By Busayo Onijala
Lagos, Jan.19, 2021 The U.S. government has partnered the Mandela Washington Fellowship Alumni Association of Nigeria (MWFAAN) and Young African Leaders Initiative Network(YALI) to launch the Clean Up Nigeria Campaign.
The campaign which is aimed at encouraging a change in the widespread attitude of littering and indiscriminate waste disposal in the country will take place in four states including Lagos, Oyo, Enugu and Rivers.
Speaking at a news conference in Lagos on Tuesday, Stephen Ibelli, Public Affairs Officer of the U.S. Consulate in Lagos, said that the campaign would create sustainable awareness in communities across Nigeria.
According to him, Nigeria is one of the countries of concern with regards to plastic and environmental pollution.
“Poor waste management is an important topic not only for Nigeria but for the world and with the incoming Biden administration, we will see more focus on the environment.
“If you look at emission rates in the U.S. since 2005, there has been a 13 per cent reduction even with the economy growing.
“There has been a balance where we have the emissions going down and the economy going up. These things are not mutually exclusive,” Ibelli said.
He added that the U.S. mission in Nigeria is interested and very committed to partnering the alumni in the programme.
“It is not a random act that we are partnering with you.
“It is a thoughtful and considered choice that we are partnering with you because of our investment in you, what we know you can accomplish and the changes you can bring to your communities,” he said.
According to Ibelli, the Clean Up Nigeria campaign is an opportunity to involve local government areas, politicians, and environmental offices in the fight against pollution.
Adepeju Jaiyeoba, President, MWFAAN and Coordinator of the project, said that Clean Up Nigeria is aimed at creating behavioural changes in individuals and the way they interact with their environment.
“This project takes a holistic approach at everything related to the environment from the policy drive to the community engagement, to developing innovations and to solving the challenges of the environment,” she said.
According to Jaiyeoba, the project spans a period of five years with the initial pilot being funded by the U.S. government.
“This programme starts in February 2021 and ends on June 5, 2021 which also incidentally is the World Environment Day.
“At the end, we should be able to compare the baseline which is where we are now versus where we will be in June, to see the impact of our projects and develop new strategies for subsequent years,” she said.
Jaiyeoba said that while some would attribute poor waste management system to weak environmental policy, implementation or the large population of Nigeria, a lot of the problem rested on citizens of the country.
“Every year, Nigeria loses N455 million to poor sanitation and over 70 million Nigerians live in unsanitary environmental conditions.
“Our goal is to bring down these numbers and create behavioral changes across board for every member of our community by educating the public, engaging stakeholders, deepening relationships with our partners and increasing environmental awareness.’’
She added that one of the key steps that the network had taken was to make sure the project got to the grassroots by including members in almost every state in the country.
“We have different grassroots members to ensure that our works get there. We are not building something for outsiders; we are building something for insiders by insiders.
“This is our commitment and we will be leveraging on our structures to make sure that the change we’re talking about happens down to the grassroots.
“We will continue to actively look for ways to resolve the challenges that community members are going through,” Jaiyeoba said.
Naija247news reports that the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders started in 2014 and is the flagship programme of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI).