Konya Calls For Environmental Stewardship In Nigeria

Ways of mitigating the adverse effects of human activities on the environment and making it safe and habitable for plants, animals and humans formed the main focus of the 123rd Inaugural Lecture delivered by Professor Roseline Konya at the Ebitimi Banigo Auditorium, last Thursday. 
Delivering the Lecture entitled: Searching the Soul of the Environment, Who Dare? Territorians or Subduers? Professor Konya of the Department of Animal and Environmental Biology in the Faculty of Biological Sciences, College of Natural and Applied Sciences, bemoaned the level of environmental degradation and the resultant health hazards caused by unregulated human activities on the fragile ecosystem, noting that “it is important that humans help to take good care of the environment to protect themselves and animals, as destruction of the habitat can lead to the extinction of some animal species. 
“Animals protect their immediate environment (territories) with all they have, and will not tolerate an intruder, no matter how friendly they may seem. This is the reason for referring to them as territorians,” Konya explained, adding that humans exploit their immediate environment for their benefit without minding the harmful effects of their activities on the environment or themselves, hence the name subduers.
“Humans bring the environment and all that is in it under their control, and by so doing their activities threaten biodiversity, pollute the environment and destroy the habitat of plants, animals and micro-organisms,” Konya, who is Provost of the College of Graduate Studies pointed out, adding that “mankind is producing more refuse than ever before and creating unprecedented problems for the environment.”
She said that “humans, who seem to be proud subduers of the Environment, continue to generate more waste, causing health problems to themselves and animals and then turning round to find solutions, after creating the problems,” adding that the solution to human depletion of the earth’s resources lies in what the Inaugural Lecturer referred to as the 3R paradigm— reduce, reuse and recycle.
The one-time Commissioner of Environment in Rivers State, traced the history of environmental protection in Nigeria to 1987, when a foreign vessel off-loaded highly toxic waste off the coast of Koko in Delta State, regretting that “solid waste in Nigeria is disposed of in open dumps, where refuse is piled up without being covered or protected.”
Her words: “In Nigeria, the Environment spirit was awakened when toxic waste was dumped in Koko in 1987. The Federal Government subsequently promulgated the Harmful Waste Decree 42 of 1988, which facilitated the establishment of the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA) through Decrees 58 of 1988 and 59 of 1992.” 
Konya, who was appointed a Member of the Presidential Implementation Committee (PIC) on Environmental Assessment of Ogoni by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP),  observed that “pollution, which is the introduction of contaminants into  the environment has been a menace in Nigeria, as oil exploration and pipeline vandalization have continued to cause pollution of our environment,” pointing out that contaminants can have adverse effects on the entire ecosystem, making life even more difficult for plants, animals and humans.
The Inaugural Lecturer, who recommended the establishment of an integrated multifaceted Waste Management Complex in Rivers State to handle haulage, treatment and final disposal of waste, called on the Federal Government to enforce its directive to Oil and Gas companies to stop flaring gas into the atmosphere, advising that Nigeria should generate green jobs to help Government and the Private Sector protect the ecosystem
Commenting on the Lecture, Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ndowa Lale, who agreed that the activities of humans constituted the greatest threat to the environment, stressed the need for the enforcement of existing legislation for the survival of the human species. Decrying the mindless destruction of flora and fauna, Professor Lale warned of impending catastrophic consequences if the trend was allowed to continue. 
“I wish to express our collective gratitude to the 123rd Inaugural Lecturer for drawing our attention to a serious issue that requires urgent remedial measures to save the earth from dangerous human activities. Professor Konya has taken us through issues ranging from toxicology to environmental protection and I wish her well as she continues her research on how to remediate the environment to guarantee our collective survival on planet earth,” he said. 
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