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Eco-friendly Akwa Ibom + entrepreneurship

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With a clear understanding of the role the environment will play in the success of his administration, the governor of Akwa Ibom State, Pastor Umo Eno made copious provisions for environmental protection and management in his economic blueprint, known as ARISE Agenda. It is captured in the first aspiration of the agenda – “Agricultural Revolution, Tourism and Environmental Management”.

The policy direction includes sustainability of the environment, protection and conservation of natural resources, mitigation of adverse effect of climate change, promotion of the culture and habits that ensures sustainable use of the environment and the ecosystem in economic activities, promotion of the use of green growth initiative and developing of a sustainable blue economy, to foster direct participation in oil and gas upstream and downstream activities as well as explore, exploit and develop solid minerals, mining and allied sectors.

 The select strategies designed to drive the achievement of a safe, clean and sustainable environment includes setting up adequate structure to tackle flood and erosion, promoting improved environmental management practice with adequate legislation in line with global best practice, promoting improved waste management and recycling system, enhancing public and corporate partnership in environmental management, beautification and protection as well as adopting standard environmental impact assessment procedure for public infrastructure development.

 With the discussion on environment now centred on waste to wealth, Governor Eno has since given the Akwa Ibom State Environment Protection and Waste Management Agency (AKSEPWMA) the directive to engage relevant professionals who would guarantee judicious recycling of wastes generated in the State and convert same to wealth for the good of all. Highlighting the need for proper management and protection of the environment, Eno said: “the environment is like our living room in our various houses. We furnish it to taste with modern amenities to make it habitable, comfortable and enjoyable. This attitude should be replicated when we deal with the environment. My Administration will guarantee a clean, safe and secure environment. The relevant Ministry and Agency will be repositioned to enable us derive all the benefits from the environment. We will pursue the waste to wealth initiative and ensure that no waste generated is wasted, rather they will be transformed to other resources to help push the human race forward in line with the ARISE Agenda”.

 One of the deepest concerns of the governor is for the state and every living thing on it to be safe and secure. He understands that without a healthy planet, education won’t matter, hunger won’t matter, and science won’t matter because no one will survive. In ARISE Agenda, there are deliberate plans to protect and sustain the development of forests and reduction in emissions, encouraging planting and replacing trees. Also important is the issue of having a State climate change policy, reviewing environmental policy and establishment of a full fledged climate change Agency to be managed by professionals, who are more knowledgeable in climate integration and adaptation.

The government of Eno is determined to choose from a wide range of policy interventions and financing measures to support the transformation of energy, tackle environmental pollution and replenish natural environment. Legislation to ban environmentally harmful energy will be made while encouraging use of green energy. The government is also poised to ensure free plastic in the state by encouraging a ban on all plastic bags and plastic packaging.

On the track record of the AKSEPWMA, the Board Chairman, Prince Akpan Ikim lauded the aspiration, policy direction and select strategies of the ARISE Agenda as it relates to the environment and said much has been achieved with more yet to be done. “Our Agency has a duty to protect the environment and manage wastes but beyond these, we generates income, wealth and jobs for the unemployed and ensures a safe environment. One of our major breakthroughs is the fact that our state has been voted awarded the cleanest state in Nigeria for five consecutive years by the International Council for Local Environment Initiative and Clean Up Nigeria. We are pursuing our mandate of waste evacuation, vegetation control, desilting of gutters and drainages, vigorously, to ensure that under the Umo Eno Administration, the State will continue to top the chart of the cleanest state in Nigeria”.

AKSEPWMA’s success story under Ikim is a commendable starting point for Eno administration. Over the years, AKSEPWMA has not only increased its public image from five per cent to 45 per cent, public awareness and sensitisation stands at 51 per cent from two per cent; street cleaning and vegetation control moved to 53 per cent from five per cent; desilting of gutters stands at 58 per cent; sanitation court prosecution of environmental defaulters stands at 1,427 cases, intervention on emergency case, waste clearance stands at 68 per cent from seven per cent, staff morale heightened to 63 per cent from five per cent, etc. The agency now has acquired its own dumpsite along Uyo Village Road for proper management of the over 2,000 tonnes of municipal and household waste generated daily. Before 2018, the dump site management was at 23 per cent but today it above above 68 per cent. The board got approval for bioremediation and maintenance of that dumpsite and work is ongoing at the moment.

The agency has adopted a bottom-up approach leading to community participation in waste management in the rural areas, commenced house-to-house waste collection in Ewet Housing Estate and Shelter Afrique Estate, took delivery of scores of waste management equipment from the Niger Delta Development Commission, procured and deployed over 500 waste receptacles and unveiled the first ever AKSEPWMA corporate logo and bulletin. The amendment of the AKSEPWMA enabling laws to give way for 21st century environmental management, was a major win for the agency. The launch of the Greater Akwa Ibom Clean Up Campaign, to sustain the status of the cleanest State in the country is a bold step in the right direction.

On the waste to wealth initiative recently adopted by the agency, Ikim said: “Globally, there is nothing wasted in waste anymore. Waste now transformed to wealth, recycled into other renewable energy and resources. To make this happen, we have called for expression of interests from experts in the area of waste to wealth. We have waste in abundance to drive this initiative. Sue to growing population, more than 2,200 tonnes of waste is produced daily. These include degradable and bio-degradable wastes. Bio-degradable wastes can be used to produce fertilisers. We will be involved also in plastic recycling, cardboard and paper recycling, and electronic waste recycling. The economic importance of what we do boosts income generation, job and wealth creation as well as improve standard of living of the people”.

According to the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the Governor, Pastor Anietie Usen: “There is a global sensitisation and sensitivity right now on environmental protection and management. Gladly, Akwa Ibom State through AKSEPWMA is in the forefront of ensuring a clean, safe and healthy environment. It is not surprising that the State has won the award as the cleanest State in Nigeria for five straight years, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022, under former Governor Udom Emmanuel. This is the benchmark that that Governor Umo Eno and his ARISE Agenda plan to surpass”.

This global attention on environment presupposes that huge investment opportunities abound in the area of waste to wealth. The ARISE Agenda has made provisions for the State to benefit from the investments in this sector in order to boost income generation, job creation and wealth creation for our teeming youths, while ensuring a healthy environment for habitation of our people”, Usen said.

But there are a number of challenges in managing the environment in the Akwa Ibom State. Ikim said some of the challenges include the influx of new residents into the state and the careless attitude of residents to waste disposal which has blocked gutters and led to flooding in some areas of the state. Other challenges facing AKSEPWMA include lack of suitable equipment like the Swing Arm trucks, roll-up trucks, backhoes, bulldozers, compactors, sufficient dumpsters, receptacles, sanitary landfills, etc.

In spite of these challenges, the strong leadership of AKSEPWMA has combined with its d educated staff to keep Akwa Ibom clean and attractive to both residents and visitors. There are high hopes that Eno, a hospitality professional and tourism expert, will surpass all previous Administrations in keeping the state eco-friendly, clean and serene.

Aluu is a research scholar and public affairs analyst

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