We Are Teaching Respect for the Environment

Engineer Ayobami Oluwunmi Olubori

Engineer Ayobami Oluwunmi Olubori

Having worked as a commissioner in both the ministries of agriculture and forestry, Engineer Ayobami Oluwunmi Olubori was given another mandate to spearhead the Ministry of Environment by the Ogun State government. Olubori who was self-employed until his appointment as state commissioner by His Excellency, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, in 2011 bagged a BSc in Agricultural Engineering in 1994 and an MBA in Business Leadership from the University of Liverpool. Also by virtue of his outstanding performance at the ministries of agriculture and forestry respectively, he was moved to the Ministry of Environment by the Amosun administration. In this interview, Olubori emphasises the need for a clean environment everywhere because a clean environment is a healthy environment. He also speaks on the World Environment Day, and how best to make the environment friendly and healthy. Excerpts:

 

By EBUNOLUWA OLADITAN

 

The theme for this year’s World Environmental Day celebration is to raise awareness about the impact of climate change on small island states around the world. Can you briefly discuss the effect of climate change on your environment and the lives of the people of the state?

Well, the theme of this year’s world environment day is to raise your voice, and not the sea level, which is actually a campaign against engaging in activities that would result in raising the sea level but rather, we are advocating that we should come out boldly, talk more and get people convinced to engage in activities that would reduce the sea level rather than raise the sea level above permissive limit. Now, there are many activities that can be engaged in that can actually result in raising the sea level, at the individual and industrial levels. Actually, we will be talking about reducing activities that will reduce global warming.

 

1 beautification of the newly constructed Ita-Eko-Totoro median

Beautification of the newly constructed Ita-Eko-Totoro median

How seriously does the state government take environmental sanitation exercise in Ogun State?

The environmental sanitation is taken seriously by the government of Ogun State because the environment is essential to not just the government alone but to the entire people as well, and you cannot do anything outside the environment. Do not forget the popular saying that a clean environment is a healthy environment and that health is wealth, so the government is serious about environmental issues and environmental sanitation. Of course, we have also demonstrated commitment in having a safe and clean environment. In Ogun State, we have over one 1,000 street sweepers and environmental marshals. We are also raising funds for fleet compactors and trucks used for refuse evacuation in all parts of the state. In the next couple of days, the state governor will be unfolding some strategic plans in terms of maintaining a clean environment and moving the environment into the next level befitting a mega state which Ogun is turning into. In most of our streets now, we need to improve the way we manage environment and complement the efforts of Mr. Governor at rebuilding collapsed walls in the state. In a nutshell, we are committed to environmental sanitation which holds monthly. We also have the market women having theirs every Thursday, the National Automobile Technicians Association, NATA, Ogun State branch also observe their environmental sanitation on a weekly basis to complement the environmental exercise which cuts across the length and breadth of state.

 

2 Cross section of the newly inaugurated Ogun State Environmental Marshals

Cross section of the newly inaugurated Ogun State Environmental Marshals

In your opinion, what are the major factors contributing to unhealthy environment in the state?

Well, I think people contribute to unhealthy environment because they cannot do without generating waste and disposing it and the only option therefore is how we manage the waste and that is the only factor under our control. We cannot absolutely control or prevent waste generation, but we can control and manage how this waste is disposed at the end of the day. Unfortunately, people have resorted to indiscriminate dumping of refuse and waste generated. We do not have respect for the environment and that lack of respect for the environment is a critical factor of the environmental challenges in most parts of the world. Do not forget that there are other environmental challenges in the developed world, like earthquakes, landslides and other natural disasters.

 

3 Distribution of relief materials to one of the victims of the rainstorm disaster in Ijebu-Igbo

Distribution of relief materials to one of the victims of the rainstorm disaster in Ijebu-Igbo

What do you think can be done by all stakeholders in general to avoid environmental decay?

The way out ofthat is for everybody to agree and come to terms with the fact that all of us, individually and collectively, are major contributors to environmental challenges and the management of the environment is not that of the governor but people must see management of the environment as a collective responsibility involving the rich, the poor, the young, the old and the industrial sector as well. All of us must come together to appreciate the fact that we have a role to play in managing the environment.

 

4 Cross-section of waste collection-disposal vehicles

Cross-section of waste collection-disposal vehicles

What measures has government put in place to tackle environmental emergencies?

Well, number one is to be prepared for such emergencies, especially those that are inevitable. For those that are preventable and avoidable, we need to redouble our effort at educating the people on what activities they can engage in that would not result into emergency. For instance, rainstorms and flood disasters are, to some extent, natural disasters even though we may argue that we are not the ones responsible for them but we can engage our people in activities that will reduce the effects of such disasters on human beings and their property as well. We need to engage our people, which we have been doing by educating them, and persuading them because that is where lies our strength, before going to the last phase which is enforcement.

 

What are the challenges facing your ministry in the discharge of its duties and what are the areas you need support?

Well, it is known generally that finance is a limiting factor. It is a global challenge and also Ogun State is not exempted. What we want people to do, particularly the corporate organisation, is to support and collaborate with the government in ensuring that regulations are respected and the environment is also respected as well. We can come up with supporting measures with government towards making the environment better for all of us to live in. We expect the people of Ogun State to avoid indiscriminate dumping of refuse.

 

5 Distribution of waste bags to discourage indiscriminate disposal of waste

Distribution of waste bags to discourage indiscriminate disposal of waste

Going through your profile, you have served in the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Forestry respectively. How do you manage the challenge of being in a new ministry.

Well for me, I see my movement as promotional posting, which is always an opportunity to learn more and to develop myself, moving from one ministry to another. It is a rare privilege for you to have served in three different ministries and I am also sure not so many people can boast of the opportunity. I am not also saying that this is the best but I am thanking God and Mr. Governor for providing me that marvellous opportunity. It is actually challenging and I thank God I have not disappointed myself, my people and Mr. Governor as well.

 

Can you mention some of the landmark achievements of the ministry since you assumed office?

Well, one of them is the increase in revenue from N70,000 per annum to N20,000,000 generated within the first quarter of this year. You will agree with me that this is a landmark achievement over a year. The overall effect of that is that government officials and industrialists themselves now know that this is a new government that is cautious and mindful of the way it relates with the environment. It is really not the quantum of revenue being generated from that window but the consciousness of the people and the industrialists that has been raised.

 

What legacy would you like to bequeath to the state after your tenure?

I will be looking at inculcating culture in our people, the culture that will respect and treat the environment as principal partner rather than with disdain. Here lie our hope and strength. And of course, health is wealth as well. I want everybody in Ogun State and Nigeria to know that the environment is our principal partner; the way we relate with the environment determines to a large extent the way it relates with us. We should relate with our environment with respect so that the environment can also reciprocate that respect.

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