A GOODWILL MESSAGE BY THE HON. MINISTER OF AGRICULTURE AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT, CHIEF AUDU OGBEH AT THE 2ND NATIONAL CONFERENCE ON ENVIRONMENT AND HEALTH, HOLDING AT THE REDEEMER’S UNIVERSITY, EDE, OSUN STATE SLATED FOR 4TH – 5TH APRIL 2017
I want to thank the Organizers of this Conference for giving me the opportunity to deliver this Goodwill message on the theme “Managing the environment to protect our vulnerable populations”
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, protecting the environment is a major political, socio-cultural and economic undertaking that cannot be left to speculations; unhealthy rivalry by various Government Agencies or Ministry and to the unpredictability of the ad hoc.
A quick peep into some existing laws, policies and practices, speaks powerfully to a Nation in search of environmental development and calls for an urgent compass in terms of legislation to drive a more coordinated system in order to protect the health and life of our teeming populace.
In view of the prevailing situation, there is no better time than now to formulate a National Policy on environment and health. Such a policy should take cognizance of the conspicuous absence of the environment and health on the exclusive and concurrent legislative list on the 1999 Constitution and therefore the need for equitable and judicious allocation of responsibility for environment and health between the Federal and State Governments.
Distinguished Stakeholders, Ladies and Gentlemen! Without the cooperation of us all, we cannot achieve our national goal and aspiration. I therefore call for executive/legislature synergy, Federal/state government synergy and cooperation, and for Public/Private Sector collaboration. The Multinationals, whose activities impact and will continue to impact on our environment should ensure that their code of practice with regard to the environment here in Nigeria is similar to what they have in other parts of the world. I also solicit the attention and support of the various international agencies dealing with environmental issues. I believe that all of us working together, our ultimate goal of enthroning an effective regulatory framework for sustainable healthy environment and pollution free ecosystem in Nigeria is achievable.
From global perspective, the UN member states have even discussed and agreed on what should be the global priorities that need to be met within the next 15 years—2015 to 2030. These priorities are now called the Sustainable Development Goals or The Global Goals. There are 17 Global Goals that cover a number of important issues for the world in which production that will make the planet cleaner and healthier is prioritized and emphasized because frankly, without a planet there’s no life!
It is amazing to note that all of the 17 Goals are directly or indirectly connected to the preservation of the planet.
A Kenyan Proverb instructs us to, ‘Treat the earth well; it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children.”
The Earth is the present home for our children and we must keep it clean and safe. When we fail to clean and maintain our environment, we fall ill. There is an increase in air borne diseases, terminal diseases like cancer—organ failure—etc. A dirty and wasteful society leads to a sick society. We must attach more importance to our surroundings.
World Environmental Day is observed every year on the 5th of June to raise awareness of the environmental issues and how our actions as human beings are affecting the environment. The day aims to encourage people to protect our planet in little ways.
A Congolese proverb states that one should “Prepare now for the solutions of tomorrow”.
The UN has also called for a worldwide campaign to take strong action to curb illegal trade of wildlife products that are threatening biodiversity—such as poaching, smuggling—illegal trade of wildlife products that are driving various wildlife species to the brink of extinction.
Coming home to Nigeria, what can we do to protect and preserve our environment so that we can live healthy lives and leave our earth better than we met it for our children? Let’s start at our doorstep—we know how much effort is being put in by the Federal Government to make Nigeria a better place for us. We can start by cleaning our gutters and drainages, and sweeping our compounds. Let us decide to make every day an environmental sanitation day for ourselves so as to enhance our healthy living.
Lest I forget, one of the key issues to be addressed according to the organizers of this conference is the place of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) in Agriculture in the Nigerian setting.
GMO is a product of such relationships between biology and technology. GMO is used to generate genetically modified plants which in turn are used to produce food crops. The result of this is that GMO is used to generate food crops that are finally processed for consumption for the end user which is the consumer of such product.
Basically, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), GMO is a genetically (DNA) altered organism which has moved from its natural state to more synthetic and artificial state. The process is referred to as “genetic engineering.” This is done in order to be able to adapt such organisms to cope with a more pressing demand of consumption from various areas in which GMO is always utilized
In Nigeria, the BioSafety Bill is being engineered to ensure that GMO is allowed in Nigeria. Notwithstanding the benefits of GMO in a country like Nigeria and at a time when Agriculture is being touted to take over Oil and Gas as the main source of generating income in the country, the rush to accommodate GMO must be treated with utmost caution.
The debate over GMO are too overwhelming which currently ranges from Intellectual Property rights and rights of farmers to plant whatever they chose to and also their rights to truthful information about GMO for the Nigerian Government to dive headfirst into the GMO program. Taking into account of its health implications and the resultant effects of GMO in Nigeria, proper sensitization should and must be generated by stakeholders in order to reach a more objective view on GMO.
On a final note, it is my humble prayer that the proceedings of this conference open new vistas of solutions to our national environmental and environmental right problems as well as contribute to our health and economic development.
Once more, I wish you fruitful deliberations.
Thank you and God bless.
Chief Audu Ogbeh
Hon. Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development.