The Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) Worldwide has warned of impending natural disasters in the country following lack of interest by the Federal Government to conserve the country’s wetland resources.
The council said already natural violence caused by floods had become a recurrent decimal because the government failed to take deliberate steps to to preserve natural defences in the country’s wetland.
The IYC in a statement signed by its President, Peter Igbifa, to mark the 60th Independence of Nigeria, said it was unfortunate that at 60, the country still condoned some dangerous environmental activities like gas flaring, depleting the ecosystem and eroding wetland assets.
“Could it be that the Federal Government is not interested in wetland preservation because the country’s wetland is situated in the Niger Delta, which is rated as the third largest wetland in the world?
“The government should know that preserving Niger Delta wetland is for the overall interest of the country because wetland protects a country from natural disasters and lack of its preservation is the reason we have started experiencing strange flood disasters”, he said.
Igbifa in the statement issued in Port Harcourt, Rivers State on Thursday, recalled that in 1971, the country participated in an international treaty on wetland conservation held at Ramsar in Iran and agreed to protect wetland assets in the Niger Delta region.
He, however, said years after the agreement, successive administrations had failed to make and implement deliberate policy on wetland protection saying that the Niger Delta has the third biggest wetland in the world.
He said: “I will bring your attention to the Nigeria participation in international treaty on wetland conservation in 1971. All these countries that have wetland gathered in Iran in a place called Ramsa, the biggest wetland in Southeast Asia. Thy signed a treaty for wetland conservation in the whole world.
“Niger Delta is the only prominent wetland here in Africa. It is also the third largest wetland in the world. The biggest wetland, the Amazon wetland in Brazil is recently impacted by climate change. You can see the wildfire eating up the entire ecosystem and wildlife in the Amazon.
“Wetland conservation should be a priority of every national government. Now Brazil has lost the ecosystem, arable land, wildlife and the economy which the wetland provides. According to global statistics, wetland contributes $1bn in terms of foreign direct investment globally and they feed close to one billion of the whole population.
“So, we should not be joking with wetland. Aside oil and gas, wetland is an economic asset. In terms of geography and economic issues, wetland provides shoreline protection against ocean encroachment and high tidal waves.
“The reason why Nigeria is not consumed by flood like other countries is because of the wetland we have in the Niger Delta. The mangrove trees constitute national wind breakers against storms. That is why we can’t have hurricane, tornado and natural violence that happens in other countries”.
Igbifa said the Niger Delta wetland had been further abued by the devastating practice of gas flaring adding that the region had over 150 flaring sites.
He said all the carbon emissions from flared gas had depleted the ozone layer leading to perennial flooding in the region especially in Bayelsa State.
Igbifa said: “The oil and gas fossil fuel activities have further aggravated the problems in the wetland assets and the ecosystem. Niger Delta has close to 150 flaring sites and these sites carry out carbon emission into the atmosphere which in turn mixes up with those green house gasses which impacts the climate an depletes the ozone layer. This is causes perennial flooding.
“In Bayelsa a few years ago the flooding was there for a long period and it impacted on the economy of the people. In 1994, Nigeria entered a signatory in Japan, with other countries, which flared gasses to reduce flaring from 94% to 0.4%”.
He said most of the countries agreed and carried out the treaty but that only Nigeria remained adamant and still flared gas in emission level of 94 per cent.
Igbifa lamented that though the Parish Agreement was reached and endorsed by over 196 including Nigeria to end gas flaring by 2030, there had been no commitment by the country to meet the target.
He called for a wetland conservation summit in the Niger Delta that would involve all stakeholders to chart a clear roadmap in preserving environmental assets.
The IYC boss further called on the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to immediately commence the payments of contractors, with verifiable evidence of project execution.
He regretted that the commission was owing many contractors that had done their job saying the development had deepened poverty and unemployment in the region.
The IYC boss appealed to Ijaw youths to remain resolute, calm and peaceful as his administration would engage the government on all environmental and other issues affecting the region.