By Emmanuel Onwubiko.
The focus of the world is on the environmental summit taking place in the heart of western Europe in Glasgow Scotland which is hosted by the United Kingdom. Nigeria is reportedly participating. President Muhammadu Buhari who loves globetrotting has already left for the conference. The question is for what reason is Nigeria which lacks national action plan on environmental protection participating in a global conference? Is President Muhammadu Buhari participating because of the possible cash incentives that may be paid out to African nations by some of the most industrialised nations that are guilty of the pollution that much of the World suffers from their industrial activities and production?
The good thing is that so much of talks are happening and Africa is definitely not left behind. Africa has gained global fame on what is being done by way of advocacy around planting of trees and the need to halt the expanding frontiers of deforestation.
As far back as 2004, a Kenyan environmentalist and a Human Rights Activist by name Mrs. Wangari Maathai Clinched the Nobel peace prize because of her phenomenal tree planting campaigns in Kenya.
Ms. Maathai frequently expressed concern about poverty in Africa. In an exclusive interview with Africa Renewal shortly after winning the Nobel Prize, she maintained that Africans “cannot afford to have a region where a few people are filthy rich and a huge number of people are in dehumanizing poverty.” She was the first African female to win a Nobel Peace Prize and the first woman in East Africa to earn a doctorate in veterinary anatomy, which she obtained from the University of Nairobi. She studied in Kenya, the US and Germany.
Ms. Maathai as reported founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977 to plant trees across Kenya, alleviate poverty and end conflict. She was driven by a perceived connection between environmental degradation and poverty and conflict. “Poor people will cut the last tree to cook the last meal,” she once said. “The more you degrade the environment, the more you dig deeper into poverty.”
She reportedly mobilized Kenyans, particularly women, to plant more than 30 million trees, and inspired the United Nations to launch a campaign that has led to the planting of 11 billion trees worldwide. More than 900,000 Kenyan women benefited from her tree-planting campaign by selling seedlings for reforestation.
Ms. Maathai recognized that purposeful political leadership can achieve positive social change. “Therefore, the tree became a symbol for the democratic struggle in Kenya,” she said. She organized protests against former President Daniel arap Moi, who angrily referred to her as a “mad woman” and her activities as “subversive.” In 1992, while protesting the president’s allocations of land to his cronies, she was beaten unconscious by thugs and state police. She remained undaunted.
President Moi stepped down in 2002, providing Ms. Maathai with a friendlier political climate. She won a parliamentary election and became assistant minister of the environment. Not long after, the ruling party dismissed her from the cabinet for involvement in opposition politics. She subsequently lost her parliamentary seat during a dubious election.
She fought many battles, including personal ones. Her husband, Mwangi Maathai, divorced her for being “too strong-minded for a woman.” She challenged the divorce in court, and when she lost she called the judge “incompetent and corrupt.” The remarks landed her in jail for six months.
Following her death, then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Ms. Maathai “a pioneer in articulating the links between human rights, poverty, environmental protection and security.” Al Gore, a former US vice-president and another Nobel laureate, said she “devoted her service to her children, to her constituents, to the women, all people of Kenya — and to the world.” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “Her death has left a gaping hole among the ranks of women leaders.”
During her last days, even as she battled ovarian cancer in a Nairobi hospital, Ms. Maathai reiterated her wish that she must not be buried in a wooden coffin — thereby reaffirming her life-long battle to save trees and the rest of the environment. The Nigerian environmental activist, Nnimmo Bassey, commented: “If no one applauds this great woman of Africa, the trees will clap.” These narratives celebrates the individual efforts of an African to put the issue of the environment on the frontburner but Nigeria which is the largest black nation in the World is doing so little to even protect her trees from illegal loggers from far away China. Unfortunately, Nigeria is not known for protecting the rain forestry and other wild lives but Nigeria is even known to be one of the places that illegal logging of trees are happening and the Chinese are particularly accused of leading in this global crime against the green environment in Nigeria.
Oluwole Ojewale writes that Stopping the billion-dollar illegal trade will require both countries taking existing and new law enforcement efforts more seriously.
The writer said that Cameroon loses about 33 billion CFA francs (almost US$60 000 000) annually through the illegal exploitation of timber. The trade may also be benefiting terrorist groups such as Boko Haram and separatist movements in Nigeria and Cameroon.
On 13 January, 21 Nigerians were arrested in Donga-Mantung, the north-west border region of Cameroon, for illegal logging. The single arrest of so many suspects suggests an established transnational syndicate that can only be stopped through stronger domestic and regional responses.
The supply chain the author said involves an international network of criminal groups and individuals including community leaders, timber merchants (the middlemen), state officials, exporters, and industrialists in Europe and Asia. Corruption by local officials and exploitation by Chinese businessmen drive the trade. They facilitate the illegal movement of timber from remote forests in Cameroon to illicit markets in Nigeria and on to shops in Vietnam and China.
Corruption by local officials and exploitation by Chinese businessmen drive the trade, he submitted and rightly so.
Azeezat Adedigba says though Nigeria ratified the Paris agreement on climate change in 2017, the country still grapples with the challenge of women and children suffering from the effect of constant use of firewood and charcoal.
The International Centre for Energy, Environment, and Development (ICEED) said 93,000 Nigerians die annually as a result of smoke inhaled while cooking with firewood, with women and children as the most affected persons.
This means that at least 450,000 Nigeria women will die from cooking with firewood or charcoal in 5 years if an alternative method of cooking is not introduced at an affordable rate.
Even in the Federal Capital Territory, Nigeria’s seat of power, women in many communities still cook with firewood with similar signs of chest pain, teary eyes, headache, constant cough, and back pain which are all associated with cooking with solid fuel.
The UN also said that close to 4 million people die prematurely from illness attributable to household air pollution from inefficient cooking practises using polluting stoves paired with solid fuels and kerosene.
This is also an indication that about 20 million people will die globally in five years from cooking with firewood if a deliberate attempt is not made to reduce this.
Many of these people live in under-developed countries like Nigeria, and a significant number in and around the nation’s capital, Abuja. What a factually accurate journalistic reportage!
Sadly, as Muhammad Buhari goes to Glasgow now that cooking gas has become a luxury under Buhari, the environment will suffer. The President has no solution but rather his harsh economic policies are inflicting pains and forcing many users of gas cooking utensils to revert back to the use of firewood.
Muhammadu Buhari who has done very little to remedy the situation has jetted off to Glasgow, Scotland. He also wrote a piece titled:- “THE CLIMATE CRISIS WILL NOT BE FIXED BY CAUSING AN ENERGY CRISIS IN AFRICA”
He wrote that: “And we can also learn from our friends in Europe and America who do not always practice what they preach. We call on them to lift the moratorium they have placed on fossil fuel investments in Africa. Nigeria has pledged to eliminate illegal gas flaring by 2030—a by-product of our oil industry—and harness it for electricity production. Our intention to end Nigeria’s single greatest contribution to greenhouse emissions may stall without it. Yet there are no such limitations on investment in natural gas power in the West where it is considered a transitional energy source.”
“There is a deal to be done at COP26, but none without the agreement of the nations of Africa. The climate warnings we hear them. We live them. But no one has the right to deny the advancement of our continent. Yet unless the developed world wakes up, we run the risk of trying to fix the climate crisis with an energy crisis,” argues President Muhammadu Buhari.
But as president Buhari points an accusing finger on the West for not doing what they preach, the rest of his fingers point towards him for not practicing those things he is preaching even in this his strange article on the Glasgow summit.
The Guardian only on Sunday reported that Nigerians have cried out to President Muhammadu Buhari over the high cost of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), otherwise called cooking gas, in the country, urging him to take drastic measures to crash the price of the product in the interest of the masses.
From Lagos to Kano, Kebbi, Bayelsa, Cross River, Port Harcourt and Benue, many households lamented that the cost of the product has risen beyond their reach, urging the President, who doubles as the Minister of Petroleum Resources, to take urgent steps to make it as affordable as it once were if he loves poor Nigerians as he claims.
Recall that earlier this month, marketers of LPG expressed concerns over the supply shortage and persistent increase in the price of cooking gas and cylinders in Nigeria.
The marketers had warned that the 12.5kg cylinder of cooking gas, which then sold at between N7,500 and N8,000 could rise to N10,000 by December if the government fails to address the crisis.
Executive secretary of the National Association of LPG Marketers, Mr. Bassey Essien, who gave the warning, blamed the hike in the price of the product on the recently introduced import charges and Value Added Tax (VAT) by the Federal Government, saying, “the price of cooking gas may as well reach N10,000 for a 12.5kg cylinder.”
In Kebbi State, a National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) member serving in Jega, Francis Oluwayomi, said the product has become a luxury in the area.
“Here, it is 700 per kilogramme (kg) and the marketers are threatening that that the prices would still go up. In the past, I used to fill the gas up, but now, I just go there and tell them to sell N3,000 worth of gas, because I can’t kill myself. A lot of people have retired their cylinders and started using coal to cook but that one is even becoming expensive. I am fed up.”
A resident of Port Harcourt, Seyi Abidoye, said a 12.5kg cylinder retails for between N8,500 and N9, 000, saying the situation was unbearable.
“Rent, food, school fees are all going up everyday. The cost of living is getting out of hand. I bought it at N7, 500 just last month, and it has gone up by N1, 000 in less than a month. The dealers are adding money every other day. This is not sustainable for us. Early this year, this same cylinder was less than N4, 000; today it is more than double the price. Only God knows how much we would buy it towards Christmas when gas is usually scarce here,” he said.
According to Nancy Adenike, who resides in Ipaja area of Lagos State, “two weeks ago, I bought my 12.5kg for N7,200; the same day by evening it had become N7,500.”
Oluseun Olofin, a resident in Ayobo area of the state, said: “It is really sad, which way is the country going? The cost of practically everything you need for survival is on the increase. The country is becoming unbearable for the masses.”
Adebusola Ishola, a resident in Ikotun area of Lagos, also said: “A kilogramme of gas, which used to cost N300, now goes for N700. This is getting unbearable for us. I wonder what would happen as we approach the festive season.
“I just bought gas yesterday at N8, 200 for 12.5kg,” he added.
Investigations by The Guardian in Kano State showed that a sizable number of residents have resorted to using firewood and charcoal as an alternative to cooking gas due to the new price regime.
A resident, Alhaji Kabir Muhammad of Tudun Wada quarters, Kano metropolis, said the hike in the price of the product has taken a heavy toll on his life as an average income earner.
Muhammad said he had been using the product for over a decade now due to its affordability and accessibility but could no longer afford it now. So President Muhammadu Buhari has not protected our green areas but he is pontificating about Climate change whereas his attendance to the Glasgow may just be because of the cash Nigeria under his government will receive from the West and surely the benefits won’t even go round to the poorest of the poor.
British Broadcasting Corporation reports that the meeting in Glasgow from 31 October to 12 November could lead to major changes to our everyday lives.
What is COP26 and why is it happening?
The world is warming because of fossil fuel emissions caused by humans.
Extreme weather events linked to climate change – including heatwaves, floods and forest fires – are intensifying. The past decade was the warmest on record, and governments agree urgent collective action is needed.
For this conference, 200 countries are being asked for their plans to cut emissions by 2030.
They all agreed in 2015 to make changes to keep global warming “well below” 2C above pre-industrial levels – and to try aim for 1.5C – so that we avoid a climate catastrophe.
This is what’s known as the Paris Agreement, and it means countries have to keep making bigger emissions cuts until reaching net zero in 2050.
What will be decided at COP26?
Most countries will set out their plans to reduce emissions before the summit starts – so, we should get a sense of whether we are on track beforehand.
But during the two weeks we can expect a flurry of new announcements.
Many are expected to be very technical – including rules still needed to implement the Paris Agreement, for example.
But some other announcements could include:
- Making a faster switch to electric cars
- Speeding up the phasing out of coal power
- Cutting down fewer trees
- Protecting more people from the impacts of climate change, such as funding coastal-defence systems.
African climate negotiators at the COP26 United Nations climate talks this November, in Glasgow, are hoping to strike a deal that would increase climate finance to help Africans adapt and prepare for worsening climate change. It would also allow them to contribute toward the global goal to limit a temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Across Africa, increasing temperatures, rising sea levels, unpredictable rainfall and flooding are adversely affecting millions of people, according to the World Meteorological Organization.
While Africa contributes negligibly to the changing climate, with just about 2% to 3% of global emissions, it stands out disproportionately as the most vulnerable continent in the world.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called on the international community to help. But the developed world is already falling short on promises to mobilize $100 billion a year to help developing nations adapt to, and limit, climate change.
At this year’s climate conference, the African negotiating team will be pushing for $20 to $30 billion earmarked specifically for African nations. Let Nigerians be vigilant so when this cash drops, the money should impact on the lives of the people.
* EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and was federal commissioner of the NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF NIGERIA.
Disclaimer: “The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Emmanuel Onwubiko and do not necessarily reflect those of The World Satellite. The World Satellite will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article.”