Dr. Newton C. Jibunoh, OON, DSc is a man of many parts, with one constant thread running through them – the Environment. He is an explorer, engineer, connoisseur and patron of African Art, philanthropist extraordinaire, environmentalist and most importantly, a role model to millions of young people in Nigeria.
An explorer and foremost Nigerian environmental campaigner, he is popularly known as the Desert Warrior. To bring to global attention, the devastating effect of desertification with respect to the Sahara Desert, he crossed the Sahara Desert three times by road, two of which were solo expeditions at ages 29 and 62, driving from Lagos to London with full international media coverage, including the CNN. Retiring in 2006 as the Chairman/CEO of Costain (West Africa plc) after 44 years of working as an engineer, at a time when most of his contemporaries just play golf and enjoy their retirement, he reignited his 44-year campaign by founding FADE (Fight Against Desert Encroachment) Africa in May 2000, an international NGO dedicated to fighting environmental degradation in its many forms.
Concerned with sustainability, he started the Desert Warriors Reality Show to get young people interested in the campaign. In addition, he started the Annual School Tree Planting Competition in Northern Nigeria, getting full buy-in from various state governments, particularly, Kano State. He also started a new environmental craze here in Nigeria when he decided to mark his 75th birthday with the planting of 75 trees by eminent personalities in Lagos – including the then Governor of Lagos State. Today, many people set up Parks and plant trees in their names to mark their birthdays. He also founded the Nelson Mandela Garden of 95 Trees in Asaba, Delta State.
A passionate lover of Arts, he founded the first private museum in Nigeria called DIDI Museum, named after his only sister (deceased at the young age of 13), to promote Nigeria’s indigenous Arts. He also sees the DIDI museum as a catalyst for social change, environmental education and the African cultural renaissance. The museum continues to serve as the launching platform for many of Nigeria’s acclaimed artists. Through his private Foundation, Dr. Jibunoh’s philanthropic interests and support range from scholarships to those from disadvantaged backgrounds to supporting those with visual impairment and physical disabilities.
Due to his unrivaled passion for creating awareness of the ravaging impact of desertification on communities bordering the Sahara desert, he founded FADE. He has documented the accounts of this mission in a book titled, “Me, My Desert and I”. He is also the Founder and Director of the Nelson Mandela Garden of Trees in Asaba, Delta State. Dr. Jibunoh is a recipient of numerous awards, some of which are: Fellow of the Nigeria Institute of Builders, FNIOB – with the annual lecture of the Institute holding in his name; Silverbird Television – Lifetime Achievement Award 2013; National honour of “Office of the Order of the Niger” (OON); Doctor of Science, Honoris Corsa, of Nnamdi Azikwe University 2006 and also, University of Benin, 2008; Green Award by United States Embassy in Nigeria; Conqueror of the Sahara Desert (CSD); and Ambassador Emeritus for Environment awarded by the government of Lagos State for his outstanding contribution to the greening of Lagos State.
Popularly known as the Desert Warrior, Dr. Newton Jibunoh has crossed the Sahara Desert three times: two solo expeditions at ages 29, 62 and decided to celebrate his 70th birthday in the Sahara Desert, this time driving with a five-man expedition team from Lagos to London. He was also the Captain of the Newton Jibunoh Desert Warriors Reality Show and Expedition sponsored by the Lagos State Government which took place in Agadez, Niger Republic. The Expedition was put on hold due to the unrest across the North African countries. His objective remains to pass on the torch for the fight with the Sahara Desert to the youths. His expeditions have earned him international repute and he is recognized as a lead voice in campaigning for the fight against desertification, climate change and environmental sustainability.
He was former Vice-Chairman of Abuja Green Society and was responsible for keeping in trust all the parks and gardens situated within the Federal Capital Territory (F.C.T), Abuja. He has represented Nigeria in a number of Climate Change Conferences in Bangkok, Copenhagen and Cancun. He has also attended a number of trainings to further expand his knowledge on desertification such as to the Ben-Gurion University in Negez, Israel for a 3-month course and the Chinese Academy of Science. The US Embassy in Nigeria also invited him to the United States for a 3-week instructive Visitors Exchange Program in 2008. He is a member of the National Council on Shelterbelt and Afforestation inaugurated by the Vice-President, Architect Nnamdi Sambo, to plan the creation of a Shelterbelt of Trees across the eleven 11 frontline states in Northern Nigeria affected by desertification.
He championed the cause to develop a Mandela Garden of 95 Trees inside the Asaba International Airport, Asaba Delta State in honour of Nelson Mandela. The Mandela Family and the Executive Governor of Delta State commissioned the Garden in October 2013.
Books and Publications
He has authored a number of books and publications amongst which are “Me, My Desert and I”, an account of his sojourn and near-death experiences while crossing the Sahara desert the second time. He has also authored a publication titled “Bridging the Sahara Desert: A Different Perspective” which is a proposed solution to open up the Sahara desert by the construction of a Trans-Saharan Highway which will also tackle the issue of desertification. The Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) has taken up this proposal and he is presently the Vice-Chairman of the Governing Council of the special purpose vehicle called Nigerian Society of Engineers – Taming African Deserts.