Wednesday, August 12, 2020, earmarked as the International Youth Day turned out to be a day of double celebration for some youth from four states of the Niger Delta namely Bayelsa, Delta, Edo and Rivers States.
The day coincided with the third edition of the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria Youth Environmental Camp Meeting held in Benin City, the Edo State capital.
The youths, about two hundred in number, were in a convivial mood throughout the duration of the programme, which stretched for three days, Tuesday, August 11th arrival day to Thursday, August 13th departure day.
On the opening day of the programme, the expansive hall of the Precious Palm Royal Hotel situated close to the University of Benin main campus, started brimming with activities as early as 8 am as the elated youngsters found their way into the hall to occupy their seats in compliance with the social distancing rule governing the covid-19 pandemic worldwide.
As each of them and later the guests gained entrance into the hall the officials of the ERA/FoEN, the organisers of the camp meeting, were on hand to supply all and sundry the needed equipment to curtail the spread of the pandemic viz hand sanitisers, face mask, face shield and the likes as they registered their presence before taking their seats.
Themed “from extraction to education: Role of the youth in post extractivism and transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.” There was no dull moment as the programme started with cultural music supplied by top rated cultural group, Ediendo Theatre Troupe, who held the gathering spellbound with their electrifying display.
Thereafter, the Executive Director of ERA/FoEN, Dr. Godwin Uyi Ojo, in his opening remarks disclosed that the programme focuses on how to transit from the present carbonized economy to a decarbonized one.
Going forward he asserted that “as leaders of tomorrow, the youths need to be properly equipped for the energy transition that our government and politicians are currently grappling with and quite unable to resolve.”
According to him, “the youth challenge is that much is expected of them but they deliver on very little. However, they hardly get the space to organise and express themselves.
“Further, the youths are mostly impacted by environmental degradation especially those from fence line communities where extreme activities are frequent. The youths also suffer from loss of livelihoods, poverty, disorientation and fear of a bleak future.”
He affirmed that through the camp meeting “youths will be mentored for leadership and a lifetime experience for social change” adding that the programme “is specially designed to reach out to over 10,000 youths across a four year period from four states in the Niger Delta, namely Edo, Delta, Bayelsa and Rivers States.
“I am glad to announce that since 2018, we have successfully trained over 6,000 youths on developing their business model, renewable energy entrepreneurship, repair and installation of solar gadgets and the fabrication of clean energy saving cookstoves.
“We have also trained over 300 secondary school teachers and produced Environmental Education and Renewable Energy manual that’s being deployed for training in the over 60 renewable energy school clubs set up across the four states.”
He seized the opportunity to showcase the work of two secondary school pupils, Daniel and Japhet, who produced a three in one solar energy luminous lighting system, power banks and charging ports.
Following up in the mood that Dr. Ojo created, Ahmed Bolaji Nagode, the Director General of the National Power Training Institute of Nigeria (NAPTIN), stated: “The future of energy not only in Nigeria, Africa and the whole world is renewable energy. And Nigeria as a country has keyed into this because we have a vision of having 30 percent of our energy mix to be in the area of renewable energy – solar, wind and other forms of renewable energy.
“There is no doubt to the fact that the youths have a lot at stake and you can key into this in order to help us to develop this particular sector.”
Anthony Azubuike, the Clerk of the Senate Committee on Ecology and Climate Change, stressed: “I want to appreciate the work that ERA is doing particularly for organising a forum like this to recognise our future because our future lie in your(youths) hands bringing the youths together to teach them and to transfer knowledge. I think it is very important in the development of our nation.”
By the time the tea-break was announced most of the participants were so soaked up with the turn out of the events of day that they were not in a hurry to abandon what they were doing for the break.
Activities marking the third day’s programme (on Thursday, August 13th, 2020) was heralded by the recap of the previous day’s activities. By the time to day’s activities came to a close the youths were in their elements having gained a lifetime experience on renewable energy and other sundry issues.
On the departure date which was Friday, August 14th, 2020, most of the emotion ladden youngsters were actually asking some members of the organising team if really they have come to the end of the impactful programme while assuring that they would give anything to be part of the 4th edition which details the organisers have kept tight lips about.