Nela Duke – Susty Person of the Month (January)
Nela is an environmentalist with a background in International Relations and Political Science. She is passionate with conservation and human rights. Her professional background has focused on consulting and working in non-profits.
In 2015, she took over the Obudu Conservation Centre as the Chief Executive Officer with the aim to increase Nigeria’s love and appreciation for their natural environment. Moreover, she is striving to protect the wild lands and wildlife in the Obudu Region and beyond. Nela is an amateur photographer and enjoys classic literature and mountaineering.
Read below, our interesting and insightful discussion with Nela:
Tell us briefly about Obudu Conservation Centre, your role there and strides that the organization has made so far?
Obudu Conservation Centre is a wildlife NGO that seeks to preserve, protect and increase awareness of the wildlife and wild lands in the Obudu region. Thus far, the NGO has started 5 initiatives:
Go for Green Campaign – OCC believes that Education is the first step to fighting for wildlife. The Go for green campaign is an awareness initiative currently being carried out by OCC. OCC will be touring government and private schools throughout Lagos, Calabar, Abuja and Port Harcourt to give awareness campaigns on the environment, introduce the students to what OCC does in addition to the services we provide as an education Centre.
Women’s Woodlot Reserve – The Women’s Woodlot programme is an initiative by the OCC to protect the Aeroplane Field Forest patch in the ranch.
Ranger Rover – is an initiative which supports and funds the training of the Rangers that protect our forests and wildlife
Legal Logging – is OCC’s reforestation campaign. From fund raising and community outreach programmes, OCC will be supporting the reforestation of the Obudu Mountains and the surrounding National Parks.
Community and Me – is a community outreach programme where OCC tackles issues plaguing communities. These programmes center around improving the communities’ socio-economic problems i.e. employment
Why should we as individuals care about environmental conservation?
We all need to care about environmental conservation because it affects us all directly. The destruction of our environment is currently the highest threat to mankind. To use Nigeria as example, our depleting environment affects all corners of our country. In the north, the drying of lake chad and desertification of the north has caused famine and death. This has also forced the herdsmen to migrate further south, resulting in community clashes. In the Niger Delta, oil spills are destroying local communities, wiping out their agriculture and preventing them from access to clean water, which gives rise to various ailments.
In the southeast, deforestation is wiping out entire ecosystems in an area which has been classified as a biodiversity hotspot. There has also been an increase in erosions which destroy homes and displace communities. In the southwest, the increased floods have damaged homes and lives.
You are a political scientist by training, why did you settle for a career in environmental sustainability?
I studied International Relations and Politics in Loughborough University. What this inadvertently did is expose me to geo-political issues, and today, environmentalism is a huge geo-political issue. Additionally, I’ve always had a natural love for the outdoors and my role models have always played a role conservationism.
Therefore, when settling in my career, I decided to marry my two passions, environmentalism and the social-political issues.
Is there any relationship between politics and the environment?
There is a big relationship between politics and the environment. When we think of environmentalism and things which damage our planet, we think of poaching, illegal logging, pollution etc. These are things which can be controlled and enforced through laws that are born out of politics.
Where does Nigeria stand as regards environmental sustainability compared to other countries?
It’s difficult to compare countries’ environmental progress because every nation is plagued with a unique set of issues. If we were to do a comparative analysis with the United Kingdom, Nigeria would be failing. But if we were to compare the United States with Norway, due to the steps being taken by this administration and the current state of the country, the United States would be seen to be regressing in their environmental efforts. This is not to negate the fact that Nigeria’s environmental status is critical, compounded with the country being a developing nation. Compared to other nations I feel that Nigeria’s main environmental issues are:
- Oil spillage.
- Air pollution.
- Climate change.
As a nation, we have not tackled these issues as strongly as I feel we should. Yes, comparatively, Nigeria needs to be more environmentally sustainable, but there has been an increase in Education. Widespread education of our environmental problems is imperative, if we look at nations with strong environmental ethics, it is blatant that their first step was education. Therefore, Nigeria is taking the right steps towards becoming a more environmentally sustainable country.
If you were appointed Minister of Environment, what are some of the things you would do differently especially in light of the recent threats of earth tremor in Nigeria?
When considering what I would do as the minister of Environment, it is important to consider my political and social in environment in Nigeria. Firstly, I would implement legally binding annual Co2 reduction targets and work with states to ensure they are consistently implemented. I would also enforce fines or consequences which are already in place should people not follow the country’s laws. The problem with Nigeria is there are seldom repercussions because we have a corruption culture that exists at all levels, so one of our major challenges will be to overcome this mindset.
I would ensure there is a relatable increase in public information campaigns to improve education efforts and lastly, I would work to increase renewable energies, empower entrepreneurs and introduce biofuels into the market.
Businesses (especially those in the oil and gas and manufacturing sectors) are known to be some of the largest environmental polluters. What do you think businesses can do to reduce their negative environmental impacts?
In the context of Nigeria, that is quite a complicated question because its deals with militants in the Niger Delta and in that, an intricate relationship exists between governments, oil companies, militants and community members. However, in an ideal geopolitical environment, to reduce the environmental impact of oil pollution companies can do the following:
- Maintain a fully-provisioned, easily accessed spill kit
- Minimise working quantities
- Prevent oil spills from reaching the shore (this will reduce the negative effects on local community and their agriculture)
Which of the SDGs are your favorite?
My favourite SDGs are:
- No poverty – end poverty in all its forms everywhere
- Life on Land – protect, promote and sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
- Life Below Water – conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
- Quality Education – ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunity for all
- Gender Equality – achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
- Sustainable cities and Communities – make cities and human settlement inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
How do we get across to you if we have to reach you for questions and comments?
To contact me or the NGO please call: +2349064875225
Instagram – obuduconservationcentre
Twitter – @obuducc
Website – www.obuduconservationc.org
Email – [email protected]
Facebook – facebook.com/obuduconservationcentre