WED2024: HEDA Calls for Constitutional Amendment to Empower Traditional Institutions in Environmental Protection

The Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre) has called on the Federal Government for a constitutional amendment to create roles and resources for traditional institutions in protecting forests, combating desertification, and preventing droughts. This demand aligns with the theme of the 2024 World Environment Day: Land Restoration, Desertification, and Preventing Drought.

The theme of combating deforestation and desertification resonates deeply in Nigeria, where these environmental issues are critical. In Southern Nigeria, deforestation poses a significant threat, while desertification ravages the North. HEDA emphasizes that addressing these challenges requires harnessing the influence and authority of traditional institutions.

Historically, traditional rulers were integral to Nigeria’s administrative structure until the 1966 coup and the subsequent unitary constitution. These leaders have since clamored for greater administrative roles and powers to enable them to contribute to the good governance of their domain and contribute to the nation’s development.

Recognizing their potential contributions, HEDA Executive Secretary, Sulaimon Arigbabu stated, “It is high time we heed their call, recognizing the vital contributions they can make in addressing insecurity, land degradation, and resource exploitation. This is a critical step in deepening our democracy. Of course, with responsibilities and resources, there must be accountability and consequences for negligence or abuse.”

HEDA urges the government to seize the opportunity presented by the constitutional amendment as proposed by this 10th Assembly to formally bring traditional rulers into governance with distinct roles, resources and accountability requirements. “By empowering them to safeguard our forests, we can leverage their grassroots influence and cultural authority to drive sustainable practices and mitigate the devastating effects of deforestation and desertification,” Arigbabu added.

The organization further called for collective efforts to protect our environment and ensure a sustainable future for generations to come. By integrating traditional institutions into environmental and natural resource governance, HEDA believes that Nigeria can adopt more pragmatic and fit-for-purpose approaches to achieving peace, security, food sufficiency and economic prosperity under sustainable and just environmental conditions. This integration would not only address current environmental challenges but also strengthen the overall governance structure in the country.

As Nigeria confronts the dual threats of deforestation and desertification, HEDA’s proposal offers a promising path forward. The involvement of traditional rulers could significantly enhance the effectiveness of environmental initiatives, blending traditional wisdom with modern governance to safeguard the nation’s natural resources and ensure a sustainable future.

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