WED: Group Urges Federal, State Govts to Tackle Air Pollution, Address Climate Change

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Fadekemi Ajakaiye

Incoming administrations at the federal and state levels and the legislatures have been urged to take bold action to beat air pollution, improve health, address climate change, and fulfil citizen’s human rights obligations.

A group, Sustainable Research and Action for Environmental Development (SRADeV Nigeria) gave the recommendation in a message by its Executive Director, Dr. Leslie Adogame, on this year’s World Environment Day.

“Since pollution and poverty go hand in hand, and with Nigeria being described as the ‘poverty capital of the world’, the implication is that more people will likely die from air pollution-related diseases in the coming years if urgent public emergency action plans are not put in place,” said Adogame.

He said polluted air in the country is creating a national public health emergency, especially in all urban cities, “threatens everyone from unborn babies to children walking to school, to women selling their wares in the open, to industrial workers, and even unsuspecting residential/commercial dwellers to every office worker. The deadly effects are: asthma, other respiratory illnesses and heart diseases, etc., overstretching the nation’s present inadequate health infrastructure.”

He said another concern is that, in the quest for attracting foreign investment for local growth and employment opportunities, Nigeria in the past 20 years slid to a dumping ground for all kinds of unregulated ‘unsound’ industrial practices and activities. “Thanks to President Buhari for recently addressing the ongoing theft of Nigerian jobs by foreigners, particularly Chinese and Indians, but the government must not stop here.

“Our recent survey carried out between September 2018 and February 2019, at the new Lagos-Ogun state industrial corridor – Ikorodu and Ogijo communities, revealed that about 90% of industries operating in those locations (mostly owned by Chinese and Indians) are operating below the required environmentally accepted standard. These companies openly release toxic substances into the atmosphere and ecosystem, in the name of recycling, while government regulatory agencies look the other way.

“Our finding substantiates that instead of ‘green recycling’, incessant ‘brown recycling’ activities takes place all over, we are stunned by how these complacent industries impact on the nation’s already huge uncalculated environmental and occupational costs. This unwrapping of the recycling industries’ ‘dirty little secret’ was met with shock and dismay,” said Adogame. “Our survey also revealed that babies, school children, women in these poorer communities are those most exposed to the recalcitrant pollutants.”

According to the Senior Programme Officer, SRADeV Nigeria, Mr. Victor Fabunmi, “From our survey, the country is presented with a nightmarish vision of where another lifestyle of ‘toxic colonialism’ and unregulated industry can lead us.

“SRADeV Nigeria hereby call on the National Environmental Standards Regulatory and Enforcement Agency (NESREA) and State Environmental Protection Agencies (EPAs) to be awaken to their responsibility and to urgently undertake immediate national monitoring of air quality and its impacts on human health; assessing sources of air pollution; establishing and enforcing air quality legislation; and developing air quality actions plans to safeguard people health towards attaining the SDGs.”

SRADeV said it plans to inaugurate an ‘NGO Think Tank Roundtable on Environment’ to serve a pressure group by July 2019 in Lagos. The right to a healthy environment enjoys constitutional status – the strongest form of legal protection available – in more than 100 countries. Nigeria is among the at least 155 states that are legally obligated, through treaties, constitutions and legislation, to respect, protect and fulfil the right to a healthy environment.

Air pollution goes to the heart of social justice and global inequality, disproportionately affecting poor people. The right to clean air is also embedded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and fully enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals – the global blueprint for peace and prosperity. We therefore call for urgent national public health emergency over ‘unsound’ industrial recycling practices in Nigeria.”