The Senate on Wednesday passed at its second reading the Great Green Wall Bill for the establishment of an Act to Establish the National Agency for the Great Green Wall aimed at tackling desertification.
The Bill passed second reading after a debate on it led by the Leader of the Senate, Victor Ndoma-Egba.
Senate President, Senator David Mark, at the plenary expressed optimism that the bill would be passed before the end of the 7th Assembly in spite of the fact that it was presented late.
Mark who also expressed the hope that it would be signed into law by the President before the end of the present government, stressed the need for the agency to effectively carry out its task, when established.
“I hope the agency, when established, will do what this bill has asked them to do in practical term. They must be on ground to what they ought to do,’’ he said.
Contributing to the debate, Ndoma-Egba said that the establishment of the agency would help to tackle the problem of drought and desertification, among others, in the country.
The Senate Leader said climate change was one of the world’s most formidable challenges, posing serious threat to global stability in view of its negative impact on the physical, biological and social environment.
According to him, about 2,168 square kilometres of rangeland and crop land were being lost each year in the country, thereby inducing forced migration, rural poverty and social conflicts, stressing that that if the rampaging desertification was not checked and controlled, the socio economic consequences would be disastrous.
He said: “About 43 per cent of Nigeria’s total land area is under the threat of desertification with resultant effect on food security, sustainable livelihood and social security of affected communities of over 40 million people.
“Currently, 11 countries are involved in the programme and the thrust is to provide a green wall of trees or shelterbelts from Kebbi state to Borno state, a distance of 1,500 kilometres.
“This is to wedge the southward expansion of Sahara desert and improve land productivity.
“The programme further involves provision of water for irrigation, domestic and animal consumption and promotion of alternative means of livelihood to enhance rural economy and create job opportunities.’’
Senator Ali Ndume (APC-Borno South ), in his contribution, noted that desertification had become a threat to the corporate existence of the country and the passage of the bill had become imperative.
Ndume said there was an urgent need to pass the bill, adding that the problem that affects one’s neighbour affects him too and a threat to one is threat to all.
He said: “Some states in the country, which were hitherto not affected by drought and other effects of desertification are being threatened by desertification which runs across 11 states in the North; states like Adamawa, Bauchi and Gombe are now threatened.
“Also, other countries that signed the treaty with Nigeria have established agencies to handle the project but Nigeria is yet to do so.’’
In his submission, Senator Smart Adeyemi (PDP-Kogi West), Chairman Senate Committee on FCT, said the creation of the agency would create jobs and so the bill would go a long way in combating unemployment.
Adeyemi noted that desert encroachment was a serious threat and national challenge and urged the agency when established, to look beyond the 11 states mentioned in the lead debate.
“It is a national problem and I hope that before the end of this dispensation we will pass this bill and have it signed into law,’’ he said.
The bill was referred to the Senate Joint Committee on Agriculture and Environment with a directive that it should be returned after one week.