Need for environment university in Rivers State

A University is an institution of higher learning providing facilities for teaching and research and is authorized to award academic credentials. It is a beautiful option that every society would cherish, love to acquire, and indeed treat as a viable priority all the time because of its incomparable impacts and inherent opportunities for mankind.

Environment, literally means the surrounding in which we live including the things either directly or indirectly dependent upon for our survival e.g. animals, plants, soil, air, water, etc.  And environmental studies which could be science, engineering or management is the scientific study of the environmental system and the status of its inherent or induced changes.  The environment is an ecosystem where we live, an ecosystem is a segment of nature consisting of a community of living beings and the physical environment both interacting and exchanging materials between them.

Rivers State and the Niger Delta areas have tremendous challenges from soil erosion to extensive oil pollution, flood hazards, coastal degradation, increasing human population, delicate ecological balance of nature, inadequate drainage systems in some urban areas, loss in soil texture, climate change, the black soot, oil spillage and other pollutants resulting from urbanization, industrialization and other human activities.

According to the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) report, Ogoni Land a component of Rivers State has a tragic history of pollution from oil spills and oil well fires – contaminated land, ground water, surface water, sediment, vegetation, air pollution, public health, Industry practices and institutional issues.

From same findings, it has been established that oil contamination in Ogoni land and by extension the whole of Rivers State is widespread and severely impacting many components of the environment. As Ogoni land and the entire Rivers State have high rainfall any delay in cleaning up an oil spill leads to oil being washed away, traversing farmland and almost always ending up in the creeks that in most cases plants crops and culture perish.

Besides, remote sensing reveals the rapid proliferation in the past years of artisanal refining, whereby crude oil is distilled in make shift facilities.  The study found that this illegal activity is endangering lives and causing pockets of environmental devastation in Ogoni land and indeed the core Niger Delta areas.

The report further stated that pollution of soil by petroleum hydrocarbons in Ogoni land is extensive in land areas, sediments and swamp land.   Most of the contamination is from crude oil although contamination by refined product was found at three locations.   The study concluded that the control, maintenance and decommissioning of oil field infrastructure in Ogoni land are inadequate as industry best practices have not been applied.

Apart from problems arising from oil exploration and mining activities, there are the man induced ecological problems such as deforestation, waste generation, indiscriminate dumping of toxic materials at   unauthorized sites and the use of chemicals that have diverse adverse effects on the environment. Succinctly put, the environment is important to man and for human existence which needs to be studied, managed and nurtured for healthy living and development.

No doubt, Rivers State has other institutions of higher learning which are important, functional and are addressing the general developmental needs of our nation but a focus on the proposed University of Environment in Rivers State, is another unique, viable and commendable break through as it emerges to confront and tackle specific environmental problems for mankind not only for a while but for generations to come.

Similar institution is also situated in neighbouring Ghana where courses like Biotechnology, Water Management, Town Planning and Building Technology, Biological Sciences, Natural Sciences, Marine Studies, Engineering, Oil and gas, Information Communication Technology to mention but just a few are studied.

There is therefore an excellent spirit, superior wisdom and divine direction in the conceptualization of this noble idea to establish a specialized University of Environment to teach and conduct research in that field.  In view of the foregoing, everything humanly possible to actualize this dream must be put in place as the benefits and relevance would definitely be trans-generational.

We are pleased to state that by this singular effort to establish a University of Environment at Bori, a bold attempt is being made by the Rivers State Government to focus on the plights of a people criminally neglected by the Federal Government of Nigeria and the multi-national oil companies over the years and these gesture shall be appreciated and remembered by generations of Rivers people in perpetuity.

The usefulness and attraction of such an institution would be monumental, irresistible and of great advantage to Rivers State, Niger Delta, and Nigeria in general.

  • Ogoni Welfare Association, Abuja.