NIGERIA AND ITS ENVIRONMENT

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The country may do well by enforcing environmental laws and regulations

Two groups within the South-South region, the Conference of Ethnic Nationalities of the Niger Delta (CENND) and the Ijaw Media Action Initiative (IMAI) recently warned about the unintended consequences of the threat by the Niger Delta Avengers to resume hostilities against oil installations. “Destroying the pipelines and other oil facilities will not help us. Our environment is dear to us as Niger Delta people and anything that compounds it will worsen our situation. It is not advisable to begin to blow up oil installations”, said CENND president, Prof Kimse Okoko.

Although the Niger Delta is a peculiar case, facts on the ground have also revealed that Nigeria is grappling with serious environmental problems, including poor air and water quality, contaminated soil, presence of radioactive substances, noise pollution, among many others. Yet, most Nigerians are unaware of the harmful effect of a polluted environment and how long-term exposure to it can lead to poor health and, eventually, death. But as we have repeatedly reiterated on this page, it is time Nigeria became part of the global trend of putting issues of the environment on the front burner. That is the only way we can secure not only today but also the coming generations.

For instance, air pollution is the most prominent and dangerous form and it occurs due to many reasons, including excessive burning of fuel, ironically a necessity of daily lives for cooking, driving and other industrial activities. These activities release a huge amount of chemical substances in the air which compromise the air quality. Another source of pollution in cities is noise and traffic is the main source. Added to this is the annoying sound levels generated by vendors of musical discs and of other wares and by religious places that direct high megawatts of sound to the streets. Regular exposure to consistent elevated sound levels, according to experts, can cause hearing impairment, hypertension, ischemic heart disease, annoyance, and sleep disturbance.

Fortunately, Nigeria has laws that were instituted to check these forms of pollution but unfortunately, they are rarely enforced. Each state has its own environmental law enforcement agency and at the federal level, the agency that is saddled with the mandate to develop and maintain strategies for effective environmental compliance monitoring and enforcement is the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA).

The federal government, through NESREA, developed 24 environmental regulations which have been published in the Federal Republic of Nigeria Official Gazette and are now in force. Among these regulations are the National Environmental (Sanitation and Wastes Control) Regulations, 2009, which provides the legal framework for the adoption of sustainable and environment-friendly practices in environmental sanitation and waste management to minimise pollution.

There are also the National Environmental (Noise Standards and Control) Regulations, 2009, conceived to ensure tranquility of the human environment or surrounding and their psychological well-being by regulating noise levels. The National Environmental (Control of Vehicular Emissions from Petrol and Diesel Engines) Regulations, 2010, seeks to restore, preserve and improve the quality of air by protecting it from vehicular emission.

The environmental regulation designed to restore, enhance and preserve the physical, chemical and biological integrity of the nation’s surface waters, and to maintain existing water uses is the National Environmental (Surface and Groundwater Quality Control) Regulations, 2010. However, these regulations are not being enforced perhaps because the institution has been weakened by inadequate funding and scant manpower.

It is important for government to understand the real need for a healthy environment and its impact on the nation’s health bills. A healthy environment would enable a healthy citizenry. Yet, up till now, the government has only paid lip service to the enforcement of environmental regulations and this neglect has led to the prevalence of avoidable diseases and illnesses.