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Time to address the dearth of environmental statistics

In northern Nigeria it is desertification, east erosion, south south noted for high gas flare resulting in air and water contamination and the west known…

In northern Nigeria it is desertification, east erosion, south south noted for high gas flare resulting in air and water contamination and the west known for ocean surge and flood related issues.
It is so simple to identify the challenges but surprisingly, there is no one stop-shop in the country where details of these challenges, including its magnitude, intensity, impact or interventions can be found.
This situation has resulted in circumstance where researchers have to look towards the World Bank, UNDP or other international agencies to get a near accurate statistics about environmental issues in the country.
At a recent meeting organised by the Ecological Funds Office on issues of desertification in the north, three officials from the government offices that read speeches reeled out three different statistics on how desertification was impacting the country.
Prof. Emmanuel Oladipo, an environmental expert at the meeting brought to the fore, the issues of dearth of statistics noting that if the desert was moving inwards at the rates stated by the three government officials, the whole of northern Nigeria would have been lost by now.
According to information from the ministry of environment, “environmental statistics cut across many agencies as most agencies collect one data or the other; what we have in the country as environmental data is in pockets here and there with different agencies.”
Mrs Rabi S. Jimeta, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Environment, said at the inauguration of a national steering committee on environmental statistic recently that the country needs accurate, reliable and qualitative environmental data to be able to tackle the mirage of challenges facing the environment.
According to her, because the national environment statistic is scientific, you need to have the right equipment, you need a cost-consuming fund which is mostly not available to be able to generate and sustain a data bank that the country can be proud of.
While inaugurating the committee, the Minister of Environment, Mrs. Laurentia L. Mallam, said there cannot be a healthier management of the environment without credible and reliable data which becomes imperative for the development of environmental statistics in the country.
She said the committee will ensure that environment statistics as the basic building blocks, source of facilitation, harmonisation and coordination of quantifiable environment related information at the national, regional and global levels, is established which will result in the production of environmental and sustainable development indicators as well as a System of integrated  Environmental and Economic Accounting (SEEA).
Mallam urged the members of the committee to cooperate actively with the ministry to ensure that Nigeria puts the United Nations revised framework on environment statistics to use in developing the country’s environment statistics at a faster pace with better quality and sustainability.
As of today, there is no conglomerate office that is in the format recognised by the United Nations that houses complete statistics on environment.
“People use different methods in collecting statistics and they have different indicators they are using or looking for; they collect whatever is of interest to them but what is expected internationally is that there is a required format and we are not there yet. The statistics are there but in their raw form and there are lots of gaps because most of what is known are outdated,” the information sheet from the ministry noted.
Since 2012, the UNDP has been in the vanguard of ensuring that the country has accurate and reliable environmental statistics.
According to Mr Odele Muyiwa an official of the UNDP, “statistical information is essential for understanding our complex and rapidly changing world. We cannot discuss the issue of environment if we discard the place of environmental statistics in solving our ever-increasing environmental problems.
“Environment statistics is integrative; it measures human activities and natural events that affect the environment, monitor the impacts on the environment and the social responses to environmental impacts. It is indispensable for evidence-based policies and decision making to support sustainable development,” he added.
According to stakeholders, there already existed a UN framework for statistics which was first produced in 1984 which was revised and completed last year and it is expected that every country globally should apply that; meaning Nigeria should key into the global structure to enrich and provide the needed platform for the country.
The task before the new team inaugurated by the minister, according to stakeholders, is huge but can be overcome; that they would be required to first of all know where we are, what is on ground, what do we have, what kind of capacity, knowledge, equipment, data do we have, what are the gaps and what should be done.

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