Cablegate: Pas Lagos Celebrates Earth Day 2003

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: State 086844

1. SUMMARY: On April 24, PAS Lagos organized a
lecture and panel discussion at our auditorium to mark
the 2003 Earth Day celebration. Two panelists
delivered addresses on the occasion, the PAO and CAO
each introduced short films on the environment, and the
IRC distributed colorful Infopacks to provide guests
with additional material to stimulate deeper reflection
and discussion. Earth Day posters, the 10-year
anniversary series as well as the 2003 set, adorned the
lobby and the auditorium. We awarded Earth Day posters
to our first 15 guests. END SUMMARY.
2. Approximately 70 guests attended the PAS Lagos
Earth Day event. With help from the Educational
Advising Center (EAC) staff, we were able to reach a
younger audience. Ten students, both high school and
undergraduates, were in attendance. A large delegation
from the Lagos State Government attended, including the
Director of Environmental Services and a 1997-98 Hubert
H. Humphrey fellow. EXXON/Mobil's Director of External
Affairs, academics and journalists also participated in
the program. The bulk of the audience came from the
NGO sector.
3. PAS invited Melissa Cline, the ECONOFF who holds
post's environment portfolio, to be one of the featured
panelists. Recently returned International Visitor
Folashade Jaji was the second panelist and in part
shared what she had experienced during the "Sustainable
Economic Development and Environmental Protection"
program, which took place in January 2003. Jaji
currently leads the Lagos State Ministry for Women's
Affairs and Poverty Alleviation. Given her portfolio
and recent IV experience, Jaji has briefed the State
Ministry for Environment on key issues.
4. Cline spoke on land use and regulation, at times
comparing critical issues in Lagos to those in her
hometown, Washington, DC. She presented a clear five-
point plan to help NGOs, planners and other
stakeholders best achieve their goals for sustainable
and successful development. Cline emphasized that all
stakeholders (i.e., government, NGOs, businesses and
academics) must develop a common agenda in order to
achieve a measure of success.
5. Jaji spoke about the spirit of volunteerism that
she witnessed in the U.S. and how it that spirit has
empowered American society, especially in the areas of
sustainable development and environmental awareness.
Jaji then re-capped her recommendations to Lagos State
on how to encourage safe growth in such a rapidly
expanding urban area. "Smart Growth", she remarked,
did not necessarily mean "no growth." In one
potentially controversial comment, Jaji also urged the
Nigerian government to remain open to genetically
modified foods, insisting that they are not detrimental
to one's health. Her brief explanation of Lagos
State's Waste-To-Wealth program helped demonstrate how
byproducts of construction need not be dangerous to the
6. A very lively discussion took place after the
panelists' presentations. One guest raised the
challenges of raising the environmental consciousness
of the poor when they are confronting basic survival
issues such as clothing, feeding and housing their
families. Many participants urged the USG to
"pressure" the Nigerian government to respect
internationally recognized best practices in
environmental management. Ms. Cline opined that
Nigerian NGOs were much better placed to undertake a
sustained environmental advocacy campaign.
7. BACKGROUND: Nigeria has ten cities with over 1
million inhabitants and as such, the nation's urban
environmental challenges are unique in sub-Saharan
African. Nigeria's urban population now equals its
rural population; this is an entirely different reality
from just a few years ago. Lagos is not the only city
in Nigeria with severe waste and urban sprawl problems,
but with a population approaching 15 million, it
unquestionably represents the most acute. PAS
deliberately asked panelists to focus on urban issues,
and Lagos turned out to be an ideal city in which to
hold the event.
8. COMMENT: It was interesting to note how many
participants, from panelist Jaji to a high school
student to an NGO representative, seemed to glorify
"the good old days" of environmental awareness under
the former military regimes which ruled Nigeria until
1999. Many of them reminisced about the time when
Saturdays were dedicated to home clean-ups and
Thursdays dedicated to market clean-ups. Audience
members seemed to appreciate the discipline that the
past military regimes required from the population on
cleanliness and orderliness and counted these two
attributes as losses under the current dispensation.
9. PAS launched this event as a "celebration" of
Earth Day and was not certain how it would turn out.
However, PAS was pleased that despite the Easter
holiday, election season and rains that morning,
turnout was encouraging, and even more reassuring,
participants were extremely interested in talking about
these issues. The program ran a half-hour over the
programmed time because several participants insisted
on making their points. Many guests requested copies
of the speeches delivered, and others extolled the
importance of networking, all guests' contact
information be circulated. In response to this, the IO
circulated copies of Cline's speech as a press release
as well as making it available the next day on the
Embassy's website. The CAO also started an email list
of all attendees and encouraged them to work together.
10. While our Earth Day celebration was a success and
PAS will certainly plan events for future years, it
might be helpful if more resources are made available
for Posts. While the announcement cable on Earth Day
was comprehensive, the websites were not greatly
helpful, and PAS had to scramble to find any audio-
visual material that was appropriate, in the end using
a clip from a 1995 VOA-produced film to at least
explain the origins of the day.
11. CONCLUSION: Top officers from the Lagos State
Government made commitments to do more to ensure a more
environmentally -friendly Lagos. Participants thanked
Post for bringing the environmental issues raised to
the their attention and for providing a forum for them
to learn from the U.S. experience and form a network to
protect the Nigerian environment. NGOs shared valuable
information. Participants agreed to work towards a
healthy and sustainable environment in Nigeria and
mentioned planning to have a follow-up program.


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