The Centre for Climate Change and Development (CCCD), Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu Alike (AE-FUNAI), Ebonyi State, has announced and awarded the top three winners of the just concluded second national essay competition titled “Climate Change and Nigeria’s Economic Development: A letter to my incoming President”.
The candidates, whose essays were adjudged the best after a thorough review and assessment by an independent panel of judges headed by urban planner and environmentalist, Mr. Michael Simire, received N200,000, N150,000 and N100,000 during an award ceremony event held in Abuja on Wednesady, February 15, 2023, and organised by the Centre in collaboration with the Sustainable Development Centre of the University of Abuja.
The winners, Israel Oghenefiro Orere, an undergraduate student of Petroleum Engineering at the University of Lagos, Lagos State; James Afomare Owan, an Engineering graduate; and Promise Okwuchukwu, an undergraduate of Law at University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State, who emerged first, second and third best winners, respectively, were among the over 200 entries received by the Centre.
Speaking during the hybrid event, the Director, CCCD AE-FUNAI, Prof Chukwumerije Okereke, eulogised the participants in the essay content for submitting quality essays that encouraged him to opt for an event that would show the winners to both national and international audience.
Prof Okereke said that climate change is not just an environmental problem but a national economic development problem. He said the reason for the second national essay competition is to encourage Nigerian youths to be engaged with climate change and also necessary to alert the incoming President on the economic development implications of climate change for Nigeria and the need for urgent action to tackle the challenge.
He said the CCCD-AEFUNAI would continue to do it’s best to encourage the Nigerian youths to get involved in articulating and advancing action on climate change.
The Director General, National Council on Climate Change, Dr. Salisu Dahiru, said Nigeria has made several bold commitments on climate change led by President Muhammadu Buhari. According to Dr. Dahiru, the President desires to see Nigeria play its own role in tackling the menace of climate change.
He said he was delighted to see several young people in the audience, adding that the NCCC is an inclusive institution that desires to accommodate different voices including the youth, women and people of disability in tackling climate change.
The DG called the youth to engage on climate change and to engage with the council to pull all efforts together to ensure that climate change is tackled adequately in Nigeria.
Dahiru, represented by Michael Ivenso, who is the Head of the Directorate of Energy, Infrastructure and Transportation of the National Council on Climate Change Commission, also said that climate change is a national emergency that requires everybody to participate.
He thanked all of the youth present or participating and enjoined Nigerian youths to work together with the council to build effective responses to climate change.
Sponsor of the Climate Change Act, a member representing the Ikwuano/Umuahia North/South in the Federal House of Representatives and former Chairman, House Committee on Climate Change, Sam Onuigbo, said that there is strong interconnection between climate change and economic growth but also that climate change action represents an opportunity to build a prosperous sustainable green economy for the country.
Onuigbo said that the Nigerian youth is already championing a vote for climate change and the youth awareness is necessary to ensure that climate change remains on the agenda of the incoming administration. The lawmaker underscored the need to integrate climate change into the national education curriculum in schools.
Onuigbo, who was represented by Mr. Nnaemeka Oruh, said that he is looking forward to continuously interacting with students and to tell them more about the role legislation can play in tackling climate change.
Also speaking at the event, Dr. Eugene Itua, who is the CEO of Natural Eco Capital, said that it is important to create awareness at all levels especially among the youths because climate change is also an inter-generational problem, one that affects the old, the young but also something that requires long term thinking.
Dr. Itua said that Nigeria is elaborating the long-term strategy which will inform Nigeria’s long-term development plan that is sustainable. He said it was a privilege to engage and interact with the youth, even as he enjoined the youths’ leaders to look for several opportunities in tackling the climate change such as climate innovation, climate investment and the opportunity to engage in international climate diplomacy.
Director, Department of Climate Change, Federal Ministry of Environment, Dr. Iniabong Abiola-Awe, said that she was glad to be part of the programme. Dr. Awe said that the youths have always been the target of the Ministry in terms of spreading the importance of action on climate change in the country.
She said that the DCC has already engaged with several youth bodies across the country and expressed the hope that the essay competition would further help to expand the engagement of Nigerian youths with regards to tackling the problem of climate change.
The Director, who was represented by Mr. Jonah Barde, expressed the confidence that the DCC would continue to engage with the youth and partner with them to find solutions to tackle climate change.
On his own part, the national youth leader of the Labour Party, Prince Kennedy Ahanuotu, said that he was thankful to President Muhammadu Buhari for starting to put Nigeria on the global map in terms of climate change action and promised that Mr. Peter Obi, the LP Presidential Candidate, would take all the efforts that already have been done on climate change forward.
He promised that letters written by the youth winners would form part of a youth charter of demand that will be presented to Mr. Peter Obi if he wins.
He enjoined the youth to go home to collect their permanent voters cards and fight for the future of Nigeria.
Prince Kennedy said it is impossible for any country to exist effectively without youth involvement in politics, and called on the youths to take their destinies into their hands to ensure that we find a better Nigeria.
In his welcome speech, the Vice-Chancellor, University of Abuja, Prof. Abdul-Rasheed Na’Allah, expressed the readiness of the university management to engage in activities that will promote climate action in all its activities. The V.C noted that the young people play a vital role in ensuring that the effects of climate change is reduced through advocacy and awareness creation as well as engaging their communities in promoting climate action.
The VC, who was represented by the Director, Sustainable Development Centre, University of Abuja, Dr. Sabiu Bariki Sani, stated that his centre would continue to partner with organisations to ensure that Nigerian youths are properly integrated in the fight against the impact of climate change.
Reacting after receiving the prize, Mr. Israel Oghenefiro Orere, the best essayist, thanked the centre for the opportunity to participate in the essay competition which he described as timely owing to the visible effects of climate change in the country and need for the Nigerian youths to be at the fore front of engaging the government in advancing policies that will mitigate the climate change impact in the country.
Mr. Israel said he was overjoyed at the announcement that he was the winner of the essay contest, and humbled by the standing ovation he received.
“It was a rewarding moment for the passion I have for climate change related issues,” he said.
The award event ceremony, which took place at the Events Hall, ASUU Researchers Chalets, University of Abuja Main Campus, was attended by the Director General National Council on Climate Change (NCCC), Dr. Salisu Dahiru, represented by Mr. Michael Ivenso, the head of directorate Energy, Infrastructure and Transportation, NCCC; Mr. Olamide Fabguji, the Special Assistant to the President on Economic Matters; the Chief Executive Officer of Natural Eco Capital and the Facilitator, Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG) and the regional coordinator, West Africa Capitals Coalition Hub, Dr. Eugene Itua; the Director of Department of Climate Change, Ministry of Environment, Dr. Iniobong Abiola Awe, represented by Mr. Jonah Barde; Samuel Onuigbo, the former chairman House Committee on Climate Change; Prince Kennedy Ahanotu, the National Youth Leader of the Labour Party; Mr. Aboulhamid Tahir Hamid, the CEO Global Environmental and Climate Conservatives Initiatives and the President of African Union Great Green Wall Youth Advisory Board; and Dr. Sabiu Bariki Sani, the Director Sustainable Development Centre, University of Abuja .