When popular Nigerian musician TY Bello sang the song “The Land is Green” from her Greenland album, she was re-echoing an ideal birthed by Nigeria’s founding fathers — an ideal captured so ebulliently on the green-white-green-striped Nigerian flag. This greenness represents the rich and fertile soil, the precious earth on which we dwell. Generations later, Nigerians are still embracing this greenery, pushing sustainability across civic, public and business spheres. This is a tale of their exploits.
Desmond Majekodunmi is a renowned Nigerian environmentalist and chairman of the Lagos State Urban Forest and Animal Shelter Initiative (LUFASI). As part of the governing council of the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF), he helped introduce ecology to the country’s school curriculum and established a National Environment Protection Agency and National Parks Authority. Recently, LUFASI and Green Faith Nigeria engaged Christian, Islamic and Buddhist leaders to preach environmental consciousness from the pulpit.
The younger generation is also pulling its weight. Jennifer Uchendu’s Sustyvibes website aims to deliver trend engagements on sustainability in Africa, while EDEN-GCP — founded by three young Nigerians — has reached half a million people with its environmental sustainability sensitization activities.
In the public service, 34-year-old Sanusi Ohiare is currently the only Nigerian with a PhD specialization in rural energy development. As the executive director of Nigeria’s Rural Electrification Agency, he ensures that all of the organization’s interventions contain at least 30 percent renewable energy generation from hydro, solar-photovoltaic, wind and biomass sources.
Furthermore, beyond issuing the first sovereign green bonds last year, the Nigerian Stock Exchange led the nation’s first Climate Finance Accelerator (CFA) workshop this past January. It galvanized partnerships from the likes of Nigeria’s foremost private sector think-tank, the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), as well as the Ministry of Environment, financial institutions and U.K-based Climate Advisers Network. Beyond the deliberations on how the private sector can contribute to making the Paris Agreement and its 2020 climate change commitments a reality, 12 green/eco-friendly businesses were selected for support.
The Nigerian government has also started exploring agricultural biotechnology as a means of not just improving yield but ensuring environmental sustainability. It recently approved the growing of Bt cotton and cowpea, which will help greatly reduce the 80 percent cowpea yield loss caused by the maruca pest, decrease toxicity from accumulated pesticide use, thus improving soil health, and ensure production increase per acreage so as to reduce decimation of Nigeria’s virgin forests for more farms.
Entrepreneurial Nigerians have also monetized solutions to environmental challenges. Ifeanyi Orajaka runs GVE-P, an innovative photovoltaic solar solutions provider that has installed over 500kw of clean and affordable electricity for 30,000 households and created 500 jobs. Fatima Ademoh has raised over $250,000 for her Waste-2-Watt renewable energy project, converting food waste generated in urban Kuje-Abuja into biogas that supplies electricity to off-grid communities. The Environmental Justice Atlas, Nigeria reported that the country imports 500 containers carrying 500,000 pieces of second-hand electronic equipment monthly, prompting E-Terra Technologies to pioneer recycling hazardous electronic waste. Meanwhile, Hinckley Associates operates an authorized HP Service Centre providing break-and-fix services to ensure reuse across Nigeria and West Africa.
Nigeria’s population boom and lack of basic waste management infrastructure is increasingly leading to terrible environmental and pollution problems — and innovation solutions. For instance, Nigeria’s largest metropolitan city, Lagos, was built for 17 million people but now accommodates 20 million, according to a 2016 National Population Commission of Nigeria Report. In response, Bilikiss Adebiyi co-founded Wecyclers to incentivize recycling through an SMS-based system that rewards people for turning in their waste in exchange for cash, call-credit, food items and household goods. Since then, Chioma Ukuonu and Destiny Fredrick have debuted RecyclePoints and Ecofuture, respectively. Other women are continuing to expand this sector. Olamide Ayeni-Babajide left a career in network infrastructure engineering to create furniture, décor and household utensils from waste through her Pearl Recycling business. Beauty Martins reworks old tires into exquisite designs such as Christmas trees, and is looking to make her Beauberry Creations exhibition showrooms from used tires.
Nigerians are earnestly striving toward the ethos of a “greenland,” but there is still so much to be done. For instance, the country needs to ensure that its oil industry stops the practice of flaring 324 billion standard cubic feet of gas annually, a figure provided by Nigeria’s Department of Petroleum Resources.
Still, greening the land isn’t exclusive to Nigerians, as the earth is one. Even as “environmental threats are now the biggest danger to the global economy,” as noted by renowned natural historian Sir David Attenborough, it behooves us all to “push against climate change before the damage becomes irreparable.”