‘Improper waste management is our critical environmental problem’
At Olashore International School’s 22nd Founder’s Day celebration, it was a pleasure to have Prof. M. Okorodudu-Fubara, a professor of environmental law at the Obafemi Awolowo University and former parent of the school as special guest of honour. The duo of IJEWERE ISIBHAKOME and BLESSED AKINLABI, both outgoing Media Prefects of the school, spoke to her in this interesting interview on the environment. Excerpts:
Can you give us a little background on your legal education and research interest?
It goes a long way back. When I was a kid in primary school, I had it in mind that I was going to be a lawyer when I grew up. When it was time to go to the university, I wrote the exam and I put in for law. University of Ife now Obafemi Awolowo University was the only school offering prelim law back then. It was also a new school and in the countryside. I wanted to study in a big city and most of my friends were going to the University of Ibadan. I told my Dad that I was not going to study law anymore. My dad refused reminding me that I always said I would study law so I had to study law. After I graduated from Obafemi Awolowo University, I still wanted to study more, so I applied to the University of Lagos to study law. After my graduation from the University of Lagos, I went on to obtain post graduate degrees in University of London and Harvard University. By the time I came back, I was the Principal State Council in the Ministry of Justice.
My dad advised me to do some academic work and that was how I joined the academia after my PhD. If not for my dad’s guidance I will not be here today. I’m so grateful to my dad, because now OAU is one of the best schools in Nigeria.
Is that how you became interested in environmental law?
Yes, both professionally and academically, and I enjoy both. I enjoy talking to the kids about it in the classroom, developing young minds and also in my profession. Back then we didn’t have any law on the problems Nigeria was facing, so I was part of the group that drafted the first set of law together with the concept too.
What does it mean to be an environmental lawyer?
First thing I want you to know is that every human being on earth is an environmentalist, in as much as you’re making an impact you’re an environmentalist. If you’re studying medicine and surgery, you will become an environmental doctor, just as I studied law, I am an environmental lawyer; it is because everyone depends on the environment for sustenance. We in the law profession make laws for the people in our environment. We set laws so as to guide human beings in dealing with the environment.
What role does the law play in the fight against climate change?
It’s good to have laws because everything depends on human beings. It is humans that impact the environment. If you do not make the law, how do you make the environment clean, safe and awesome? If you do not make the environment safe, where do you run to? Can you run to Pluto or Mars or any of the planets?
L-R: Olashore International School’s principal, Mr. D. Smith; the outgoing Head Boy, Ogunbufunmi Patrick; Prof. M. Okorodudu-Fubara; the outgoing Head Girl, Omobolaji Olalere and the school’s chairman, Prince Bimbo Olashore at the event.
What is the major environmental problem facing Nigeria now?
The most critical environmental problem in Nigeria as I will say is improper waste management and I know we can do something about it. I saw how clean Nigeria was in the colonial era. Our environment was awesome then, but these days the environment is dirty; people dump waste anyhow, and all this improper dumping of waste is what causes flooding.
Can you tell us about environmental projects you have been involved in?
Oh! Yes of course. I’ve been involved at the local, national and international level. I’m an active member of the Environmental Action in Nigeria. I was in the Niger State congress; the congress was to make sure Niger State is clean and it was a success. At least we can now see light at the end of the tunnel.
Talking about the environment, as a school we take pride in having a safe and serene environment where learning takes place. As a former parent and an environmentalist, do you agree?
Of course, that was what I told the Chairman Board of Governor, Olashore has 100% serene environment. I do say to my child, you use the knowledge Olashore gave you to make an impact. I’m forever grateful to God for giving Oba Olashore the grace to set up this institution and allowing me to bring my child here.
What is your advice to students thinking of pursuing a career in environmental law?
I will say, they should first of all make sure they have a passion for the environment, to make the environment a better and safe place, as that’s the force that will drive them.