Founder of African Marine Environment Sustainability Initiative, Dr Felicia Chinwe Mogo, is a seasoned Technocrat and Environmental Management veteran, whose service spanned for about three decades and a half in the public sector. In this interview, she says a clean marine environment will boost the blue economy drive. Excerpts
Give us an overview of your NGO’s activities and how did you get involved in marine environment advocacy?
Africa Marine Environment Sustainability Initiative (AFMESI) is a pan-African, nongovernmental organisation (NGO) that was established six years ago to support the protection and restoration of marine ecosystems, as well as, the development of the Blue Economy sectors across our continent.
Our organisation has continued to build knowledge and catalyse pan-African and international collaborations aimed at protecting and restoring Africa’s marine ecosystems.
AFMESI has partners at the grassroots, private sector, national, regional and international levels such as the African Union, Ocean Networks Canada, the Ocean Foundation (Washington, DC, USA), Federal Ministry of Transportation and Federal Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs. Also, IOPC FUNDs Secretariat; International Maritime Organisation (IMO), Federal Ministry of Environment; Lekki Port LFTZ Enterprise Limited, amongst several others are in partnership with AFMESI.
After spending 34 years of my life working for the government of Nigeria, especially in environmental management and also having had opportunity of self development both locally and internationally, I felt that I should be able to give back to the society that made me .
The founding of the NGO is yet an opportunity for me and likeminded team to ensure fit for purpose oceans in Africa, that we get involved in crucial discussions on the oceans protection and exploration; that we put an end to capital flight especially on resources from the ocean leading to what I call Blue clothing and grabbing. Ocean dumping of toxic substances is a reality and we should watch our oceans to protect them.
United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has approved the establishment of legally binding instruments for the ownership and management of the high seas hitherto regarded as areas belonging to national jurisdiction. We should be interested in what is going on here.
Apart from being very rich in so many rare resources like genetic resources, metals and biodiversity. It is an area that can witness heavy illegal activities like Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing and waste dumping.
Climate change is ravaging the whole globe and leading to loss of so many natural assets. We should be associated with global actions. Nigeria for example, had done very well in the development of her Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) in line with the requirement of the Paris agreement.
The IMO conventions and implementation attract more interest of the regional government in concert with other international declarations on ocean such as the SDGs, the UN future we want, the agenda 21, AU AIMS, Blue economy strategy, the regional seas agreement etc.
We have been involved with a whole lot of these acts and actions. It’s part of our goal to help achieve a cleaner marine environment for highly productive blue economy in Nigeria and across the continent.
Could you tell us the benefits of a well preserved marine environment to the Nigerian economy?
It is known that 70 per cent of the total earth surface is made up of water. Out of this, according to a UNDP report, over 97 per cent is ocean. The total global ocean length is 361,000,000km.
These are the Pacific, being the largest, followed by the Atlantic, the Indian, the Southern and the Artic (smallest). In conservative monetary terms, the overall value of the world ocean was rated to be at least $24 trillion per annum by WWF in 2015 but the WWF report also observed that the value is dwindling due to stressors.
Apart from being home to about over 2million species of organisms, it is important to man that cannot inhabit it directly in so many ways such as: climate regulation, food, especially protein, recreation, transportation, provision of medicine, security and cultural value, visibility amongst committee of nations, then the recent Blue Economy paradigm that has changed the status of most nations significantly.
We are aware you authored a book on this subject matter. Does it in any way proffer answers to challenges in the sub sector?
As I have in the preface of the book, having acted for 34 years in different capacities including via Agencies, Ministries and various international avenues (the IMO, the UNEP, GESAMP) to contribute to the protection of Nigeria’s environment, I have had the opportunity to incubate insights about stewarding our resources for sustainable development.
Specifically, I have spent considerable time reflecting on Nigeria’s marine environment, which holds enormous potential for our sustainable growth as a nation, and yet remains understated. For over 10 years, I have toyed with the idea of documenting my ideas on how to optimise Nigeria’s marine environment for the benefit of its entire population. I am glad to have finally made this idea a reality via the book.
Nigeria is a suitable context for the question about what should become of Africa’s coastal environments.
Nigeria is endowed with enormous maritime resources that can directly contribute to the total wellbeing of its population, especially coastal communities, in terms of direct provision of food and meaningful employment. Indirectly, natural resources from the ocean provide the bedrock of the nation’s Gross Domestic products (GDP) and foreign reserve earnings.
The book highlighted the potentials of the African blue ecosystems, the stressors, ways of tackling them, how to achieve blue economy in Africa. Evaluation of what has worked for other countries such as Canada, EU, Norway, China, Seychelles and some regional blocks agreements are presented in the book, making the book itself an ocean of knowledge for the private sector, the national government, policy makers, legislators, academics, development practitioners and partners, media etc. It provides the summary and strategic rallying call for the realisation of Africa’s blue economy.
On a scale of zero to hundred, can you rate Nigeria’s interests and participatory levels in terms of percentage?
Quite above average getting to distinction, over 75 per cent, but much still needs to be done to achieve 100 per cent.
It is one of the countries in Africa to take issues of environmental protection seriously after learning from the experience of the toxic waste dump in Koko in the then Bendel State of Nigeria in 1988.
Thereafter, the country signed into many treaties on environmental protection and urged other African countries to do so. A case in point is the Bamako convention. At IMO too, the voice of Nigeria is very strong at IMO on Environment issues.
Do you have plans to mentor professionals and non-government actors in this area?
Yes, I do. While in NIMASA, I was the one that developed the lecture module for the maritime institute. I was lecturing in the Maritime Institute in University of Lagos then, but for conflicting interest, job, responsibilities as a mother and wife, I was getting overwhelmed.
So, I stopped. However, now that I am retired from active service, I am planning to seek avenues for transfer whatever knowledge I have acquired in the area over the years while updating myself in emerging issues.
I make every effort to accept invitations for formal and informal trainings, and the annual symposium by the NGO is also a huge opportunity of knowledge sharing.
Besides, I am the Principal Consultant to LUBARI Maritime Academy, Nigeria and I cannot wait to see the organisation launching into full sessions on trainings. The book I wrote is a training document on practical information on marine environment and blue economy.
How many government agencies in Nigeria are showing interest in the African Marine Environment Sustainability Initiative?
All the MDAs that see their mandate as having to do with the environment (both terrestrial and marine) and interest in launching into the Blue Economy are interested in working with us. I cannot start naming them now.
How many African countries are you presently interfacing with?
We are currently interfacing with many African countries, especially those in the West and Central African region under the coverage of the Abidijan Convention on regional seas on the protection of the coastal and marine environment of West and Central African region.
Dr Mogo was a former director at NIMASA. What did she do while there in relation to the marine environment?
As a former Director of the Marine Environment Management Department at the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), she revitalised maritime environmental protection efforts by increasing staff capacity, building partnerships with national and international organisations and developed transformative projects to monitor and manage Nigeria’s waters.
As a member of Nigeria’s delegation to the IMO official meetings, she earned the country several recognitions. She was elected in 2013 as a member of IMO Expert Compliance Group on London Protocol on prevention of dumping of waste and other matters in the marine environment, representing West and Central African Anglophone countries; chaired the Group for two years and was consecutively re-elected as a member of the Group for three tenures.
She remains a focal point on adapting the IMO’s conventions to the Nigerian and African context. I was elected a member of the United Nations Group of Experts on Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP) as a candidate of IMO under the sponsorship of UNDP and chaired the Correspondence Group on Marine Litter Management of the Scientific Group Meetings on the London Convention and Protocol of the IMO also.
I submitted many IMO accepted position papers on behalf of Nigeria. My other affiliations include my role as a negotiation team member of the Abidjan Convention Secretariat on the Management of the Coastal and Marine Environment of the Regional Seas of West and Central Africa and nomination as Nigeria’s Representative on issues of marine litter in the Secretariat by Federal Ministry of Environment.
In Nigeria, I attracted the United Nations Environment Programme’s funds and partnerships, which led to the development of a national maritime action plan for marine litter management. I developed the first national position paper to the World Bank Nigeria that led to Nigeria becoming a member of WACA.
I am also a member of Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) and serves as the Thematic Lead on the Blue Economy and Marine Ecosystem. I am a Diamond member and resource to Women in Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA), Nigeria and also a key driver of the Blue Economy in Nigeria, within the African Union, and the G7 + friends of the Gulf of Guinea Forum.
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