ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION IN NIGERIA: ISSUSE AND SOLUTION

ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION IN NIGERIA: ISSUSE AND SOLUTION

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CHAPTER ONE

1.1     INTRODUCTION

          This project deals with the legal and institutional framework for the control of environmental pollution in Nigeria.  Pollution of the environment leads to the degradation of the environment which is a consequence of industrialization.

          The environment (air, water and land) remains nature’s greatest legacy to mankind.  Air, water and land constitute the basic necessities of human existence. Inspite of nature’s generous provision of these necessities of life, the environment has been and is still being polluted by man through indiscriminate disposal of domestic, commercial and industrial wastes.

          Environmental pollution leads to the degradation of the environment, which is a consequence of industrialization.  Mankind is now faced with the fact that the current rate of destruction might lead to a very bleak or even a non-existent future for the earth and its inhabitants.  The control and regulation of the use of the environment by all nations is therefore essential, because man’s life is tied to the environment.  Honourable Justice Belgore J.S.C. while expressing gladness at a seminar on environmental law stated thus:[1]       

This gathering will discuss the problem of the survival of this earth in relation to man made destructive things now you are going to discuss the whole legal ramification of the environment in Nigeria.  But you may discover that you are thinking of life on this earth most of the time.

          Also, the Honourable Prince Bola Ajibola stated concerning the importance of the environment to life when he stated that:[2]

It is the policy of the administration to vigorously pursue the protection of the Nigerian environment in order to preserve the quality of life of all citizens and conserve the resources for the benefit of future generations of Nigerians.

          From the above, it stands clear that life depends on the environment.  Contrary to the attitude and belief of most people in developing countries that their life and livelihood depend entirely on their immediate neighbourhood, it is now being realized that environment extends beyond a people’s immediate surrounding sometimes assuming international dimensions.

          Man depends on resources in his immediate vicinity for sustenance.  But these resources are routinely depleted without adequate or any consideration for their conservation or replacements.

          As there is a growth in the number of people who are demanding goods and services, that increasing knowledge and technology make possible, industrial production and trade also grows.  The implication of this is that there will be new factories and chemical plants, new sources of resources depletion and environmental pollution, also, growing in the amount of leisure time that people have.  There is also a fast growing tourist industry.  People have more time and opportunity to encroach upon countryside and beaches, often times polluting land, air and water, as well as jeopardizing plant and animal life in the process.  These selfish exploitations of natural resources make bleak the future of world youth and the unborn generation.

          Indeed, the old view that development must necessarily be accompanied by resources depletion has given way to the modern view of development without destruction.  Mankind has also come to realize that the environment belongs to all generations, present and future; hence the concept of sustainable development.

          The term, sustainable development has been defined as:[3]

Development that meets the needs and aspirations of the current generations; without compromising the ability to meet those of future generation.

          From the above, it stands that all life on earth forms part of a single independent system, which influences and depends on the non-living components of the planetary rock, soils, water and the atmosphere.

          Every human being has equal rights within the limits of the earth to the resources needed for a decent standard of living and no individual or group should deprive another of his (their) means of subsistence.  Each person or society is obligated to the protection of these natural resources for the mutual benefit of all.

          From the above, it can be seen that there is really the need to police and protect the environment from being polluted.

          In every society, competing demands are frequently made on society’s natural resources such as air, water, land and wildlife.  The competition is usually between the forces of deterioration whose dominant objective is to consume or deteriorate natural resources, and the conservationists whose primary concern is how to preserve the society’s natural resources.  But people often lack honesty and objectivity in appraising the facts about pollution.

          While environmental protection may exaggerate negative aspects in support of their argument, their opponents may play up the positive side.  But the truth is that everything is growing, including the problems.

          Environmental damage consists essentially of pollution in all its ramifications.  Some apparently innocuous activities of man also contribute to the problem, domestic refuse carelessly thrown about residential areas, aerosol cans of cosmetics and insecticides in common use, emission of industrial fumes and other effluents into the atmosphere, construction of structures without appropriate authorization.

          To control environmental pollution, laws are put into place in order to safeguard our environment.  There are also institutions put into place to enforce these laws.

          However, recent experience has shown that despite these laws and institutions the environment, (air, water and land) is still being polluted with reckless abandon by man, yet man lives in this environment, man’s survival is also tied to the environment.

          Oil production has been going on in Nigeria for over 52 years together with the flaring of natural gas.  The resultant effect is the unsustainable practice of air, water and land pollution.  Our cities still experience heaps of refuse being dumped indiscriminately, oil spillage in the Niger Delta is still a regular occurrence; this pullutes the environment.

          Consequently, the crucial issue is not to halt all domestic, commercial and industrial activities in order to sustain the quality of the environment, rather, the issue is to examine the legal and institutional framework for the control of environmental pollution in Nigeria whether they have been able to attain the objective of their enactment and establishment.  If they have done that, then we shall be done but if not, we shall proffer certain recommendations so as to meet their effectiveness.

1.1     DEFINITION OF ENVIRONMENT

What is environment?  And why the need to be environment conscious?

          “The word environment means different things to different people.  In its general sense, it may mean the surroundings, that which is encircling, surrounds people and effects their health and the quality of their lives[4].  Man is seen as the central unit or the measure of all things.  [5]“In the environment a combination of material and social things” which condition the well being of people.

          The environment now has a wider meaning than that which affects the quality of life for people and their physical and mental well being.  In this regard, it has been defined as[6] “the totality or physical, economic, cultural, aesthetic and social circumstances and factors which surround and affect the desirability and value of property or which also affects the quality of people’s live”.

          On its part the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency Act 2007, in Section 37 defines environment as:[7]

“Including water, air all plants and human beings or animals living therein and the inter-relationships which exist among these or any of them”.

          It is submitted that this definition is all embracing as it touches every aspect of what constitutes the environment.  It implies that the basic necessities of human existence constitute the environment.

          The above definition has been adopted by the Supreme Court in the case of [8] A.G. Lagos State v. A.G. Federation where the court defined environment as natural conditions, for example land, air and water in which people, animals and plants live”.

          For the purposes of law therefore, the environment has been defined as:[9]

“The system of abiotic, biotic, and socio-economic components with which man interacts and simultaneously to which he adapts and transforms and uses in order to satisfy his needs”.

          Generally, environment means surroundings in the natural condition in which we live in.  It covers the atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, the soil, climate and the inter-relationship amongst these factors.

1.2     POLLUTION

[10]“Pollution has been defined as man made or man aided alteration of chemical, physical or biological quality of the environment to the extent that is detrimental to the environment beyond acceptable limits”

          Pollution also involves the making of any feature of the environment offensive, harmful or less suitable for human, animal or plant life and the effectiveness of the legal regimes on pollution control which is the focus of this project.

          Pollution is the release into any environmental medium any process of substances which are capable of causing harm to man or any other living organisms supported by the environment.  It is the introduction by man directly or indirectly of substances or energy into the environment resulting in deleterious effects of such a nature as to endanger human health, farm, living resources and ecosystems.

          The 1972 United Nations Conference at Stockholm defines pollution as:[11]

“The discharge of toxic substances and the release of heat in such qualities or concentrations as to exceed the capacity of the environment”.

1.3     TYPES OF POLLUTION AND SOURCES

          There are different types of pollution, they shall be treated based on how they affect human’s life.

1.3.1  WATER POLLUTION AND SOURCES

          Apart from the production energy, water is needed for human and animal consumption, production of food, fibre and industrial goods.  Water provides a completely cheap means of transportation compared to other means. Varieties of recreational activities can also be carried out on water.  As a result of all the above mentioned uses of water, it thus becomes imperative that the marine environment should be kept clean and safe from pollution of any kind.  Industrial effluents and indiscriminate domestic waste disposal have ruined the environment, especially the coastal waters.

          The oil industry is a potentially dangerous industry to the environment.  This industry is the main source of revenue for Nigeria.  The oil industry impacts on water in the Niger Delta in two main ways.

          First, it affects the hydrological patterns of rivers, particularly seasonally flooded plains and disturbs marine life.  Secondly, the oil industry is a huge source of pollution to the marine environment.  Oil spills and blow outs are major source of water pollution in the Niger Delta.  In its over 47 years operation, the sheer volume of spills into the Niger Delta environment including its waters has been enormous in the exploration stage.  The industry uses drilling mud, this drilling mud in very high quantities, could be harmful to the marine environment if it is introduced into it.

          When fish ingest these pollutions, it becomes poisoned and could become dangerous for human consumption.  All these have significant impact on human health particularly because of the reliance of people on these waters for their domestic needs and also as a source of subsistence.

          Water is made up of hydrogen and oxygen – a chemical association that is chemically represented as H2O.

          Water pollution therefore could be defined as the introduction by man, directly or indirectly of substances or energy into the marine environment resulting in such deleterious effects as are harmful to the marine activities like fishing and which may cause impairment of quality of use of water and reduction of amenities.

          Water pollution occurs in oceans, lakes, rivers and streams and affects life directly through toxicity, killing most water plants and animals, and causing reproductive failures in others.

          The principal sources of water pollution are oil spills, industrial refuse and agricultural fertilizers.  Water pollution comes in many forms such as:[12]

a.                 De oxygenating materials e.g. sewage and other organic waters like spillage, farm wastes and wastes from a number of heavily industrial processing units.

b.                Nutrients enriching materials such as fertilizers may cause an acceleration of plant growth and lead to a decline in water quality.

c.                  Soil waste:  This may impede the flow of water or block out light for the growth of plants that live in the water.

d.                Toxic materials:  Some materials such as heavy metals and pesticides are toxic to aquatic life, depending on the dosage received.

e.                 Discharge of waste from the sewage system also affects the quality of inland and coastal waters.

1.3.2  NOISE POLLUTION AND SOURCES

          Noise may be defined as unwanted or excessive sound. Economic growth has led to an increase in the source of noise pollution which seems to have been accepted by people in the society.  This general acceptance may be due to the ignorance of the health hazards created by noise pollution C.S. Ola has affirmed this position when he stated thus:

The average urban dweller is open to health problems as a result of long continuous exposure to noise sometimes at high intensities.

          Worker in some industries are exposed to high levels of noise over a long period of time.  Other sources of noise pollution include:

          Domestic noise, amplified music, vehicles and motorcycles aeroplanes, railway noise, voices beat engines, road traffic, noise construction sites.  Factories, industries and air-guns used to detect the presence of hydrocarbons.

          On the effect of noise pollution, it is instructive to note that long exposure to noise of a high intensity may cause hearing impairment, decreased efficiency, emotional disturbances, psychological disorder and disturbance of sleep.  The negative effect of noise on fish, schools causing them to be dispersed and also on calls between fish’s destruction of eggs and larva are not exempted.

1.3.3  AIR POLLUTION AND SOURCES

          Nitrogen and oxygen are the complementary gases that mix-up to form air.  Air pollution is the accumulation of substances in the air, insufficient concentrations to produce measurable effects on man, plants and animals.  It involves the emission of harmful substances into the atmosphere, which may cause danger to any living thing.

          It entails the contamination of the atmosphere by gases and solids produced in the burning of natural fuels, chemicals and some industrial processes and in nuclear explosions.  It includes contamination produced by such processes as accumulation of cosmic dust, rising by wind of surface dust, eruption of volcanoes, decay or vegetation, evaporation of sea salt, spray and natural radioactivity.  Air pollution is therefore the presence of foreign matters (either gaseous, particulate or a combination of both) in the air which is detrimental to the health and welfare of man.

          The sources of air pollution are not strange.  They entail factories gas flaring, motor vehicles account for roughly half of air pollution, while digging or tilling and burning of fires when cooking and bush burning constitutes part of the rest in the burning of oil and other local produce - sulphur (IV) a very dangerous pollutant are also responsible for most of the recent air pollution hazards to man.

          The depletion of the ozone layer which results from the release of chlorofluore carbons (CFCS) into the atmosphere with the consequent increased ability for harmful ultra-violet radiation from the sun to penetrate the earth’s atmosphere and get to the earth’s surface, leading to a high incidence of skin cancer in humans is a major consequence of air pollution.

          Industrial emissions are the second to vehicular emission at the national level in specific areas.  Industrial plant source degrade the quality of the earth.  Localized pollution problems includes cement kiln, dust SO2 from the fertilizer plants in Kaduna and Rivers States.  Multiple pollutants from the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation Refineries and gas flaring are instructive.

          Industrial furnaces, boilers and thousands of private electri-generators also contribute to air pollution especially in Lagos where most of the industries in Nigeria are located.  It must be noted that all these industries have their own generating plants due to the inadequacy of power supply from the National Electric Power Authority.

1.3.4  LAND POLLUTION AND SOURCES

          Land pollution is the degradation of land by man through harmful activities like the dumping of harmful waste material such as chemical input that are dangerous to the environment.  Chemical fertilizers and herbicides from the bulk of these also cause land pollution.

          It is also instructive to note that the term also includes anything laid in land which automatically impairs it.

          The development of technology has been identified as the major cause of land pollution; industrialization leads to urbanization and the over-concentration of the world population in particular areas of the landmass.

          Land pollution could also be in form of solid waste.  This has been defined as:[13]

          Non-liquid, non soluble materials hanging from municipal garbage to industrial wastes that contain complex substances and some times hazardous substance.

          Other sources of land pollution are domestic waste, organic and inorganic contaminant such as phenol, oil grease and toxic metals, hydrogen sulphide and ammonia.  Also, quarrying, mining of all sorts causes damage to the environment on a large scale.



[1] Yemi Osibanjo “Some public law consideration in Environmental protection” in Environmental laws in Nigeria.  J.A. Omotala ed Lagos 1990 at p. 128.

[2] The need for Environmental protection law in Nigeria.  Shyllon F. Ed. Ibadan:  Vantage Publishers, 1989, p. 1.

[3] The protection of Nigeria environment through law in the law and the Environment in Nigeria, Shyllon F. Ed. Ibid. p. 10.

[4] Rosalind Malcolm, A Guide book to Environmental Law, Lond Sweet & Maxwell, 1994, Chap. 1.

[5] Ascribed by Plato in Theactetus to Protagoras (430 BC)


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