From the earliest days, man has always had to take good care of his environment so as to be able get the best out of it. As a matter of fact, recent history shows how we have had to pay very dearly for failing to deal fairly and responsibly with our environments.
Even today, the care of our physical environment remains a continuous exercise that is sacrosanct – one which continues to require our brightest minds not only to champion but to also coordinate. This is because as civilisation and technology continue to advance, so also does our responsibility toward our environment advances. Achieving the mandate of the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA), which is a positive and realistic planning that balances human needs against the carrying capacity of the environment, requires nothing short of a square peg in a square hole.
Although, President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration may have been criticised across some sections of the country as rather slow, what his critics cannot accuse him of is the fitness and efficiency of most of his appointees for the businesses committed into their hands.
I daresay quickly at this point that whereas it is instructive to point out where a government needs to do better, it is equally compelling for anyone who considers himself or herself a partner in these arduous tasks of nation building to also beam the spotlight on the areas where the government is doing well. It is no longer fashionable to consistently run a negative commentary on the nation so beloved. And, in fact, it never was.
The atrocious dumping of toxic wastes on our shores in 1984 by the those who knew clearly the dangers of toxic wastes has no doubt put the Nigerian state on high alerts in guarding against similar dangerous activities not only from abroad but also within the country. This is why President Buhari’s pick for the herculean task of environmental standards enforcement is of interest.
Professor Aliyu Jauro is not merely distinguished on the basis of his towering yet impeccable academic profile. The industrial chemistry guru is a born administrator who, like his principal, Mr President, loathes corruption in all its ramifications.
The responsibility of NESREA being the protection and development of the environment, biodiversity conservation and sustainable development of Nigeria’s natural resources entails the engagement of men and women who do not merely have an head knowledge of the nuances of the environment, but those who possess the right heart for nation building. It is when the right heart meets the technical know-how that real leadership can be found.
Professor Aliyu has begun giving a manifestly contemporary leadership to NESREA through a strategic coordination and liaison with stakeholders within and outside the country. It is noteworthy that NESREA stands strategically at the intersection of intense intellectual and industrial pillars to do justice to the enforcement of environmental standards, regulations, rules, laws, policies and guidelines of the nation. This is of a particular interest given the deathly gulf between the ivory towers and policy drivers in our country.
For instance, only a few months ago, the Chemical Society of Nigeria led by its President Professor Sunday Okeniyi paid a visit to the NESREA director general in an apparent show of the readiness to make their patriotic energies count in the efforts to make our environment safe and sustainable.
Himself, a long-standing member of the society, Professor Aliyu is setting a pace for heads of agencies in Nigeria on the need to strike strategic partnership that works.
The NESREA Act empowers the agency to be responsible for enforcing all environmental laws, guidelines, policies, standards and regulations in Nigeria, as well as enforcing compliance with provisions of international agreements, protocols, conventions and treaties on the environment to which Nigeria is a signatory.
The outlook is pretty much positive as per Nigeria’s capacity to effectively police its environment against all forms of degradations. The DG must therefore ensure he continues to ensure a judicious use of resources available to him. He must leverage on the power of the media to educate the public on safer and more sustainable ways of dealing with our environment.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian state must continue to give priority attention to the needs of NESREA so that it can effectively carry on with its mandate.
This is by no means an easy task. Nevertheless, it is achievable.
Daniel writes from Kaduna