Professor Okeke Gerald Ndubuisi, an environmentalist, lectures at the Triune Biblical University, USA. In this interview, he spoke about education funding in Nigeria, the reduction of carbon footprints, and environmental pollution.

How can Nigeria’s educational system be made better?

The nation’s educational system could be made better if we adhere to the following: Government and ASUU should work together, by settling their differences; incessant strikes by ASSU should be discouraged in all ramifications.

Government should, as a matter of urgency, honour the agreements they signed with ASUU. More funds should be channeled into research projects in our tertiary institutions. Wealthy individuals/corporate bodies should be encouraged to invest in our educational sector.

Funding of education should not be left to the government alone. Nigerians in the Diaspora should be encouraged to come home and invest in our educational sector and other sectors of our economy.

Is it possible for the government to provide free education?

Yes, it is possible for the government to provide free education in the country, but not with the state of our economy presently. Our national economy is bleeding; inflation is assuming a serious dimension now. It would be suicidal to advise the government to provide free education for now.

If we get our priorities right and heal our national economy, then free education is achievable; but for now, we cannot go ahead with free education. Secondly, I want us to understand that education is capital-intensive. It is not yet Uhuru for free education in Nigeria.

If you were the minister of education, what would you do differently?

In all sincerity, I don’t think that there would be much I would do differently if I were appointed as minister for education.

Emeka Nwajiuba and his senior counterpart in the education ministry (Mallam Adamu Adamu) are doing a great job. They have been handling the educational sector very well and they should be commended.

Our economy is in red now. We cannot as a nation channel all the available resources we have only to the educational sector. If we do that, definitely, other sectors would suffer.

That is why I am advocating for corporate bodies and rich individuals to come out and pump more funds into our educational sector. We should have a critical reappraisal of our educational sector to make it more viable and workable.

Should the government place an embargo on the establishment of new universities?

I don’t subscribe to placing an embargo on the establishment of new universities. The bedrock of any meaningful development in any nation is education. The State of New York in the USA has close to 50 universities and polytechnics.

The problem in Nigeria is that some politicians have started using the building of tertiary institutions for political purposes. Some of them would go ahead and build universities, but will not equip them properly to enable the universities to stand on their feet. They would build another one at a different senatorial district, while the first one is still not properly funded. At the end of the day, it becomes an exercise in futility.

How can government address environmental pollution in the Niger Delta?

Environmental pollution in the Niger Delta is assuming a more serious dimension, with the production of soot that is pervading some cities in the region. Port Harcourt is the worst hit in this case of soot. The black substance called soot is an unburned hydrocarbon that comes from illegal refineries around the Niger Delta region. I think we have a government task force that patrols the creeks to fish out illegal refineries.

The truth is that some people have seen it as a business, without minding the collateral damage they are foisting on the environment. The government has budgeted millions of dollars for the Ogoni clean-up campaign. I need to find out the present level of the clean-up.

Government should come up with stricter penalties against environmental pollution in the Niger Delta region. Multinational oil and gas prospecting companies should be made to pay heavy fines or, in some cases, withdraw their operating licenses to serve as a deterrent to others.

Do we have laws or regulations to tackle environmental issues in the country?

Yes, we have laws or regulations to tackle environmental problems in Nigeria. But the problem we have in this country is enforcing those laws. We have various government regulatory agencies saddled with the responsibilities of ensuring a cleaner, healthier environment.

The regulatory agencies should as a matter of fact up their game and live up to expectations. Having the laws or regulations is one thing, but enforcing those laws is another thing.

More universities are now running courses in oil and gas, do we have books for students?

You are correct. More universities are running oil and gas courses presently in Nigeria.

I want to advise parents and guardians to encourage their wards to pursue full-time education in oil and gas-related courses, especially Health, Safety and Environment (HSE), Safety and Environmental Management, Industrial Safety Engineering, Risk Management, and Disaster Programme, etc.

Safety and the environment are the trending courses now all over the world. We need more environmental specialists, earth scientists, and geologists. Now Mother Earth has been messed up sequel to anthropogenic activities of mankind on planet earth.

That is the reason the earth’s temperature is assuming a serious dimension, the sequel to global climate change that is ravaging planet earth presently. We need to do everything humanly possible to pull ourselves from the environmental quagmire we have been plunged into.

Let us go green and encourage afforestation and condemn deforestation. We need to plant more trees around our environment, which would invariably help in the production of fresh oxygen for mankind.

Originally appeared on SUN NEWS ONLINE

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