An address by the Director General Environment and Safety Management Institute (ESMI) at the Regional Stakeholders’ Discussion on Closing ranks for Environmental Safety and the economic development of Southern Nigeria, Held the University of Ibadan International Conference Centre, Ibadan 12th November, 2021.
It is a great honour to address all of you gathered here this morning at this Regional Stakeholders Discussion on “Closing ranks for Environmental Safety and the economic development of Southern Nigeria”. Before I delve into the crux of the reason why we are here, permit me to give an insight into our organization – The Environment and Safety Management Institute (ESMI). The Institute was founded in September 17, 2015 with the main objective of environmental stewardship, following perceived environmental degradation triggered particularly by environmental change (natural and human induced changes in the Earth’s environment affecting land, biodiversity, atmospheric decomposition and climate). Since then The Institute has made giant strides into environmental protection and management in Nigeria through training comprising of seminars, workshops, in both public and private sectors of the economy, in addition to establishing Environment and Safety volunteers among all strata of the Nigerian society.
The institute is a body with over 5,000 registered members across Nigeria. And, in order to help in spreading the requisite knowledge on environmental stewardship The Institute has inducted several fellows; notable fellows of the institute include Governors of Gombe, Anambra and Benue states, national assembly members like Senator Umaru Tanko Al-Makura, Senator Ifeanyi Ubah, Hon. Robert Aondona Tyough, Hon. Aishatu Jibril Duku, heads of MDAs like the Director General of NESREA Prof Aliyu Jauro, as well as captains of industries and traditional rulers such as the Emir of Nasarawa and former minister of Environment HRH Mohamed Usman Jubril. In the academia, the institute has Professors like, Prof. Abdullahi Liman Tukur, Vice Chancellor Federal University of Technology Yola, Prof. Abdullahi Mahdi Former V.C ABU Zaria, Prof Abubakar Musa Kundiri Former V.C Federal University Wukari, Prof. Ezenduka Pauline, Prof. Nasiru Idris among others.
One of the plans of The Institute is to build an Environment and Safety Research Center, the first of its kind in Africa to train our youth in environmental stewardship in all it’s ramifications. Already arrangements are in the pipeline with domestic and foreign organizations to make the dream project a reality.
But, before we look at what motivated the founding fathers of The Institute to set up the organization, let us consider the twin concepts of “environment” and “safety”. This will enable us to understand the the main reason behind the purpose of organizing this Regional Stakeholders’ discussion on Environment and Safety.
The first concept is derived from the French word “Environia” which means to surround. The environment may therefore be conceived as the surroundings in which living and non-living things, including human beings live together. Generally, the environment is viewed as the sum total of conditions in which an organism has to survive, or maintain its life processes. It consists of interacting systems of physical, biological, and cultural elements which are interlinked individually and collectively. Its main components are soil, water air, organisms and solar energy. Thus, while the environment influences the growth and development of living organisms, living organisms interact with the environment with mutual effects on each other.
However, while the environment regulates the life of all organisms, and provide human beings with resources for leading a comfortable life, human beings interact with the environment more vigorously. Consequently, the human environment is generally affected by factors which may be natural, artificial, social biological and psychological. We forget that we share the environment with other creatures and are connected like a web and that what happens to one species, happens to all.
This takes us to the relevant concept of “safety”. Safety may be described as a state of being “safe” and is an emotional, psychological or philosophical state of mind – the antonym of safety is danger. It is a condition of living free from recognized hazards and acceptable limits of risks. Safety is a nebulous concept and often associated with terms such as security, health, risks, threats and harm, which are equated or used interchangeably/mutually with it. Safety is generally relative, since eliminating all risks would be very difficult or very expensive. Safety therefore has to be considered within a reasonable limit. A safe situation is one where risks of injury, death or damage to property are low or manageable, and safety has to be considered within reasonable limits or parameters. Drugs, for instance, are safe if taken within the recommended dosage.
A closely related concept to safety is “security” which is also called social safety, or public safety which involves providing safety from risk or harm due to intentional criminal acts such as assault, burglary and vandalism. Because of the moral questions involved, security takes center stage in human affairs to the detriment of substantive safety.
Your Excellencies, the royal fathers, heads of MDAs, ladies and gentlemen. For better understanding, permit me to explore the nexus between the Environment and Safety and how this can be managed particularly for economic development, which is why we are here today. Concern for environment and safety has grown recently to cover the following events:
- Unsound exploitation of resources;
- Release of pollutants into the air and water sources from domestic, commercial or industrial waste or by-products;
- Gas flaring, oil spills; and
- The common occurrence of environmental stressors such as floods, draughts, fire disasters, population explosion, and famine.
And, at the same time, concern for safety which has been a natural human emotion has become glaring as a result of these events. But as we interact with each other, common concerns for safety have stemmed, not only from the above environmental concerns, but also from the following human induced fears:
- Insurgency, banditry, kidnapping, and armed robbery, urban violence;
- Road and railway accidents and air disasters; and
- Eminent food scarcity due to human conflicts and natural disasters.
In view of the foregoing, the environment and safety linkage has been translated into action by organized communities to enhance the potential for environmental management, for conflict avoidance, early warning signs of hazards, and better disaster preparedness. Environment and safety linkages have introduced human safety perspectives into analysis of environmental challenges. The concept of environment and safety therefore involves practices, policies and procedures that ensure the safety and well-being of anyone in the immediate environment. This generally includes practices in terms of protection against floods, fighting banditry, food security and safety, proper waste disposal, containment and storage of potentially toxic chemicals, etc.
Consequently, governments all over the world, including the Federal Republic of Nigeria, have made policies, regulations and outlined procedures to control and enforce standards and best practices to maintain environmental safety standards. Globally, governments have realized that some of the worst man-made disasters are caused by inadequate environmental safety measures which have caused injures to workers, residents close to industrial sites, urban centers, etc. In most of Nigerian cities and urban centers, especially the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, there are examples where the Federal government has provided urban safety arrangements including traffic signs, roundabouts, zebra crossings, etc. Environmental safety requires been observant at all times to ensure personal or group safety. The government has provided urban security and safety watch systems and mobilized forces to tackle safety and security threats. There are government organizations to handle different areas in environmental safety which are governed by laws and regulations at the municipal, state, and federal levels that need attention in this country:
- Occupational safety and health particularly in the production plant and workplace for protecting workers and reducing risks from dangerous chemicals and gases and other potential threats to the health and safety of workers.
- Environmental control which is concerned with preventing pollution and other threats to the environment and anyone who may be affected by it.
- Chemical concerns for safety during storage, use and disposal.
- Gender based violence, cultism, gangsterism, carjacking, kidnapping, insurgency, etc.
There are consequences of non-compliance with regulations and negligence, liabilities and civil suits and potential hazards in not observing environmental safety practices.
At this point, I wish to commend the Federal Government of Nigeria for setting up viatl agencies which are responsible for environmental safety such as NAFDAC, NCC, Fire Service, the road safety, the Armed Forces and the police for safety security, Nesrea, Federal Ministry of Environment, Standards Organization of Nigeria, NOSDRA and etc. I wish to call on the government to coordinate all the agencies in charge of enforcing the laws and regulations to close existing gaps for effective operation. This is synergy the institute is looking forward to see and we are ready to work with all and sundry to coordinate this synergy. Let me also use this opportunity to appreciate the efforts of private individuals who are using their organizations and personalities to enhance safety and well being of the people for better economic development. I will like to call out personalities like the His Imperial Majesty Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi The Ooni of Ife, Her Excellency Dr Mrs Eunice Ortom Founder, Eunice Spring of Life Foundation, Dr. Adewole Adebayo Esq Chief Executive Officer King Adebayo Film and Arts Network Television and other individuals who are working relentlessly for your drive towards promoting safety of lives through laudable health programs, fight against hunger and diseases, and care for the future of the youths, among several other efforts you are making, we commend you and wish to inform you that we will love to partner with you to do more.
Finally, as a young organization we are barely trying to stand on our feet and will cherish any assistance from the government of Nigeria and well to do individuals and organizations to help us carry out our plans and programs. One of the projects that is dear to our heart is the proposed African Environment and Safety Training Center which we hope will provide manpower for the management of the environment and safety of our country and beyond.
Your Excellency, Your Royal Highness, ladies and gentlemen, we lack words to appreciate your presence at this regional stakeholders discussion. Please accept our highest esteem for your kindness. Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
B. C. Utille FESMI (D.G. ESMI)