Nigeria is a geographical area with a total land area of 983,213 km2 and over 180 million people living in it.
Also, one of the states in Nigeria, Lagos is reputed to be the most populous nation in the country with over 20 million residents.
Overall, Nigeria is one of the most populous nations of the world and this has come with some unique set of problems, one of which deals with the environment.
The interaction between millions of Nigeria and their environment has been accompanied by some effects such as urbanization, deforestation, over population and pollution
Urbanization is a good sign of a developing economy but if not well managed, the resultant effects like deforestation, over population and pollution often adversely affect the environment.
The Federal Government’s respondED to environmental degradation when it established the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA).
The agency was founded to control the Nigerian environment as well as the management and exploitation of the country’s resources.
Prior to the establishment of FEPA, the Nigerian environment had been ill-equipped to manage serious environmental problems. In fact, the Nigerian Government only responded to environmental problems on an ad hoc basis and according to the Late Chief F.R.A Williams (SAN), these legal and administrative measures mainly covered protective and preventive measures such as environmental sanitation along with implementing warning and emergency measures to reduce potential harm in situation of natural disaster.
Asides these, Nigeria had no defined or clearly articulated national policy goals for the national environment.
However, with the dumping of toxic waste in Koko village, Delta State, in 1987, the Federal Government enacted the Harmful Waste Decree 42 of 1988, which facilitated the establishment of the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA) through Decree 58 of 1988 and 59 (amended) of 1992.
FEPA was mandated as the agency responsible for environmental management and protection. This move by the Nigerian Government made Nigeria, the first African country to establish a national institutional mechanism for environmental protection.
In 1999, the agency was merged with other relevant departments in other ministries to become the Federal Ministry of Environment.
However, this newly formed body couldn’t hide the absence of an enabling law on enforcement issues which led to a vacuum in the effective enforcement of environmental laws, standards and regulations in the country.
Environmental Problems in Nigeria & Solutions
Over the years, the country has battled with several environmental issues which have affected the health of its populace. In this post, we have highlighted a couple of these challenges:
- Air pollution
Air pollution is one of the most important threats to the environment. In 1990, there were a lot of power plants being established in the country due to the development of the automotive and manufacturing industry.
Some of these factories founded by American, European and Chinese companies were responsible for an increase in the level of air pollution by as much as 36%.
In fact, there has been an increase in the number of deaths as a result of low-quality air since then. When compared to AIDS and malaria, it exceeds the death rate from these two diseases. Diseases that affect the respiratory tract like asthma and bronchitis have been linked to air pollution
- Water pollution
Water is one of the most important resources for all kinds of living organism including humans. As a result, water pollution is dangerous to the health of all living beings.
Particularly, fresh water pollution can have devastating health effect as this is the source of potable water to many Nigerian communities.
Generally, the main types of water pollution include:
- Agricultural based water pollution
- Domestic water pollution
- Industrial water pollution
- Oil spill water pollution
In the case of oil spillage, the factories operating primarily in the oil region are responsible for this contamination.
The activities of these companies have adversely affected the neighbouring communities. In fact, the ecology of the region where crude oil is extracted which is the Gulf of Guinea has affected the natural processes of oil dispersing which has led to a destruction of biological resources in the territorial waters of Nigeria.
Subsequently, this has affected over twenty rivers which are linked directly and indirectly to these regions. Most times, damaged pipelines are responsible for the spills that affect this area.
The affected communities have reacted to these devastating effects by taking many of these oil companies to court.
Also, many Nigerian residents in these oil-producing regions have raised complaints about the negligence of their environment on the part of these oil companies.
In terms of water pollution, the country needs to go beyond setting up an agency but to also allocate substantial amount of money into the restoration of the environment.
The issue of water pollution goes beyond the top oil firms as even poor Nigerians that try to get oil by means of finding access to oil pipelines can also be held responsible for water pollution.
The government can also implement sanctions, fines, and punishment for these environment degrading acts.
In 2008 and 2009, there were two incidents of massive oil spills from the Trans-Niger pipeline that devastated the Bodo coastline destroying every living thing in the river (source: insulwest.com.au).
It was ensured that compensation was paid to the affected individuals as members of the Bodo community filed a lawsuit against Shell in a London High Court in March 2012. These individuals received a £55 million out-of-court settlement and compensation from the company in 2015.
Subsequently, in June 2016, the Federal Government flagged off the clean-up of Ogoniland including the Bodo coastline when the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osibajo visited the area.
This cleanup was expected to restore the region that had been severely damaged by the oil spill but this process is yet to start even though it had been flagged off by the Government in June 2016.
As of April 2018, the program is yet to commence although the Federal Government revealed that it would take off once the 2018 budget was implement as the project had been included in this budget.