Honorable Zakariya Shamaki, Commissioner for Environment and Natural Resources, Kaduna state is a former Member Federal House of Representatives in 1992 ,a former local government chairman, former Senior Special Assistant on NGOs and Student Matters and now a commissioner in Kaduna State. In an interview with USMAN AHMED he gave an in-depth report of his stewardship since his assumption of office.
Sir, can you tell us some of the achievements you have recorded since your appointment as the Honorable Commissioner?
A lot has been achieved since I assumed office here as the commissioner of Environment. One of the major achievements is the hosting of National Council on Environment Conference in Kaduna State.
For the past four years, no state was able to host it but for the fact that the honorable minister for environment is from Kaduna State, she broke the jinx by contacting Governor Yakowa as to whether it will be possible for him to host the conference and within two weeks, he graciously agreed that we are going to do it and this is something that took almost one year to get a sponsor.
The governor said we can do it in two weeks, and we set-up gathering thirty six states in Kaduna and they stayed here for over five days. We were able to do that successfully. We hosted the thirty six states here in Shehu Musa Yar’adua Hall, Murtala Square and everybody was happy with the success. That was November last year.
Another achievement I am proud of is that, immediately the governor came to power, twenty-three trucks were given on lease to contractors to enhance the evacuation of refuse in Kaduna metropolis which is another achievement to reckon with. The evacuation trucks are seen everywhere, everyday evacuating refuse all over Kaduna State.
This has greatly assisted in sanitizing Kaduna State and as you can see, there is great improvement in the evacuation of refuse. You will agree with me that there was some mountainous dumpsites scattered across Kaduna metropolis, like in Ahmadu Bello Stadium when you are going to Kakuri before the bridge, there used to be a menacing dumpsite there.
In Kawo after the overhead bridge by the left hand side there used to be an offensive smelling emanating from the dumpsite and so many of them like that.
Now they are no longer there. We have intervened, the refuse has all been cleared, and the places are now environmentally friendly. We have even planted some flowers and trees to beautify these areas.
The governor also saw the need to reintroduce monthly sanitation and people are happy with the reintroduction which comes up every last Saturday of the month. It is the initiative of His Excellency to further improve sanitation in Kaduna State.
Furthermore he instructed that MDA’s and the ministries should observe their own sanitation which is being done. Every Mid-month, all the ministries and MDAs go out for two hours to keep their environment clean.
The governor again presented a memo to the council for the need to re-structure the contractors that do the solid waste monthly evacuation. We used to cover just 65per cent of the metropolis and there are some pockets of areas that are not covered.
That is why we got some metropolitan local governments to assist us with intervention funds which will take care of the remaining 35per cent. .
Presently not all areas are fully covered by your services what effort are you making to improve on that?
Now with this new system we are working towards covering the whole Kaduna metropolis. And we have re-strategized in such a way that would make sure that the value of money paid is translating into the value of work done through personal supervision directly from my office, including the Permanent Secretary, and directors.
We now surcharge when we go round, any contractor that draws our attention not having done his assigned work, we warn him and if he refuses to comply, we’ll intervene and then surcharge.
Therefore, the amounts we are paying fluctuate and what we surcharge goes back to the state government coffers. Last year, the National Association of Environmental Sanitation Health
Workers of Nigeria gave only two governors an award and it happens to be the Governor of Lagos State and our Governor of Kaduna State.
Lack of public toilets has been creating an environmental menace, have you been able to provide some especially at open places such as the motor parks?
Of course! The state government has constructed twelve public toilets with bathrooms. If you visit one of them, you will see the number of toilets and bathrooms, so that travelers can use in our motor parks and in some strategic locations so that people will desist from just passing urine or stool anywhere.
These are leased out to contractors who are expected to be paying revenue to the state government just as the trucks are doing. It is a great achievement and I believe in many states you should get these facilities.
The issue of flood disasters has been creating havoc in many parts of the country, how prepared is the ministry in the event of such threat?
Towards last year’s rainy season, the meteorologists told us that there is going to be flood so the state should take proactive measures. All major streets in different areas, like UnguwarRimi, Malali and Gonin-Gora have been identified as susceptible to flooding.
You will agree with me that last year, we did not experience the flooding in our major roads that we used to experience before. It was as a result of intervention by the ministry with the approval His Excellency gave for appropriate measures to be taken in that regard.
With the devastating effect of desertification what arrangements have you in the forestry department?
Forest is something that is very important to mankind. I don’t have to mention all the things the forest can do in terms of desertification control, medicinal and economic uses and even food provision, and you know climate change is a reality.
Climate is changing due to human intervention in the environment. Without us taking decisive measures, this climate change will be on the increase to our detriment. We have to take proactive measures to make sure we checkmate the climate change and desert encroachment, and we have done so much in this area.
Last year we planted a lot of trees and shrubs through landscaping and beautification of our city. If you pass through Constitution Road then Railway Road to Command Junction, then from NEPA Roundabout to Kawo, you will see some muskrats that we have planted to beautify our city.
Our state will not only be beautiful but it will help in the reduction of carbon emission because the more trees you have the more reduction of carbon but the trees use carbon as their food and they produce the fresh air we enjoy.
They filter the carbon and turn it into fresh air man needs and this is an achievement. Now those that were tempered or uprooted during the fuel subsidy crises especially from NEPA Roundabout to Kawo, if you go there you’ll see that we are replanting them.
If you pass through Constitution Road now we are replanting those that have withered. I believe Kaduna State is going to be transformed. These things were not there before. These are initiatives and achievements by the Kaduna State government under the leadership of Sir Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa.
He is very interested in seeing these things. He is very mindful, environmentally and that is why he is encouraging us in all aspects. Last year he encouraged us to expand our forest to over 40 hectares, when you go to Bunku before you arrive you’ll see the expanded forest hectares have grown very well.
Recently, I was there together with the Permanent Secretary and the Director of Forestry. In addition to this, we are raising one million seedlings for planting this year. All these are efforts and as well avenue to generate seedlings, because its natural, people want fruits, people want to plant trees we are encouraging them to do same. This is quite an achievement.
Also, the Governor has been encouraging people to plant trees through the Tree Planting Campaign (TPC). Every year he flags off the campaign. This year’s planting is schedule to take place in Jaba and Jema’a local governments respectively. We are now proposing the site in Jema’a local government which will soon be completed.
The issue of Global warming has recently taken up world politics what is your ministry doing to reduce its effect here?
Earlier, I told you how we collaborated and hosted the National Environmental Council which was a success on its own. These are projects supported by our Governor to improve the lives of the good people of Kaduna State. One of them is the provision of fifty megawatt solar energy farm. Just along Mando – Birnin Gwari Road, after the roundabout on your way to the airport, few kilometers away from the roundabout.
Solar energy is environmentally friendly, no smoke emission, no fuel emission is clean energy, and we are going into that. That is another achievement of Governor Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa.
This solar energy farm would produce light to the airport, NDA and Mando village 24 hours by the time it is completed. You don’t need PHCN to light these areas. It will go a long way in reducing the problem of light in Kaduna State.
Again, we have with the federal government, established metal recycling plant at Kudendan, it’s almost 90per cent completed. I visited the site recently. All the metals that you see scattered here and there in Kaduna, will very soon be collected and melted and used for building materials and other things.
The environment is going to improve, you would no longer see all these abandoned scrap vehicles because they will all be carried and melted for use. That is solid waste. In the same vein, there is a plastic recycling plant, it has been constructed at our dump sites, and the machines are there waiting for the installation.
There is also a machine we call A. A. S. machine in our laboratory, the machine tests a lot of things. Only few states have this and it is a great achievement indeed. When industries such as breweries, producers of pure water, food etc., have any problem, they can take their products for test.
The A.A.S machine will tell the hazard or safety levels of whatever products tested. There are only three of such machine in the whole country.
The issue of TAFA village has been a source of concern for many passing through there because it has turned into an environmental nuisance, what are you doing to control the situation?
For the past twenty years, considering how the situation is at Tafa; a highway to Abuja, located at the boundary of Kaduna state the attention of His Excellency was drawn for the need to change and sanitize Tafa, he gave an approval. We hired three pay loaders and some tippers for eight days. We even had to do the picking of polythene bags where the evacuation took place.
Now Tafa village is beautiful and neat, the people there and Nigerians in general are happy because we met the Minister of Works and went to see His Excellency together and the project was approved immediately by the governor.
The Federal Ministry of Works is also working there, they have now started building the shoulders to expand the roads and we have organized the trailers that used to park on double lanes into a single lane. They park by the right hand side and no trailer parks on the left again.
There is now free flow of traffic and there is control. We have not even finished what we are doing but the place is already sanitized now. We have also put our signboard there with the inscription “No dumping of Refuse” and have provided six big refuse metal containers, the type used in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT); three at each side of the road so that people dump their wastes there.
The metals have tires when they are filled as we have arranged with the local government, they can come with a tractor and pull it to the dump sites.
How about the Millennium City, what is your ministry doing there?
There is the provision of 250 energy efficient housing scheme being organized by the Federal Ministry of Environment. The houses would be built in Kaduna State; all they need from us is to provide the land and other facilities which the Governor has given approval.
We went and identified the place, the C. of O is being processed and by the time they finish, these 250energy efficient housing scheme is meant for everybody, both the lower cadre and others.
These houses as we said “energy efficient” are constructed in such a way that when the temperature is high it will adjust, you would not feel the heat and when the weather is cold it will equally adjust according to the temperature the body requires.
Can you tell us what your challenges are?
One of our challenges honestly is the attitude of our people. This issue of attitude is seriously affecting our rate of development in Nigeria. In the area of sanitation, there are people who don’t even want to participate in the monthly sanitation at all.
They feel the four hours that the governor has requested that is 7a.m to 10a.m in a month to sacrifice and keep our environment clean is a burden and this is for our health sake because sanitising the environment reduces hazards and diseases like malaria, cholera, laser fever and so on.