By Maduka Nweke ( [email protected] 08034207864)
Environmental pollution may continue to torment Nigerians for years to come if drastic measures to checkmate flaring of gasses, reckless dumping of refuse and building on waterways are not taken. Many among the rich have decided to make use of waterways as fallow grounds to build their property. This attitude has become the norm, among the rich, who believe government laws are not made for everybody.
The basis of environmental policy in Nigeria is contained in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Pursuant to Section 20 of the Constitution, the state is empowered to protect and improve the environment and safeguard the water, air and land, forest and wildlife of Nigeria. In addition to this, Section 2 of the Environmental Impact Assessment Act of 1992 (EIA Act) provides that the public or private sector of the economy shall not undertake or embark on or authorise projects or activities without prior consideration of the effect on the environment.
Various environmental laws have been enacted by both the federal and state governments but the will to enforce the laws has been lacking or that those who made the laws are the culprits themselves. Aside this, pollution, dumping of refuse and building on waterways, abandoned projects in several places, have also become environmental pollution as hoodlums use these abandoned properties as hideouts to perpetrate their illicit activities.
The Federal Government has promulgated various laws and regulations to safeguard the Nigerian environment, including the Federal Environmental Protection Agency Act of 1988 (FEPA Act). The following regulations were made pursuant to the FEPA Act: National Environmental Protection (Effluent Limitation) Regulations; National Environmental Protection (Pollution Abatement in Industries and Facilities Generating Wastes) Regulations; the National Environmental Protection (Management of Solid and Hazardous Wastes) Regulations, and the Environmental Impact Assessment Act of 1992 (EIA Act).
It has been shown that only 60 per cent of the daily waste collected in New York go to landfills, compared to about 95 per cent in Lagos. Lagos must, as a matter of urgency, look for a better waste management firm that would use modern machinery. Lagos, therefore, needs to start recycling as an alternative to land filling. It has been seen that the heavy reliance on landfills has brought about environmental pollution and several health hazards to residents around the sites as seen in the Olusosun landfill, Lagos’ biggest landfill site. Newer method of waste collection should be explored to help effectively handle the waste generated. Other collection agencies need to be employed as it is obvious that the PSP operators alone cannot handle the massive amount of waste in the state.
In Anambra State, greater attention has been paid in the last two years by the administration of Governor Willie Obiano, towards achieving a cleaner environment. Conscious of the fact that state is a densely populated commercial hub where huge amounts of industrial trash, scrap metals, out-door litter, medical and solid wastes abound, the state government has, within the period under review, created a long term functional strategy to manage, recycle, evacuate and maintain a viable integrated solid waste management system that will effectively check death-prone environmental hazards.
Also, Benue State, called the “Food basket of the nation”, is one of the states with the poorest environmental condition. Makurdi lacks the features of a modern day state capital. Despite the existence of the popular River Benue, 80 per cent of the city lack potable water. From North Bank, Wurukum to Wadata, residents dump waste in drainages, uncompleted buildings and roads.
Another major environmental issue shown in a recent study is how more than 51 per cent of the wetlands area in Lagos has been lost to urbanisation in the past decades. In 1965, wetlands covered about 53 per cent of Lagos State, but in 2003 it was reduced to 2 per cent.
The massive loss of wetlands is due to uncontrolled urbanisation. The United Nations estimates that with the present growth rate of Lagos, it will be the world’s third largest city by 2015, after Tokyo and Mumbai. The demand for land for residential, commercial, religious and educational reasons has reduced the wetlands.
As a result, the state government is cooperating with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to manage and conserve the remaining wetlands through creating the Lagos State Climate Change Adaption Strategy document. It is the first document of its kind in Nigeria to provide a foundation for building effective responses to climate change.
Some permits are industry specific. For instance, in the oil and gas industry, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) also regulates environment issues and operators in the industry are required to obtain necessary permits.
The Environmental Guidelines and Standards for the Petroleum Industry in Nigeria (EGASPIN) 2002, published by the DPR, provides that the Directorate of Petroleum Resources shall issue permits for all aspects of oil-related effluent discharges from point sources (gaseous, liquid and solid), and oil-related project development.
The EGASPIN also provides that environmental permits shall be issued for existing and new sources of effluent emission. All projects in the oil and gas industry must be issued with the requisite environmental permits, and failure to procure same may lead to penalties.
Relevant state permits are also required, i.e. pursuant to the Abuja Environmental Protection Board Act (Solid Waste Control/Environmental Monitoring Regulations 2005), all sponsors of major development projects in Abuja must submit to the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (the Board) details of the project, i.e. its nature and scope, the site and area of the project, the activities to be carried out and any other relevant information. Upon submission, the sponsor is issued an Impact Clearance Permit by the board. In Lagos State, the LASEPA law requires any person manufacturing or storing chemicals, lubricants, petroleum products, cement and other materials used in building, radioactive materials or gases, in residential or commercial areas to obtain a permit.
The Akinwunmi Ambode administration should tackle this hydra-headed problem without minding whose ox is gored. The speed and enthusiasm with which the present administration tackled the “Light-up Lagos” initiative should be deployed to combat this age long problem that has now grown to become a monster. The recent clean up exercise embarked upon in highbrow areas of Lagos like Victoria Island, Lekki and Ikoyi should be extended to the waste management sector.
Government must, as a matter of urgency, seek help from those who have managed waste in mega cities around the world, while bearing in mind the nation’s and the state’s peculiar solid waste generation status.
By Maduka Nweke ( [email protected] 08034207864)