Mr Speaker, before I make the contribution, I would want to reiterate some points made early on, on how this House should treat the reports of the Public Accounts Committee.
Mr Speaker, most of our sittings are in public and they do generate a lot of excitement from the media and the public. But what we do is to only bring our reports to the plenary here. The realisation is that after all the excitements generated there, when we come here, the report are carried out as business as usual and they do not generate the kind of interest that is expected to be generated because this is sensitive and it is on public accounts.
So, it is my hope that this House will, like an Hon Member did suggest the last time, set aside special days when we will consider the reports of the Public Accounts Committee, so that we can bring to bear on the debate here all the importance that we attach to the Public Accounts Committee's reports.
Mr Speaker, on the issue of the Ramsar
sites, I find it sad that this country has a rather poor approach to the management of its most important assets, which are natural resources-- land and other resources in and below the land. Mr Speaker, Ramsar sites are not something strange. It is only an adoption by the United Nations that certain wetlands are of national or international importance.
But quite apart from that, we do know that wetlands, big or small in this country are of national importance. And even without the intervention of the United Nations, we as a country should find ways to properly manage our natural resources. If it does happen that until a funding agency comes in and when that funding agency leaves, we do not continue to do what somebody has proposed, we do to our own natural resources, it is a sad day.
Mr Speaker, quite apart from the ones we know, Weija and the other popular ones, there are a lot of wetlands here that are being mismanaged to the extent that even in our villages, the preferred dumping sites for refuse are wetlands. Back in the old days, wetlands in our villages and towns were the direct responsibility of the chiefs because we knew that they were very, very important, even far more important than dry land.
The wetlands are the transition between dry land and our natural water reserves. They form an ecosystem which is very important to our continuing survival as a people. We do not need somebody to come out and bring us money before we do realise that we need to manage our wetlands properly.
Today, when you go to the Weija wetlands, just behind the Mallam Market, it is an eyesore. Again, the rate at which people are rushing just to fill wetlands so that they can build, is unprecedented. I think the time has come, Mr Speaker, when this Parliament must impress upon the Executive, to have a special body to
take care of our wetlands because if you put them together, they form almost a quarter of our natural resource base in this country.
So, to allow the WD, which apart from the wetlands, has also the mandate to look at our forests and then our other wildlife, is to belittle the problem facing us. The fact really is that, there is very little attention paid to that aspect of their work. WD is more interested in the forest resources and the wildlife resources and they pay very little attention to wetlands. Otherwise, I cannot see a situation where even District Assemblies have chosen to use wetlands as their dumping ground for refuse. I think this country must wake up.
When you travel round the country, you can only be sad about the sort of things you see and then cry for generations yet unborn. What are we leaving for them? It is about time we had stringent laws to make sure that nobody can dump in wetlands. People are building very close to rivers and water bodies and we all sit down, even including District Assemblies who have the responsibility to manage these resources.
Mr Speaker, I think we need to have a better forum or a higher forum to press this home, otherwise, the future of this country, the future of our modern generation is at risk. We are not paying enough attention to wetlands.
Mr Speaker, with this, I support the Motion.
Deputy Minister for Lands and Natural Resources (Henry F. Kamel) (MP): Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to contribute to the Motion.
I would like to start by thanking the Public Accounts Committee, which is your committee for the good work that they have done. If one goes through the recommendations, one would realise that they have deliberated very extensively on