Susty Stories

Susty Events: NERAG Discourse on the Sustainable Development Goals

NERAG

The Nigerian Environmental Rights’ Advocacy Group, NERAG organised a round-table on the steps and strategies to achieve the sustainable development goals in Nigeria. The event which focused on SDGs 4 and 6  (Quality Education, Clean Water and Sanitation) of the global goals, was held at the conference room of the school of transport, Lagos State University, Lagos. In attendance were representatives from different government and non-governmental organisations. According to the Convener, Mr Abiola Ojo, the round-table was the second of the group’s quarterly discourse of environmental issues.

In his opening remark, the chairman of the programme, Professor Babajide Olufemi Elemo, noted that this generation lacked a proper understanding of and connection to nature, unlike our forebears. He explained that their practices were more sustainable than ours. The professor of food biochemistry added, “Our problem is that we mainly import technologies without considering the aftermath”.

While giving his keynote address, Mr Ronald Kayanga, the Director of the United Nations Information Centre, Lagos noted his appreciation to NERAG for placing focus on just two of the goals, rather than all. He noted that people should not see the SDGs as the United Nations goals but global goals owned by everyone. He invited the academia to be involved in the monitoring of progress and presentation of facts as their opinions are respected by society. He advised that people should hold their leaders accountable for the promises they made in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

“There are four areas to focus on (to achieve the sustainable development goals) and this includes increased awareness programmes, special focus on (the role of) youths, mainstreaming the 2030 agenda in state and federal development plans and holding the leaders accountable”, he said.

Mrs Cecilia Okachi, the Head of Simmic International School, expressed her displeasure at the poor state of infrastructure in some schools in Lagos and the low remuneration of teachers. She stated “Teachers are not well paid. They are not well cared for. What makes a doctor different from a teacher when after all the teacher taught the doctor?”

She noted that students have to sit on the floor in some schools while some very young children were out of school and sleeping inside markets. She also elaborated that teachers should be well cared for and that classrooms should be improved on especially government owned schools. She invited the state and the federal government to show more interest in the education sector and ensure that the funding to the education sector is used appropriately.

Arc Ahmed Kabir Abdullahi, the Executive Secretary of the Lagos State Water Regulatory Commission who was also at the event noted that there are lots of (groundwater) regulations in the state. However, they had not been implemented until recently. He said that the 23 million people in Lagos state require about 2.6 billion litres of water daily and the state water corporation is only able to meet 33% of this need.

He decried the high rate of groundwater use in the state by individuals and companies who drill holes into the ground and pass their wastes into the groundwater. He noted that the regulatory commission in 2016 started compliance monitoring and taking defaulters to court. He gave examples of companies that do not meet the water quality requirements in the state.

Whilst taking comments at the event, the representative of SustyVibes, said that the high rate of unemployment has to be reduced to increase enrolment rate in formal education. The high rate of unemployment would not encourage people in rural regions for example to seek further education.   He also mentioned that research should not be gathering dust on the shelves rather they should be implemented to aid the nation’s development.

Also present at the event were Comrade Yusuf Kelani, the acting president of the National Youth Council of Nigeria, Hon. Oluwatoyin Suarau, Lagos state commissioner of agriculture represented by Mr Sanapon Oke and a representative of Mr Abiola Akinyode-Afolabi, the coordinator of the Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, UNILAG. Mr Abiola Ojo announced that the next discussion of the group will focus on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment and their effects on human and environmental health.

Toyib Aremu
Toyib Aremu is an environmental sustainability enthusiast. He is currently a postgraduate student at the Centre for Sustainable Development, University of Ibadan. When he is not preaching sustainability to young ones in schools, he is on Twitter @aremuoropo tweeting about it.