Earth Day is commemorated on April 22nd, and this year marks the 50th year of the world standing in solidarity for the earth. Despite the lockdown, various activities were held globally in commemoration of Earth Day and NCF was not left out in the movement for Mother Earth. Dr Joseph Onoja, the Director, Technical Programmes of the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) was engaged in a chat where he shed light on pressing environmental issues in Nigeria.

What are the major causes of air pollution in Nigeria?

The major causes of air pollution are gases from exhaust of cars and heavy-duty trucks, indiscriminate burning of garbage, burning of fossil fuel (mostly crude oil), also from industries. We could also include burning of fuel wood, bush fires and sand storm. Although sand storms are more localised to the arid regions and are natural unlike the aforementioned that are caused by humans.


Is there any connection between air pollution and Respiratory Tract Infections (RTI)?

Absolutely! It even goes beyond just the respiratory tract infections but affects other organs like the heart causing blockage of the arteries and the brain causing stroke. Air pollution has been estimated to kill over 7 million each year, through complication from RTI. Because the Respiratory tract is the channel where air, which is the source of oxygen passes into our bodies.


Are there government regulations on air quality in Nigeria, and how has this measured up in delivering clean air?

I am aware that there is, but enforcement has been the issue with many policies (especially environment) that we have in Nigeria. Because of inadequate or lack of enforcement, a lot of violations are recorded on yearly basis. This lack of enforcement has incapacitated the regulations to meet to deliver on clean air and adjust to tackle present realities. We are willing to work with the relevant authorities to ensure the enforcement of all our environmental policies.


Are there provisions made to reduce the rate of RTI  caused by charcoal-induced cooking in women and children in Nigeria?

I am aware that various government and private interventions on clean cooking stove have come up and there has been efforts to correct this. However, there are many dimensions to this as sometimes even the people are reluctant to embrace the new method. There is need to rethink and re-strategize on whatever clean stove initiative that has been done before so that not only will it be made available, but the affected people will readily accept it. There is need for serious enlightenment.


Why do you think Nigeria is laid back in the transition from fossil fuel economy to clean energy economy? Also, what is the way forward?

I will say the political will to do so. This is said because there have been regulations dating as far back as the 80s and earlier, but we continue to shift the goal post with its attendant effect on the environment and human health. Another factor may be the immediate huge investment involved in the facilities that will stop such flares. But this has greater economic, environmental and health benefits in the long run. The way forward is that I will suggest the government of the day to see what it can do to enforce that because it is part of Nigeria's NDC to the Paris agreement.


How can the private sector and individuals key into the green/clean energy innovation and make it readily available and affordable in Nigeria?

 This is fertile ground. An opportunity for corporate entities to invest their CSR funds in. It cuts across the thematic areas of Health, Environment, Human development and socio-economic well-being of the vulnerable population. By looking at this challenge from that point of view, it frees up funds that could be invested in this area.


What practical approaches can we adopt to combat the open wildlife markets in Nigeria, considering the enormous amount it generates globally?

If anytime at all, this is the time for us to take on this headlong. Combating illegal Wildlife trade is indeed a global challenge apart from the fact that it destroys the wildlife population, it is also a source of livelihood to some people. Therefore, it is important to take calculated steps to closing down wildlife markets. First, we must engage the perpetrators and then if that does not yield the desired result, then the full weight of the law must be applied. We also need intelligence gathering, this is because in closing down the open markets, they will go underground and continue their nefarious activities.


Asides the adverse effects of illegal wildlife trade on biodiversity and health, are there social vices that can be closely linked with this act? 

Yes. It denies the local communities where these wildlife are sourced from their livelihood in terms of food, medicine, cultural values etc. When these are no longer available, the able-bodied youths will go into other vices. Women and children are exposed to longer distances to get some products readily available thereby depriving of time they would have used for other better endeavours to improve their lot.


What are zoonotic diseases?

These are diseases that are transmissible from the animal population to the human population. They may be docile in the animal population, but virulent when it crosses into the human population.


Considering the spread of zoonotic viruses like COVID-19, what solution does nature-based approach offer?

Nature has provided all of these services for human enjoyment and satisfaction, which exists in a delicate balance. The moment humans try to distort that balance, we find ourselves in big trouble like the situation at hand. Nature has already provided the solution for us. It is left for us humans to respect and go along with the solution. A typical example is the solution #Vultures provide for us in cleaning up the environment before we get infected from cholera, tuberculosis, botulism etc. When we kill them, dogs and rats step to do the cleaning they are not well equipped to and they bring it into the human population thereby exposing us. So, nature has already provided us with the solution, Let us RESPECT IT!


Will the COVID-19 pandemic spur people to have a change of attitude towards wildlife/wildlife trade?

It is my hope and prayers that at the other side of this pandemic, we all would have learned to respect our lines and consider this a dress rehearsal of what can happen if we continue to mess with mother nature. This pandemic gives individual, communities and governments the opportunity for us to rethink our lifestyle as it relates to Mother Earth. Let us realize that we have a right to a healthy environment, but we must be responsive and take responsible actions. Let me use this opportunity to join the call by Patricia Zurita @BirdLife_CEO led @BirdLife_News call on @antonioguterres to declare healthy planet is #UNhumanrights  #1Planet1Right.


Among the conservationists, are there plans for post COVID-19 resilient action for wildlife and host communities?

The pandemic has got a lot of people thinking of different ways of doing things and how the vulnerable population will emerge on the other side of this pandemic. Conservationists are not left out. I am aware that some funding bodies have already started setting up funds for such support for vulnerable communities as a result of conversations with and within conservationists. I am optimistic that more of such plans will come up as we emerge from this pandemic.


COVID-19 has disrupted global meetings for climate change, how will this disruption affect nature and conservation efforts in Nigeria?

It has disrupted physical global meetings, but many of those meetings have moved online where tremendous progress is being made. For instance, we had a very important and strategic meeting today hosted by @FMEnvng @sharon_ikeazor and @UKinNigeria using the #EarthDay2020 to discuss on the environment, #COP26 and other related issues. So, conservation efforts are ongoing, howbeit slow, but progress is being made even with the constrain that the pandemic and put on us.


How informed are Nigerians about the concept of climate change and its effects?

Climate change as a concept may not be understood by the lay man, but when broken down into the day -to- day effects of it, they can easily relate to it. So the answer has more to do with the manner of communication than the concept itself. For Instance, when you explain the phenomenon to a local farmer in terms of what he can relate with - rainy season (timing and duration), he will school you because he has been observing it. So to that extent, people are aware.


Would you say that the outbreak of Corona Virus has caused a slope in climate discussion or has it helped to shift the world focus to environmental issues?

On the short term and temporarily it has. But on the long term, this is a discussion we will be having and a frank one at that. This just goes to show that nobody is isolated from the effects of climate change when it happens. The reality of the world being a global village and highly connected is not just in technology, but in nature as well.


In what ways can individuals contribute to climate solutions?

This is a very important part of this discussion because sometimes as individuals we relegate our responsibilities to the government. Individuals should have a change of attitude towards the environment. As soon as that is done, other things will fall in place. For instance, how concerned are we on the way we use water, light, use our cars instead of walking etc. These are simple solutions that are within individual powers to do.









We mourn the demise of a multi-talented, highly achieving lady of very radiant personality, a great Nigerian and a great African who attained high distinction in many theatres of national life, Mrs Francesca Yetunde Emanuel, Commander of the Order of the Niger.


Mrs. Francesca Yetunde Emanuel, neé Pereira, is best known as an outstanding civil servant. She joined the Federal Nigerian Civil Service in 1959 as the first female Administrative Officer after graduating from University College London with an honours degree in Geography. She had started her university course at University College Ibadan, then a college of London University. She was brilliant and diligent and rapidly rose through the ranks in a merit-driven Civil Service and was appointed the first female Federal Permanent Secretary in July 1975. She served as Permanent Secretary with great distinction first at the Cabinet Office and subsequently in several ministries including Establishments, Health, Science and Technology, and Social Development, Youth and Sports.


As Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Establishments she is gratefully remembered for getting the Government to adopt the policy of giving independent individual recognition to married women and granting to them the same perquisites and privileges as accorded to the men, eg. in the allocation of government quarters. While in the same ministry she played a great role and worked hard in the establishment of the Administrative Staff College of Nigeria at Badagry—ASCON. She also worked very hard in the establishment of the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies at Kuru – NIPSS.


The military coup that ended the Gowon Regime occurred soon after Mrs. Emanuel became Permanent Secretary. The Murtala Mohammed Administration which replaced Gen. Gowon’s Regime removed the Civilian Commissioners (Ministers) who from May 1967 onwards were the political heads of ministries and were members of the Federal Executive Council. They were replaced by military officers many of whom had never before in the course of their duties interacted with civil servants. The new Administration also retired several senior Federal Permanent Secretaries and embarked on a massive and traumatic purge of the Civil Service and Parastatal Agencies resulting in the retirement or dismissal of several thousand officials without due process.


Those were very challenging circumstances in which Mrs. Emanuel and her colleagues had to ensure orderly administration, discipline, and observance of Civil Service Regulations and Financial Instructions; as well as introduce the new Ministers to the established administrative procedures in the management of Ministries. In 1984 – 5 she attended the Senior Executive Course at NIPSS, Kuru. At the end of the course she was posted to the Ministry of Social Development, Youth and Sports. She retired from the Civil Service in May 1988 but still served out her term as a Member of the United Nations International Civil Service Commission, 1987 – 1992.


In the many positions she held during her three decades in the Civil Service Mrs. Francesca Yetunde Emanuel acquitted herself with great distinction and success. She adhered closely to the ethos and core principles of the merit-driven, non-partisan Civil Service inherited from the British Colonial Administration – diligence, patriotism, honesty, transparency, objectivity, integrity, and frugality in the expenditure of public funds


After retirement from the Civil Service Mrs. Emanuel served as a member of several Commissions set up to advise on how to re-invigorate and improve the Civil Service so badly degraded in quality, effectiveness, and prestige following the 1975 Purge, the 1988 and other attempted “reforms”. She was a founding Council Member and Vice Chairman of the Council of Retired Federal Permanent Secretaries – CORFEPS and was serving as Chairman at the time of her death. She richly merited the award to her by the Federal Government of the national honour, Commander of the Order of the Niger – CON.


We are very happy that despite her very busy schedule in the Public Service, Mrs Francesca Emanuel found the time and energy to be very active in many other sectors of national life, particularly musical and theatrical performances, as well as in numerous alumni, professional and other cultural associations.


Endowed with a beautiful voice Mrs Emanuel started participating in musical performances very early in life. As a student at Holy Child College, Lagos she won the First Soprano Solo Prize at the first Nigerian Festival of the Arts in 1950. She continued participating in concerts to great acclaim until late age. In 1989 she participated in the establishment of the Musical Society of Nigeria – MUSON led by Chief Ayo Rosiji and Mr Akintola Williams. She was a founding Member of the Board of Governors and was at the time of her death a Trustee and Patron. She also performed in many MUSON concerts.


Our departed heroine was also a gifted actress. She acted in several of Wole Soyinka’s plays. She will also be remembered by numerous actors and actresses whom she mentored and encouraged. A few years ago Mrs Emanuel, Vice Chairman of the Mac Millan Board of Directors initiated the MacMillan Literary Night Series. In her opening address on one occasion when the theme was ‘ Blazing Hope’ she said that “one of the key objectives of the project was to highlight the role of writers in changing society for the common good”. The Chairman of the Board Mr. Bode Emanuel also “reiterated his team’s desire to use literature and theatre to combat the vices of society”. The MacMillan Theatre Night Series feature artistes of diverse categories in dances, drama pieces, musical performances, and poetry recitations and have become immensely popular. She found time to write some good poetry herself. She received due recognition being elected Trustee of the National Association of Theatre Arts Practitioners, Grand Patron of the Association of Nigerian Authors (Lagos Chapter), and Patron Guild of Dancers.


In addition to the wide range of activities which I have already described Mrs F. Y. Emanuel was a very committed nature conservationist. She was a founding member of The Nigerian Conservation Foundation and a very active member of the Executive Council from the beginning of the Foundation in 1982. She served for many years as the Chairman of the Council’s Establishment and Finance Committee and was a Trustee of the Foundation at the time of her death. She was very diligent in attending all the activities of NCF in Lagos and various parts of Nigeria, as well as the activities abroad of the World Wide Fund For Nature to which NCF is affiliated. She was also a very keen horticulturist and personally planted and maintained a delightful garden at her home in Victoria Island, Lagos.


Now the whole world is fully aware of the enormous challenges of Climate Change. Nigerians are gradually awakening to the threatening Challenge with the commitment of the Federal Government to the re-afforestation of 25% of Nigeria’s land surface including our portion of ‘The Green Wall Against Sahara’, and the need to preserve endangered species and their habitats, and to utilise the resources of nature in a renewable process for the benefit of future generations. She will therefore be gratefully remembered for her pioneering efforts to promote the Cause of Conservation in Nigeria.


I cannot end this tribute without recalling Mrs. Francesca Emanuel’s devotion to and bonding with her family – immediate and extended. She was my wife’s eldest sister. I cherish and recall with nostalgia the many happy moments we spent together in Nigeria and abroad on occasions of weddings, admission of children and grand children to sacraments, birthdays and other anniversaries, as well as during regular visits to family members, and she was always joyful.


Although she lived to a great age her demise was a great saddening shock to all of us. We bid farewell to a star, to a great Nigerian and African heroine whose legacies will long endure. Adieu Francesca Yetunde Emanuel, CON.



Philip C. Asiodu, CFR, CON


22nd April, 2020





 In the quest to keep on promoting conservation message despite the current world crisis, conservationists commemorate the International Day of Biodiversity (IDB) 2020 with the theme, “Our Solutions are in Nature”.


The Office of the Minister of State for the Environment in collaboration with Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF), Federal Department of Forestry, British High Commission and COP26 Region for Sub-Saharan Africa organised a webinar to create more awareness about threats facing biodiversity. 


Chief (Mrs) Sharon Ikeazor, the Hon. Minister of State for the Environment, in her opening speech, revealed that Biodiversity is the foundation of life and also is about the variety of life on earth that cover millions of species, from plants, animals, fungi and bacteria. 


She said “The ecosystem is the baseline that holds all of this together. Human interaction with the ecosystem must remain balanced or else we risk disrupting nature with dire consequences. To prevent future pandemic, we must restore, conserve and protect our biodiversity.” 


She added that Nigeria’s biodiversity is threatened by habitat change, over-exploitation, invasive alien species, pollution and the effect of climate change.


Dr. Muhtari Aminu-Kano, Director General of NCF who was the Keynote Speaker stated that despite all humans technological advances, humans are completely dependent on healthy and vibrant ecosystems for their health, water, food, medicines, clothes, fuel, shelter, energy and many more.


He said further that Nature-based Solutions are actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural or modified ecosystems that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits.


He said, “Ecosystems like forests and wetlands are critical to human wellbeing and provide enormous biodiversity conservation benefits.”


Some of the solutions he proposed are preservation and restoration of wetlands and floodplains as flood management solution; protection of coastal wetlands/ecosystem is a natural risk management tool against coastal erosion; degraded forests can be restored by planting trees; Protected Areas are natural infrastructures that mitigate the impacts of climate change because they sink carbons in the environment. 


He further revealed that the SDG 3, 13, 14 and 15 largely depend on nature (biodiversity) to be achieved. Therefore, he advised that governments, corporate institutions and individuals must arise to address the issues affecting environmental sustainability in Nigeria. 


This year’s International Day for Biological Diversity is targeted towards raising awareness and building momentum on the importance of biodiversity as well as global issues on biodiversity loss. 


Also present at the meeting were Her Excellency, Mrs. Catriona Laing, British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ambassador Paul Arkwright, COP26 Regional Ambassador for Sub-Saharan Africa, Mr Desmond Majekodunmi, NCF Council member and other nature enthusiasts.








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