Susty Person of the Month for December – Dr Celina Maduemezia
Dr. Celina Maduemezia is one of the earliest African scholars to venture into Environmental Science and earned her Ph.D in this science from the University of Aston-In-Birmingham, Birmingham, the United Kingdom in 1977. Before earning her Doctorate degree, Celina studied at the very well respected preparatory institutions in her home country, Nigeria, including Queens College, Yaba in Lagos and the University of Lagos. Later, 1985 – 1988, she studied Advanced Management Administration at the Administrative Staff College of Nigeria (ASCON) at Badagry in Lagos.
Dr Celina Maduemezia is a great innovator and it shows a sample of the various work she did as the Head of the Environmental Services Division now LASEPA, of the Lagos State Ministry of the Environment. Some of the ideas she introduced still persist up till today and they include:
The Month-end Saturday Environmental Sanitation Exercise, the Thursday Market Sanitation Day Exercise, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) Best Kept Company Award, The Best Local Government Environmental Sanitation/Performance Award in Lagos State. Read her full profile here.
We are so excited to be wrapping up the year with Dr Celina’s feature! She is an epitome of knowledge. Read her feature below:
What Prompted You to Set Up Enville Environmental Consultants Limited?
The passion I had for the environment and its sustainability/conservation and its protection against preventable damage and degradation evolved from having been engaged in the study of the Environment from an early age and continuing with teaching it to undergraduate and graduate students in Universities and being later involved in formulating policies aimed at protecting the environment from the ravages of industrial activities since 1969 through to 1980 (when I left the academia) to 1990 (when I left the services of Lagos State Ministry of The Environment) By 1990, I had had such a close rendezvous that I discovered I could do nothing else outside of Environmental Management. With the encouragement of such persons as Mr Thompson of Berger Paints, Engr. M.F Oteri of Guinness, Bashorun A.A. Adesanya of Nigerian Bottling Company Ltd, all of whom I had closely dealt with while in Lagos State Service, the guidance received from Chief A.O Lawson of The Grail Message, In The Light of Truth and the clarity derived from inner Guidance, what is today known as Enville Environmental Consultants Limited, was born in February 1991 at No. 20, Opebi Road, Ikeja in Lagos State.
Your Career in Environment Work Spans over Four Decades what attracted you to it when most people in your age bracket opted for careers in Law, Engineering and the Medical Sciences?
One could immediately say it was providence really. I never wanted to study Law, Engineering or Medicine. I was more interested in the Mathematical Sciences. Having been acclaimed by my teachers in school (at Our Lady of Apostles, Yaba and Lagos Anglican Girls Grammar School, Surulere) to be very good in Mathematics, Add Maths and Geography, I went into Queens College Yaba in 1967 to study Maths, Geography, which for reasons connected with the Nigerian Civil War turned into Botany, Zoology, Geography with which I gained admission into the University of Lagos Akoka in 1969. After my first year in 1970, I was one of the top six students with the likes of Prof Oye Ibidapo-Obe, Steve Omojiafor and four others.
The attraction for me was Environment and what went on in it under the Waters and on Land.
How did the nickname “Iya Aafin Environment” (Queen of the Environment) come about?
That name was often used for me by the Late Alhaja Abibat Mogaji, the Iya Oloja of Lagos from 1981 when environmental sanitation in Lagos State was very poor and Lagos was being tagged one of the dirtiest cities in the world and I had to more or less pull the bull by the horn to rescue the situation.
On joining the Lagos State Ministry of Environment in 1980 through the invitation of Alhaji (Barr) Alabi Masha – the then Hon. Commissioner for the Environment – as the Head of the Environmental Services Division – charged with the environmental protection of the State, environmental sanitation, public enlightenment and awareness, removal of illegal and derelict structures in public places in the State, industrial pollution control etc, I swung into action with the very few staff that were then newly employed since that Division was newly created in the also newly created Ministry of Environment supported and encouraged by the Hon. Commissioner and a most humble and patient Permanent Secretary (Mr Raheem) who without hesitation approved our Programs of Actions which had market women enlightenment as No 1 activity. This made me and my very few staff go to Alhaja Abibat Mogaji to solicit her co-operation with the market women and men.
Our strategy was to first create awareness and educate the citizenry on the environment and the ethics of clean environment. We targeted the markets and schools first and then the industries. To reach the market women/men we had to go through Alhaja Abibat Mogaji.
In your view, does Nigeria’s environmental policies and legal; frameworks reflect a sound understanding of the country’s environmental challenges?
Yes, very much so. Nigeria’s problem/challenges and failings in Environmental achievements is not due to the policies and legal frameworks – it is due to their implementation and enforcement which are largely impeded by;
- the inadequate budgetary allocation
- too frequent changes in the administrative framework and
- too much bureaucratic bottlenecks.
Review each of these three by sincere, honest and knowledgeable experts with no self-enlightened interest and the challenges are 80% under control.
Do you feel that there is a dearth of specialists with the capacity to design, conduct, review and evaluate environmental policies and programs in Nigeria. If yes, what solutions do you propose in that line?
No, I do not agree. On the contrary there are many capable and well experienced Nigerian environmental specialists with the requisite capability and capacity in the different aspects of Environmental Management in this country but the encouragement from Government is not there and often times unwholesome administrative policies (e.g. the Federal character and the policy of reserving certain portfolios to particular zones of the Federation, which often time makes them put round pegs in square holes especially when suitable specialist may not exist in that particular zone).
Poor participation of people has been highlighted as one of the banes of environmental protection; as citizens, therefore, what small actions can we take constantly to ensure environmental protection.
Like Mother Theresa said, let it be so for us all. She said: “what I do you cannot do; but what you do I cannot do. The needs are great, and none of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things with great love and together we can do something wonderful”. So also let each one of us do the following small things which will sure add up to the great and wonderful:
(1) Get enlightened on what harms the environment and what protects it – acquire knowledge through neighbourhood participation, Radio/TV programme set.
(2) Consume goods responsibly – reduce rate of consumption e.g. 2, 3,-4 handsets not necessary etc.
(3) Reduce your waste by choosing reusable products.
(4) Use biodegradable products –cloth bags instead of plastics
(5) Compost your kitchen and garden waste
(6) Plant trees, greens; grow flowers, plant some vegetables in pots if you do not have space
(7) Buy foods that have less packaging
(8) Conserve water – do not leave taps running, use cup to get water for mouth and teeth washing/brushing etc.
(9) Conserve energy – turn off lights and A/Cs, fans that are not in use. Do not boil water and allow it to get cold without using it & then reboil. Use flasks to keep hot water etc.
(10) Use energy saving stove for cooking instead of fire-woods
(11) Do not put on more than one/two TVs in the house at same time etc.
(12) Have different waste bins for different waste types in your home and in the office – separate food waste and green waste from glass, metal and other waste. Do not put empty aerosol cans with other waste etc.
(13) Do not urinate or defecate in public places e.g. roadsides, into gutters, on the field etc.
(14) Do not spit out in public places. Use tissue paper or handkerchief.
(15) Do not cut down trees without replacing them
(16) Use garbage bags to contain your waste.
(17) Beautify your immediate surroundings
(18) Do not throw waste into drains/gutters and object to it when you see others do it. Educate them politely.
(19) Organize neighbourhood awareness programmes on the dangers of buying uncovered raw foodstuffs (garri, yam/plantain flour etc) from roadsides and clean-up exercise.
(20) Always boil your water before consuming it and do not use flood water for anything.
What is your favourite SDG and why?
My favourite among the seventeen SDGs is Goal 6-Clean Water and Sanitation. This is because I adduced that success with this goal will automatically assure the achievement of most of the other goals e.g it will lead to Safe Drinking Water and hygienic toilets which will, in turn, protect people from diseases and enable the citizenry to be productive and this, in turn, will ensure no disruption in children and youths attending school and adults being at work. This is, of course, a precursor to good (quality) education and employment both of which are the foundation of alleviating poverty. Also, good sanitation will ensure resource recovery, reuse and recycling options and will contribute towards achieving most of the other SDGs (e.g recovering the resource embedded in human faecal waste and industrial wastewater (nutrients, treated water, energy etc) to achieve all other goals.
How can you be reached for questions or further enquiries?
Office Address: 4, Osho Street, off Opebi Road, Opebi, Ikeja, Lagos.
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