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Happy Gov Ohakim

Posted by By CHIDI NNADI, Enugu on 2007/12/05 | Views: 709 |

Happy Gov Ohakim

Governor Ikedi Ohakim of Imo State had cause last Wednesday to be happy as the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) Regional Centre for Pollution Assessment and Management of the Guinea Current Large Marine Ecosystem (GCLME) project, also known as the UNIDO Centre of Excellence, was commissioned in Owerri, the state capital.

• Joy in Imo as UNIDO opens Centre of Excellence in Owerri

Governor Ikedi Ohakim of Imo State had cause last Wednesday to be happy as the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) Regional Centre for Pollution Assessment and Management of the Guinea Current Large Marine Ecosystem (GCLME) project, also known as the UNIDO Centre of Excellence, was commissioned in Owerri, the state capital.

The idea for the centre, which would see 16 African countries in the GCLME area relying on Owerri for the purposes of monitoring environmental pollution, as well as its management in the region was mooted in 1998, but the project kicked off in 2002. The project, into which the Imo State government sunk over N40 million as counterpart funding, Governor Ohakim said, is in conformity with his administration’s key policy - Environmental sanitization - as encapsulated in the Imo Clean and Green Initiatives (CGI).

In his brief speech at the commissioning of the centre, he insisted that Imo must be made to be clean as that would help to attract investors to the state.
The centre, which stemmed from the joint effort of the GCLME and the Imo State Environmental Protection Agency (ISEPA), the governor said, would help to carry the state’s environment status to an international level.

Ohakim thanked UNIDO, particularly Prof Chidi Ibe, executive secretary/regional director of the Guinea Current Commission and Dr Chika Ukwe, UNIDO project manager for the GCLME and industrial development officer (International Waters) for choosing his state for the establishment of the Centre.
Dr Ukwe, who flew in from Vienna, Austria for the commissioning, said he had brought good tidings to the Imo people from his organisation.

His words: “I bring you the fraternal greetings of the UNIDO Director General, His Excellency Dr Kandeh Yumkella and the best wishes of the UNIDO Representative in Nigeria and Head of the regional office for West Africa, Mr Masayoshi Matsushita on this important ceremony for the commissioning of the Regional Centre of Excellence on Environmental Pollution Management of the Interim Guinea Commission (IGCC).”

Ukwe said that UNIDO was pleased with the fruitful partnership with the Imo State government and the Federal Ministry of Environment, Housing and Urban Development, which is the GCLME focal point ministry that culminated in the establishment of the Centre of Excellence.
He noted that the GCLME, which stretches from the coast of Guinea Bissau in the North to Angola in the South, is characterized by distinctive bathymetry, hydrography, chemistry and trophic linkages, ranking it among the most productive coastal and offshore waters in the world with rich fishery resources, oil and gas reserves, precious minerals, a high potential for tourism and important reservoir of marine biological diversity of global importance.

He gave reasons for the establishment of the centre which include: “Over-exploitation of fisheries, pollution from domestic and industry sources, and poorly planned and managed coastal developments and near-shore activities are, however, resulting in rapid degradation of vulnerable coastal and offshore habitats and shared living marine resources of the GCLME, putting the economies and health of the populace at risk.

“In most of the countries of the GCLME, coastal industrial development and intense rate of urbanization of coastal cities, much of which are poorly planned or unplanned, have created pollution ‘hot spots’ with resultant deterioration in surface and ground water quality.”

In the face of these and many more environmental problems in the GCLME area, he said the countries concerned resolved to work together to address their common concern. “Through various assessments carried out, the countries realized that the traditional sectoral approach to management had failed in bringing about the needed changes in environmental and living resources and resolved to adopt a holistic and multi-sectoral approach embodied in the large marine ecosystem concept,” he said.

Ukwe explained that a major part of the GCLME programme activities would be implemented by a network of specialist institutions coordinated by Regional Activity Centre (Centre of Excellence) based in national institutions with adequate capacity to host the type of activities to be assigned.
“The Centre of Excellence hosted by the Imo State Environmental Protection Agency (ISEPA) will provide technical guidance and expertise on issues of pollution from land based activities (municipal, industrial, agricultural) to all the 16 countries of the region.

“The centre will work closely with the Executive Secretariat of the Interim Guinea Current Commission and UNIDO in order to establish links with the national focal points such as specialized institutions in each country appointed by governments to participate in each of the GCLME networks. The centre shall organize working parties, conduct relevant training and present recommendations to the IGCC Programme Steering Committee,” he said.

The UNIDO international waters expert told the Imo people that to ensure a smooth functioning of the centre, a management committee is being constituted by his organization and the IGCC under the chairmanship of the Imo State Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Petroleum and Environment.

“Membership of the committee include the following: Prof Ayite-Lo Ajavon, UNIDO International Consultant on Pollution and Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry at University of Lome, Togo; Captain Martin Niagne Dibi, Director, Anti-Pollution Centre (CIAPOL), Cote d’Ivoire; Mr William Fomban Gana of Hydrac Oil Company, Cameroon; representative of the Federal Ministry of Environment, Housing and Urban Development; UNIDO representative in Nigeria; representative of the IGCC; the oil industry, Engr Charles Okoro of SPDC, and the personal assistant to the Imo State governor on Petroleum and Environment,” he disclosed.

Ukwe commended Governor Ohakim for his dedication, vision and leadership in environmental management issues. His words: “We are pleased to note that the government has placed deserving priority on the issue of environment management and has launched the Clean and Green Initiative to transform the environment, notably waste management and sanitation, in Imo State. We stand ready to provide technical assistance for the realization of the objectives of the initiative and replicating the successes recorded in the other 15 GCLME countries.”

He also assured the Imo governor of the continuous support and dedication of UNIDO and the IGCC to the functioning of the Centre of Excellence on Environmental Pollution Management, promising to bring the operations of the centre to international standard.
“In this respect, UNIDO is partnering with the Marine Environment Laboratory of the International Atomic Energy Agency (MEL-IAEA) in Monaco, France in instituting an appropriate Quality Control and Quality Assurance (QA/QC) system for the Centre.

“Through this partnership, the centre will obtain reference materials and technical publications as well as participate in the regular global inter-calibration and inter-comparability exercises organized by the MEL-IAEA. The centre will thus benefit from the sharing of knowledge, experiences, best practices and lessons learned on methodologies and techniques for pollution management with other regional centres worldwide under the MEL-IAEA network,” he said.

Ukwe also commended the former governor of the state, Chief Achike Udenwa, for the support and financial contributions that enabled the upgrading of the facilities of ISEPA to serve as host of the Centre of Excellence.
He told the gathering that Prof Ibe, who is the regional director of the GCLME programme, had requested him to reassure the Imo governor of his commitment and support to the Centre.

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