Vice-President Namadi Sambo on Friday inaugurated the National Council on Shelterbelt and Afforestation, nine years after it was set up by former President Olusegun Obasanjo administration.
Inaugurating the council in Abuja, Mr. Sambo pledged that government would ensure that all issues regarding ecological problems were speedily addressed.
The vice-president, who is also the chairman of the council, charged members to put in their best to ensure the success of activities of the council.
He recalled that the council was set up on January 19, 2004, with the then vice-president as chairman.
He noted, however, that with the coming on stream of the Great Green Wall initiative in 2005, the council became dormant before it was recently resuscitated by the Federal Executive Council.
"With the launch of the programme in Nigeria, the national council on shelterbelt management became dormant as its afforestation functions were carried out by the Presidential Afforestation Initiative mandated to carry out the Great Green Wall programme, which is now desirous of urgent attention in view of the time lag since its inception," Mr. Sambo said.
The vice president said it is "important to start that the regional afforestation project; the Great Green Wall Sahara Project, has taken up in some member countries notably in Senegal, Chad and Niger."
"To this end, the Green Wall of about 1,500 km. from the east to west and two-km. wide from north to south using both economic and forest tree species to be based on community-driven, integrated rural approach was conceived in Nigeria.
"The Federal Executive Council decided to resuscitate the Council of Shelterbelt and Afforestation and its underlying institutional arrangement, the programmes and activities that will be put in place to achieve the national, and by extension sub-regional objectives," he added.
Mr. Sambo said to achieve the national objective, the Federal Ministry of Environment will serve as the council's secretariat as well as the secretariat of relevant institutions that will appropriately execute approved programmes such as the Green Wall Sahara project.
The vice president, who chaired the maiden meeting of the council, directed the Ministry of Environment to prepare a comprehensive work plan and timelines of implementation. He also directed that the private sector and some notable personalities be co-opted into the membership of the council. He directed the ministry to prepare a report on the activities and achievements of Nigeria regarding the implementation of the Great Green Wall programme for presentation at the programme's biannual Heads of States meeting scheduled to hold this year.
In her presentation, Minister of Environment, Hadiza Mailafiya, commended President Goodluck Jonathan and Vice-President Sambo for resuscitating the council and their determination to address the myriad ecological problems confronting the country.
She said that the Great Green Wall initiative would be implemented in the frontline states of Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Jigawa, Kano, Yobe and Borno. She said the programme would be executed in collaboration with the affected states and their communities.
Ms. Mailafiya stressed that the programme was meant to rehabilitate the environment and not to acquire land from those affected.
The National Council of Shelterbelt and Afforestation is charged with halting the southward movement of the Sahara Desert and mitigating its effect on the integrity of the environment.
Members of the council are the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Ministers of Environment, Finance, Youth Development, Information and Water Resources and the National Planning Commission.
Other members are the Ministers of Agriculture and Rural Development, Science and Technology, and Women Affairs and Social Development, the Chief Economic Adviser to the President and the Permanent Secretary of the Ecological Fund Office.
The council also has a technical committee under the chairmanship of the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Environment.