By Anote Ajeluorou
Nigeria’s inability to successfully manage virtually every aspect of her socio-economic and cultural sectors has become legendary. Even having to establish enabling laws and policy thrusts that could empower willing individuals and corporate organisations to intervene and make life meaningful often poses its own sets of challenges. The result is usually monumental and avoidable rot in several aspects of national life.
One such neglected natural treasure requiring urgent attention is Nigeria’s coastal areas and wetlands that suffer from various degradations, with the resultant loss of a vital economic resource. However, one organisation at the forefront of spearheading efforts to restore, preserve, conserve and promote the coastal wetlands of Nigeria is Eco Restoration Foundation of Nigeria (ERFON). It’s Executive Director, Mr. David Omaghomi, is leading a major campaign that would see to the regeneration of devastated coastland areas so they could play vital socio-economic roles in the lives of the people.
To kick off this nationwide campaign is the 9Ja Eco-Charity Festival 2015 concert and other associated ongoing events being organised to take Lagosians outdoors fun activities at New Lekki Beach, Elegushi, Lekki, Lagos. Starting out on Christmas day, December 25, the charity show that ends on January 2, 2016 features a lot of fun games ranging from music, comedy, dance, water sports, beach volleyball and beach soccer which the organisation is utilising to promote and raise awareness about environmental responsibility among Nigerians.
The fiesta also gave opportunity to youngsters to showcase their talents as they performed to thrill the huge crowd of spectators. Prizes were also won in various performance activities like dancing, singing, rapping, fashion and lots more. Also, many others simply caught fun splashing the ocean waves that crashed on the clean sandy beach and on the abandoned ship moored on the beachhead. There was music, food, drinks and assortment of games for children; some rode merry-go-round and horses.
According to the organiser, Omaghomi, 9Ja Eco-Charity Festival 2015 is designed to raise awareness about environmental issues in Nigeria’s coastline areas and how they could be made clean and friendly for economic and tourism purposes.
“We’re utilising the instrument of entertainment to preserve and restore eco-friendly coastlines,” Omaghomi noted. “It’s a Green Theme event designed to promote environmental responsibility and sustainability. Participants are being trained on waste management practices at homes and workplaces as well as planting of trees.”
Omaghomi said the highpoint of the festival was the planting of 3,000 trees by performing artistes and dignitaries on the beach stretch that would act as buffer to the encroaching ocean and would last till the end of the festival. He stated that the ocean surging had claimed over 500 metres of beachland and still ragging. He further lamented the loss of the coconut trees that used to be the attraction of Lagos beaches to the ocean surge. Omaghomi stressed that if immediate intervention strategies were not deployed to stem further encroachment of the ocean, Lagos would be robbed of its beautiful beaches in no distant future.
OMAGHOMI’S restoration campaign project is multifaceted. He has a number of programmes lined up next year that aligns with other world bodies’ efforts to draw attention to the country’s environmental degradation with a view to providing remedy. For instance, The Niger Atlantic Restoration Project conference would be held on June 5, 2016 in commemoration of World Environmental Day. Also, there would be inauguration of Eco Centre at New Lekki Beach to coordinate all activities of the various coastal wetland campaigns.
ERFON will host Nigeria Aqua Tourism and Expo June 5 – 8, 2016 in dual commemoration of World Environmental Day and World Ocean Day. This would be preceded by the commemoration of World Wetland Day on March 22, 2016.
The Niger Delta coastlines devastated by oil spills due to the activities of multinational oil companies is on the radar of Eco Restoration Foundation of Nigeria. Also, the immediate removal of wrecked and abandoned ships on various ports in the country forms another area ERFON is working on to make seas shores safe for the contingent communities in port areas.
Bio-remediation of oil-impacted coastal areas of the Niger Delta to rid of it of oil pollution, Omaghomi stressed, was key to reclaiming the once beautiful aquatic life of those areas. Also related to the bio-remediation is the removal of abandoned ships in ports and coastal areas across the country. On the hull of the abandoned ship on New Lekki Beach is the signature inscription, ‘Save Our Coast,’ through which Omaghomi is asking appropriate authorities to tow such ships out of beaches for their effective use as tourism and relaxation spots and fishing points as well.
“We intend to preserve the coastal wetlands with a view to highlighting their contributions to the nation for their alternative uses for tourism, sports and farming, especially aquaculture,” Omaghomi said on the first day of the festival. “Lekki Beach is an impacted environment, the most impacted ecosystem in Lagos having lost about 500 metres of beachland and coconut tress to the ocean erosion. Our flag off here is both symbolic and important to environmental issues”.
To accomplish his work, Omaghomi has co-opted several individuals and organizations as partners and ambassadors. Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA), Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and Agency for Forest and Nature – Forest Support (Belgian Agency) are some of the organisations ERFON is working with to realise environmental sustainability in coastal areas. Individuals such as Nollywood star Ini Edo, Frank Edoho, radio DJ, Diplomatic OPJ and others.
The boss of ERFON who said he is driven by passion and his concern for the environment expressed sadness at Nigeria’s inability to tap into the rich economic resource of coastal wetlands as other countries are doing. The Microbiology major from University of Benin, Benin City, with certificates in environmental management, has worked with oil services companies and has had firsthand encounter with oil spills and their devastating impact on the coastal wetland of the Niger Delta, and from which he draws his passion for his work.
Omaghomi who confessed to being very nature-friendly, noting, “I have seen how oil damages the eco-system and robs the local community of their livelihood. We cannot just sit back and watch. We have to collaborate to help in our own small ways”.
Nigeria’s inability to tap into the resource of coastal wetland is another motivating force driving his organization. According to him, “It’s a shame we have nearly zero receipts from aqua tourism as against other countries. The right time is now before our oil dries up. President Muhammadu Buhari should consider Integrated Coastal Areas Management Plan (ICAMP) which should look at adopting a national master plan for tourism for the country”.
He noted that the time had come for Nigeria to set apart designated tourism sites across the country to encourage investors in the coastlands and forest areas, saying such sites should be areas where no one else would venture to build or farm on. Omaghomi also said the country needed a 20-year development plan to kick-start tourism investment as it could be the next money-spinner for Nigeria if properly managed.
For Omaghomi, Nigeria’s beaches and coastal areas are treasures – both economic and touristic – which Nigeria’s complacence was allowing to waste away. He wants the degradation halted so restoration and remediation measures can be carried out to save the country’s neglected but rich natural resource in coastal wetlands.