AN OPEN LETTER TO MRS AMINA MOHAMMED, MINISTER OF ENVIRONMENT

Dear Honourable Minister,

I wish to use this medium to congratulate you on your appointment as the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations. It is an honour well-deserved. It is also an elevation that naturally stirs mixed feelings in some of us who are very much aware of what Nigeria stands to miss in your absence.

So far, you have distinguished yourself as not only a dynamic Minister of the Federal Republic, but a hard-working development worker for the people. At a time the nation yearned for deep understanding of its environmental challenges, you brought the insight and hands-on feminine balance that enabled this great country get back on its ecological track in order to retain its pride in the comity of nations.

As an adviser to the Federal Government on Nigeria’s implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the precursor to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), you drove the programme efficiently and attained high points in critical set targets. This of course prepared you for your esteemed role in negotiating the seventeen SDGs under the outgoing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and effectively stood you out as an asset to the development world.

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Likewise, the passion and patriotism you have displayed in your duties as a minister, have now engraved your name in the annals of history. This is because the commitment you brought to the job is based on your inherent capabilities and ingrained capacity acquired over the years in your service to society.

Your stewardship is now evident. Nigeria has launched the implementation of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Climate Change Agreement. The Ministry of Environment has also successfully launched the historic Sovereign Green Bonds – first of its kind; flagged off the Ogoni Clean-up Programme; and streamlined the Great Green Wall programme for a focused and sustainable implementation.

Dear Minister, in spite of the pleasure we find in celebrating your value and landmark achievements, we are still perturbed by the nagging fear that your efforts may yet be in vain if the solid foundation you are laying in the sector is not capped with a seamless transition to sustainable pillars of continued progress, as you move on to your new international office.

This is why we also use this opportunity to draw your attention to some real issues that when properly addressed, would spell the survival lines to this all-important sector, and to the country in general.

Firstly, we are conscious of the fact that your tenure as the Minister of Environment brought a lease of life to the energy efficiency sub-sector, and effectively cleared the foul and dark aura already engendered by the Clean Cookstoves saga. Presently, you have set a fresh course that promises to reignite hope in the achievement of the goals that inspired the project in the first place.

Therefore, we call on you to set a lasting template that would sustain the momentum of the clean cookstoves project, even in your absence. We hope your efforts would help ensure that government delivers on the statutory 15% from the Ecological Fund, while also inspiring the ambition and bureaucratic urgency needed to deliver on the project.

Secondly, we can never forget that your motherly intervention and tireless activism impacted positively on the success of the ongoing Shikira lead poisoning remediation project. However, having assessed the progress of the cleanup, we are convinced that the project has to go beyond just remediation, but also a sustainable structure for ecological management. This is in order to ensure that there is no future outbreak of lead poisoning in Shikira and in other communities involved in artisanal mining.

Thirdly, we are worried that if the proper systemic adjustments are not made in the ministry of environment, we may lose some of the critical milestones achieved under your watch. This is why we call on you to effectively utilize the remaining few months you have to work in Nigeria in strengthening the structures that would ensure that in the absence of a good driver like you that the vehicle does not crash into the bushes. We sincerely pray that things will never deteriorate to “business as usual!”

We wish to see that the ball you have set rolling maintains the momentum, because we are convinced that the environmental sector is the fulcrum of the development sector especially in a developing economy like ours.

For instance, Nigeria’s NDC is an ambitious document, which needs imaginative inter-sectoral engagements for its effective implementation. With the vast opportunities that lie within the NDC and the potential complications that could entangle our bureaucratic infrastructure, we are concerned that, in fact, not just any hands can take over the helms at the ministry of environment.

How we wish, you could groom your own successor! Fourthly, we also cannot forget the fact that two critical regions in Nigeria are directly affected by your present and future offices: the South South and the North East. The Ogoni Clean-up project which you successfully initiated needs a proper and sustained project implementation.

The social dislocation that has erupted as a result of the humanitarian emergency in the North East also waits for your intervention. We humbly call on you to use your esteemed position as the UN Deputy Secretary-General to redirect the eyes of the world to the region. This would not only entail getting the required international support for humanitarian aid, but most importantly in ensuring that transparency and accountability are mainstreamed in their disbursements.

Finally, conscious of the importance of your UN appointment not only to Nigeria but to Africa as a region, we are hopeful that you will utilize the platform to inspire a revived spirit of transparent democratic governance, which we believe is the only effective way to address the region’s development challenges. And, we are glad that your experience in the development of the SDGs will also give you the fillip to inspire a proper mainstreaming of its implementation process in Africa.

Then, ultimately, we hope that you spearhead Nigeria’s bid to becoming a permanent member of the UN Security Council. We are convinced that you have a date with history, and would have stamped your name in gold in the annals of history if you could work with your new boss to reorganize the UN and make it more democratic by increasing the Permanent membership of the Security Council. History will remember you if Nigeria fills Africa’s slot in the new arrangement, in order to reward our great country’s half-a- century old contributions to the UN.

Sincerely,

Hamzat Lawal
Chief Executive, CODE
Co-Founder, Follow The Money