“Nigeria has the potential to lead when it comes to climate conversations first on the African continent, and to be a model across the world. A lot of these will rely on who the Minister of Environment is.”—Seyifunmi Adebote, a young Environmentalist.
One time the briefings continued as late as 9pm. But the then new Minister of Environment who assumed office in the middle of October 2023, showed no sign of exhaustion. His demeanor continued to alternate between that of a curious student to that of a patient teacher. He wanted to teach as much as he could and to learn as much as he could, the achievements and challenges, especially the challenges. Now and again, especially at the end of each presentation, he would make comments, ask questions, encourage others to ask questions and even spur debates between the Heads of parastatals under the supervision of the Ministry of Environment.
It was clear to all tired officials present that the passing of more than a decade has taken nothing away from the workaholic Chief of Staff: he is still a man particular about results, a public servant uncompromising with discipline and an administrator who holds that management staff must always be prepared to make sacrifices that will advance the interest of the nation.
Nigeria’s Federal Government recognizes that the environment is the soul of the nation’s socioeconomic life, hence the late meetings as part of efforts to setup a roadmap that will highlight the environmental challenges of the country: understand where we are, establish where we want to be and spell out the processes to get there so that all Nigerians and developmental partners can key into this vision and help the Ministry deliver on her mandates.
On Thursday 26th of October 2023 the Minister said this much to the Senate Committee on Environment who paid a working visit to the Minister’s office. Mallam Balarabe told the distinguished Senators that he is interested in reducing emissions, recovering degraded land, advancing the Great Green Wall, improving Rain Storage, recharging the Lake Chad to forestall catastrophic implications for the entire sub-Saharan region, supporting afforestation activities to solve the problems of farmers-herders clash, ensuring ecosystem conservation by combatting illegal trade such as felling of trees to reduce erosion and flooding, securing and improving safety in forests to discourage encroachment by bandits and ultimately ensuring Nigeria’s evolution towards a green economy.
To put action to words, in November last year, at the UN House, Abuja, the Minister signed the contract for the engagement of the Technical Assistance of the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization to restore 350, 000 hectares of land under Component B of the Project Development Objective of ACReSAL Project towards building community climate resilience.
Only three days after the Minister announced that halting and reversing the encroachment of the Sahara desert was an objective that sits close to his heart when he hosted the 9th Ordinary Session of Council of Ministers of the Pan-African Agency of the Great Green Wall.
A couple of weeks later pictures of the Environment Minister at COP28 flooded the internet: at first he was registering Nigeria’s commitment to reduce methane emission, then he was meeting with investors in the business of reduction of Co2, then meeting with the Executive Secretary of the Sahel Region Climate Commission to register Nigeria’s commitment towards a more resilient Sahel, then he was heard inviting Nigerians to support rain harvesting for irrigation purpose while delivering the Keynote address at the celebration of Nigeria Day, then in a meeting with Mr. Yingmin Zhao, Head of Chinese delegation and Vice Minister of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment with focus on partnership towards addressing the impact of Climate Change especially in ensuring energy stability, food security and poverty alleviation. After celebrating Nigerian youths for their commitment to implementing climate action, Mallam Balarabe delivered Nigeria’s National Statement on behalf of His Excellency, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to bring COP28 to a close.
Earlier in October last year when he resumed office and received members of The Movement for Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), the Minister of Environment told them that he is committed to the cleanup of Ogoni land and that his style is not to plan for the people but to plan with the people. This was why upon his return to Nigeria from COP28 in December 2023; he proceeded on a 2-day working visit to Ogoni where he commissioned a number of projects in Ogoni land.
In January he retreated to Kaduna with the top management staff of the Environment Ministry to understand how to streamline the delivery of the Presidential Bond on delivering the 18-point deliverables in line with President Tinubu’s 8-point agenda. While in Kaduna he announced to excited presspersons Mr. President’s security plan to expand, train and equip Nigeria’s Forest Guards to have such capacity as to flush out bandits from Nigeria’s forest not only to improve security but halt poaching that aids wildlife trade and prevent the continuous disturbance of the ecosystem.
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Abubakar Evuti is the Special Assistant Media and Communications to the Federal Minister of Environment and can be reached via email: [email protected]