1000 non-state actors brainstorm in PH on air pollution in Niger Delta

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By Innocent Eteng, Favour Ichemati & Kelechi Anozie

Economic development for Nigeria is said to be beyond brick and mortar affair but a strategy of sustainable development embracing many facets. Thus, as the world came together, on Tuesday, September 25, in commemoration of the Global Day to Act for the Sustainable Development Goals (#Act4SDGs) and to galvanize support towards their rapid implementation; for some civil society organisations across Nigeria, it was not time to dance haphazardly.

Instead, they felt it was rather time to be strategic, mirror down to one of Nigeria’s most pressing needs and push for solution. Inclusiveness is the rallying cry, and development must touch all aspects including bringing out the human in all of, according to the lead organizer, Mina Ogbanga, south-south coordinator of the SDGs.

So resource persons and civil society organization traveled to the South-South zone, a place rife with environmental pollution, to have a policy dialogue with stakeholders on the issue of air pollution, which fall under goals 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities) and 13 (Climate Action).

The dialogue took place at the Rivers State House of Assembly complex in Port Harcourt, with participants cutting across the six South-South states and ranging from government representatives to media personnel, pro-SDGs groups, the academia, students, and nonprofits among others.

Ogbanga said: “The peculiarity of our situation in the South-South defined the choice of the priority we want to act on. Now, more than ever, flood is threatening our existence. Climate change, due to various factors, has been on the fore. This cannot be underestimated. Considering that nine out of 10 people breathe polluted air daily simply made it a priority for attention.”

“This policy dialogue seeks to achieve two broad objectives; ignite the CSCSD (Civil Society Coalition on Sustainable Development) regional assembly and redefine discourse on critical issues like air pollution,” added Ogbanga, Zonal Convener of CSCSD, under whose auspices the CSOs met with stakeholders on the theme, “Strengthening Capacity of Civil Society to Localize, Monitor and #Act4SDGs to #Stop Air Pollution”.

CSCSD is a coalition of over 1000 CSOs coming together, primarily, to work and monitor the implementation of the SDGs across Nigeria. The SDGs are a set of 17 goals mapped out by the United Nations and agreed upon by 193 countries in 2015. They constitute a-15-year agenda aimed at achieving sustainable development globally, between 2015 and 2030 (Agenda 2030). The 17 goals build on the eighth Millennium Development Goals (SDM) that existed between 2000 and 2015 but were later said to be narrow and not widely implemented as expected.

Apart from those that fall under CSCSD’s dialogue, the rest of the 17 goals are: No Poverty (goal one); Zero Hunger (two); Good Health and Well-being (three); Quality Education (four); Gender Equality (five); Clean Water and Sanitation (six); Affordable and Clean Energy (seven); Decent Work and Economic Development (eight); Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure (nine); Reduced Inequality (10); Responsible Consumption (12); Life Below Water (14); Life on Water (15); Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions (16); Partnership for the Goals (17).

Delegates agreed to work together believing that partnership and individual responsibility were key to ending air pollution and by extension implementing the SDGs.

“Goal 17 of the SDGs is one of the most important goals of the SDGs – partnership to be able to achieve the SDGs. So we are interested in partnering with the private sector, in partnering with civil societies to achieve the SDGs. This is a springboard for us,” said Toru Ofili , the special adviser to Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, on the SDGs. “It feels good to see an array of development actors desirous of a better South-South.”

National coordinator of CSCSD, Tola Winjobi, said the UN was awakening a sense of urgency for all and sundry to consciously act for the goals, hence CSCSD was invited by the UN to work in that direction. “In August, we received a memo from the UN DESA and UN Action Campaign calling all to action for the SDGs. CSCSD was specifically invited to consider joining the Global Day to #Act4SDGs by taking action. We did not flinch in getting across to our members across Nigeria to take action to #Act4SDGs in their various states and communities. One of those efforts is what you are experiencing here today with our South-South coalition putting this together,” he said.