UNIPORT To Host Marine Research Technology Centre

As part of efforts aimed at checking the adverse effects of pollution in the Niger Delta coastal belt and other impacted areas, the Federal Government has established a Marine Research and Technology Centre in the University. The new Centre which is under the auspices of Federal Ministry of Environment has a mandate to monitor and gather data on environmental degradation in the Country’s coastal belt with a view to proffering solutions to the menace. National Co-ordinator of the National Marine Pollution Monitoring Project, Professor Francis Sikoki, disclosed this in an interview with UNIPORT Weekly, in his office the last Wednesday.
Professor Sikoki, who said that the Project which has the main objective of collating vital data on the pollution of coastal waters in Nigeria and the safety of sea foods consumed in the Niger Delta, has been involved in investigations at its three monitoring field stations located in Port Harcourt, Lagos and Calabar.
The Co-ordinator who warned that the coastal areas of the Niger Delta region are endangered by organo-chloride and heavy metals, as a result of natural and human activities, and would require very urgent remediation measures to avert a looming environmental disaster in the affected areas.
“The Ministry has already drawn-up a draft Linkage Agreement between it and the University. The aim is to generate credible technical data and train manpower for purposes of assessing contamination of the marine environment, and in particular training and conducting research in the development of nuclear techniques for assessing the quality of the marine environment”, he stated. 
Professor Sikoki stated that “ When we go to the field, our scientists go back to the Laboratory to analyze three classes of pollutants namely Radionuclides (Radio- active materials), Trace metals and the Organo chlorines” stressing that the results show that most of our fin fishes and shell foods have elevated levels of Organo chlorides, which have negative effects  not only on humans, but also on the ecosystem, adding that there is a standard set by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) on standard of elevated level of chemicals on sea foods. He said that the situation cuts across the entire coastal belt from Lagos to Calabar.
“We are not doing enough to protect our environment; that is why the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is helping us to develop capacity in marine pollution research”, Professor Sikoki said, adding that they are to provide the needed specialized equipment for the deployment of nuclear technique for marine pollution monitoring. He said that the equipment  are already on ground, one of which had already been installed, adding that the Project would be monitoring radioactive substances in the environment which could result in genetic mutation that cause deformities in the foetus. 
“So far, we have trained 10 scientists in various areas applying nuclear techniques in marine pollution monitoring, Six from the University of Port Harcourt and two each from Lagos and Calabar”, he disclosed.
Sikoki, who is a Professor of Animal and Environmental Biology, said that some of these pollutants occur naturally, while a lot of them occur through human activities, associated with industry operations. He said that once the sources of these pollutions are identified, measures would be taken to ensure that they are not introduced into the Country’s coastal waters, advising Government to ensure that environmental regulations are strictly enforced, pointing out that it is the only way to guarantee a safe environment.
The National Coordinator said that the Project which is an IAEA-FGN programme, is in collaboration with the National Atomic Energy Commission (NAEC), National Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Federal Ministry of Environment, pointing out that these agencies are supposed to mobilize counterpart funding for the Centre. Already the Project has four full-time staff on ground in the University. 
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