrant, Dr Newton Jibunoh said the tree planting exercise is meant to evoke in the minds of everyone, a call to action, a call to be educated about what the people are doing to their environment.
He urged everyone to take the message away that if their children are celebrating birthdays or members of the family's birthday, such people will go a long way if they use trees to commemorate such occasions.
"If this my little message can be taken seriously, you would have also given me a better birthday present than any other present because that is what I have stood for in the past 40 years and that is what I would continue to stand for all through the rest of my life", he said.
The Governor and all the dignitaries present including retired General Theopillus Danjuma later planted trees in the premises of Wahab Iyanda Folawiyo Senior School, Osborne, Ikoyi.
The event was witnessed members of the State Executive Council including Commissioner for the Environment, Mr Tunji Bello and his Information and Strategy counterpart, Mr Lateef Ibirogba, the renowned Poet, J.P Clark and other dignitaries as well as school pupils.