Examining the Environmental Laws in Africa: Nigeria as a Case Study
28. November 2018 at 09:00
Environmental Degradation has consistently resulted to undesired obstacles for economic and health development in Nigeria. Some of these challenges entail pollution, deforestation, improper pesticides and Global Warming. Despite the Environmental laws aimed at minimizing these challenges, the condition in Nigeria tends to degenerate as a result of the fact that these laws are not enforced effectively.The purpose of a good and conducive environment cannot be given too much attention and importance. Environmental Laws occurs so as to reduce the threatening environmental challenges which occur from human exercises in the search for economic development and growth. The essence for environmental laws and regulations emanates from the fact that it brings about enhanced health and ensures favorable living conditions.
Although, the significant environmental challenges in Nigeria which entail deforestation, oil spillage, ozone layer depletion, associated soil zones, acid deposition, desertification, pollution, global warming among others occurs as a result of the poor enforcement of environmental laws. This unyielding desired results or incompetence is as result of some obstacles of enforcement which varies from conflicts role in corruption, environmental mismanagement and bad government common in the Nation due to lack of enforcement facilities.
It is on this emphasis that this paper tends to evaluate the nature of the environment, environmental laws, the obstacles faced by the enforcement agencies in executing these laws, the enforcement of environmental laws, the challenges of the environmental laws and the various reforms towards an effective enforcement of the environmental laws in the country.
Some Federal Environmental Legislations
- Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Act: This Act is majorly concerned with applying allocated finance to tackle ecological challenges occurring from the discovery of oil minerals in the Niger Delta Region. This Act ensures that the commission executes and plan for projects towards the sustainable development of Delta in the area of housing and urban development, fisheries, agriculture, health, transportation, etc.
- Petroleum Act of 1969: This is a major legislation on oil and gas and oil activities in the country. It ensures environmental safeguard and public safety.
- Petroleum Refining Regulations: This entails that the manager of a refinery take measures in other to prohibit and reduce pollution of the environment
- Production Drilling and Production Regulations: This places Prohibitions from making use of land within fifty yards of any buildings, restricting the falling down of trees in forest reserves and establishing the appropriate measures that must be carried out to prohibit water production and to terminate it if it happens
- Oil Pipelines Act of 1956: This Act provides a civil liberty on an individual who is in control of an oil pipeline.
- Harmful Waste (Special Criminal Provisions) Act of 1988: This act restricts without legal authority the dumping, carrying or depositing of dangerous wastes in the waters, land or air of Nigeria.
- Environmental Impact Assessment Act of 1992: This Acts evaluates the major negative implications in which private or public projects are probably to have on the environment.
- National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement (NESREA): This Act substituted the Federal Environmental Protection Agency Act (FEPA) of 1988. It is also administered by the Federal Ministry of Environment (FME) in other to promote and safeguard the sustainable development of the Environment and its Natural Resources.
- Federal Hazardous and Solid Waste Management Regulations (1991): This act compels industries to recognize solid dangerous wastes that are harmful to the health of the Public and to the environment and to research into the probability of recycling them
- National Environmental Protection (1991): It prohibits the expel of dangerous substances into the environment such as water, land or air of Nigeria beyond recommended limits set by the Agency
Some States Environmental legislations
Some of the Thirty Six states of the Country as well as the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja have laws entailing environmental safety and protection. We shall focus on Kwara State and Lagos State.
- Kwara State Environmental Protection Agency Law: This Agency carries out development and research activity for environmental protection and also tutors the general public on the various forms of disposal methods by the State Government for Industrial and Domestic waste among others
- Environmental Pollution Control of Lagos State: This laws makes it an offence or a crime to permit or cause a discharge of untreated raw human waste into any public drain or into any water or land or water discourse. The Kwara State Government so as to ensure environmental awareness in the state created the kwara State Environmental Protection Agency Law
- Environmental Sanitation Law of Lagos State: This is a Lagos State Enactment on Environmental Protection and Sanitation. It prohibits improper disposal of wastes, street obstruction, and failure to clean sidewalks as well as refusal to cover refuse bins
The Environmental Protection legislations at the State and Federal Levels in the Country create excellent arrays of enforcement mechanisms. These entails license, permit, certificate, search, inspection, seizure, sealing, arrest, notice of revocation of permit, notice of violations, recourse to courts for civil penalties for violation, revocation order, criminal sanitations for violations, injunctive relief to require compliance citizens suits to enforce the statues in absence of effective government enforcement.
- Civil Penalties: These entail the payment of costs or damages due to the violation of any of the Nigeria Environmental Protection Laws.
- Arrest: This is the most famous of all the enforcement approaches. It is provided for all in the local and state Governments that has to do with environmental protection. The obligated Government Agent is vested with the power to arrest and track any individual who he has purpose or believed to have perpetrated a crime under the stated law
- Criminal Prosecution: This is a worthwhile or practicable technique for enforcing environmental legislations. Environmental Laws perpetrators are sentence to court if discovered guilty and convicted to court.
- Certificate, License and permit: This serve as the most effective initiatives of enforcement of environmental laws. Environmental regulations and Statues provides for issuing certificates, licenses and permits upon satisfaction and applications of the stated and provided conditions prior to the issue. The certificates, licenses and permits are used by Government as a monitoring instrument in other to control the activities which are the major causes of environmental pollution.
- Searches and Inspections: The major essence is to ensure that the laws applicable to companies, industries and individuals are complied. This is the major essence of enforcement technologies; it also assists to be aware of anyone who has violated the environmental laws so as to be able to apply lawful actions against such an individual. Licensed officers are empowered to examine and request for any necessary and compulsory certificates, licenses and permits or other necessary document as well as any device, appliance or other items applied in respect to environmental safeguard
- Sealing and Seizure: This Methodology entails sealing up or closing of any site or area which will be, has been or been indirectly or directly used for the essence of dumping or depositing of any hazardous wastes.
Functions of the Environmental Law Enforcement Agencies in Nigeria
There are numerous Environmental Law Enforcement Agencies that helps in the execution of environmental legislations in Nigeria. Some of these are emphasized below:
- National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA): This partner’s works with the National Orientation Agency (NOA) and the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) in managing flood and disasters in Nigeria
- Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA): This Agency is duly responsible for controlling Marine Pollution and prevention Control, search and rescue, training, sabotage enforcement as well as certification and training of seafarers.
- National Water Resources Institute (NWRI): This Institutes monitors and checks water pollution as well as enforce drinking water treatment
- National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA): The Federal Government created this agency as an institutional context and system in other to execute the National Oil Spill Contingency plan which is a manual blueprint for checking and monitoring of oil spill through recovery, containment, restoration and remediation.
- The Nigerian Police: The Nigerian Police officers are vested with the authority to enforce, monitor and ensure laws on Nigeria Environmental activities most especially in respect to the Harmful Waste Act.
- National Orientation Agency (NOA): The National Orientation Agency (NOA) assists in ensuring that the Federal Government Environmental policies and programmes are effectively understood by the Nigerian Citizens.
- National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC): The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) is under the umbrella of the Federal Ministry of Health and it also issues permits and licenses for firms and industries for importation of chemicals, cosmetic and food.
- Local Government Environmental Protection Agency/State Government Environmental Protection Agency: They play major function in the environmental laws enforcement. It is the highest reference administrative body in Nigeria environmental matters
- National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA): This is a significant enforcement agency in the country. The Agency is demanded by law to be in charge of the development and protection of the environmental technology as well as initiating of policy in respect to environmental technology and research majorly to advice the Federal Government concerning environmental priorities and policies as well on the technological and scientific activities disrupting the environment.
- The Court: Under the Legal System of Nigeria. The law is being interpreted by the judiciary therefore the Judiciary exhumes life into the law to ensure for its full compliance. Class Actions by a community or a group embarking on environmental claims can be carried out in the Law Court. The actions are popular in the Oil and Gas Industries where the industries pollute the air, water or land of a specific community and they seek for redress in court. Courts in Nigeria have bestowed general and special damages in actions for damages occurring from environmental pollutions.
The Challenges and Deficiencies of Environmental Enforcement
There are functional inadequate policies in Nigeria for monitoring and coordinating the relationship between Sustainable Development and Environmental Management. For example, the mechanism for management and collection of environmental statistics of services and facilities providers and waste vendors, waste transporters, companies effluent emission data, landfills areas, sewage treatment plants, carbon footprints and other recycling agencies are neither implemented or developed.
The Target and Focus of Environmental Laws enforcement is also a challenge. Finance is also a setback. Also they are understaffed. They could neither attain the demands of different responsibilities nor meet the sophiscated costly Equipment. Threats from influential groups and individuals negatively affect effective law enforcement on the environment. Bad Governance and Corruption which is common in the Nation also affects environmental laws enforcement. Another serious obstacle of Environmental Laws Enforcement is the absence of current day’s technology. Minimal level of Constitutional Provision for Environmental protection is a challenge. The National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement agency (NESREA), a significant agency of environmental law enforcement do not possess the necessary enforcement powers over the oil and gas sectors. This negatively affects environmental justice.
There are also conflicts of role in environmental management; this results to conflicts of roles between them. The relationship discordance among the arms of government restricts the effectiveness in carrying out their environmental enforcement, monitoring and protection. Another major challenge is the undue adherence to legalism by the courts; it is a major challenge of Nigeria Environmental Laws. Individuals do not have environmental freedom to attain their related environmental challenges in the law court so as to claim the infringement of a specific environmental law or right. Restricted number of professionals in the field of environment to provide evidence also frustrates environmental litigation in the Country.
The absence of compulsory disclosure of information by operators of facilities and industries whose activities are probably to result to pollution is another challenge on the environment laws enforcement. There is no lawful framework for the industries, binding them to obey all the requirements for conformity in respect to pollution prohibition and reduction Standards. The Industries select or conceal the interpretation of qualitative or quantitative necessary information concerning compliance monitoring of facilities and industries. A Maximized General System of Categorization of Industries ignores some industries in the categorization. This poses challenges in applying Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) rules and regulations to those industries that have not been captured.
Poor communication is among the Internal Departments of the Federal Ministry of Environment (FEM) to the level that the department may not be aware of what other departments are doing; there is Lack of knowledge of the general legislation covering the environment and the State and Federal Environmental regulations. The search power of the officers of the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement agency (NESREA) is deficient in catering provisions for a court order before a thorough search can be carried out on any premises or vessels.
Suggested Reforms for the Environment Enforcement
The obstacles of Enforcement Law are universal. Environmental law in China provide Local Government the duty of ensuring environmental quality and also designate awards to individuals and units that have made remarkable achievements in safeguarding the environment; this could be applied as a model for Nigeria Local Governments. Other recommended environmental enforcement reforms entails:
- Establishments of Environmental Courts: Just as there are National Industrial Courts in the Nation, environmental Courts that would handle environmental issues should be created for appropriate enforcement of environmental laws in the Nation. This would allow for a swift response to the demands of the environment, aid enforcement of various laws and popularize environmental laws.
- Swift Response to Environmental Emergencies: There should be a swift reaction to environment emergencies in the Nation so as to prohibit the occurrence of unpleasant and unfavorable scenarios.
- Job Opportunities: employment opportunities should be provided for the citizens of the Nation so as to eradicate poverty rate in the Nation. Most of the environmental challenges occur as a result of the absence of infrastructure, high rate of poverty, and absence of optional source of energy to individuals who partake in cutting down economic trees for sustenance, involving in excessive fishing exercises, hunting wild animal’s therefore causing severe harm to the environment
- Effective access to Justice: Legal Aid Scheme must be catered or those victims that are unable to afford the increase cost of litigation. The citizens must have effective and equal access to justice
- Private Litigation: This is an effective tool for environmental laws enforcement to give the environment its necessary priority in the consciousness of the citizenry. The Nigerian citizens must have a proprietary interest in the human environment such that he feels a personal obligation to defend and safeguard that interest
- Submission of Periodic Reports: The State Government must ensure the preparation of periodic reports on the affairs of the environment in each community or state or submission to the Ministry of Environment. This will promote the new strategies and enforcement methodologies are proposed for successful management and monitoring of the environment.
- Training: The Government must try much of its possible best to equip its environmental agencies on how to ensure the proper enforcement of the existing environmental laws. Officers of the agencies must be tutored for proper enforcement.
- Environmental Law Awareness: Awareness must be made all around the Nation in every local and state Government areas about the potent and the positive implications on the development of the Nigeria State.
Also; Advertising must be carried out through the use of Media to inform individuals all over the Nation on the Environmental Challenges consistent in the country and the methods of mitigating majority of these challenges.
- Severe punishments of Environmental Offences: The liabilities of those who go against the environmental laws and the attitude and behavior of the court are also essential in the environmental laws enforcement. The attitudes and behaviors of courts in their respective judgments towards justice to the environment must be effective.
- Funds: More finance should be distributed by the Government at every level to promote the implementation of projects aimed towards the enhancement of the environment.
It is trite to state that majority of the environmental challenges in Nigeria are due to the Non-Chalant concern of government towards environmental laws enforcement. There are absence of mechanisms for management and collection of environmental statistics; companies, emission data and other anti pollution equipment including waste transporters. The significant concern of the Government was the sanitation of the environment and the eradication of desertification, environmental pollution, use of pesticides, deforestation and major environmental challenges.
The Enforcement agencies, the court, the police, the local and state governments lack the proper and adequate enforcement strategies for the execution of the laws.
The agencies are not financially viable to attain their obligations as well as carry out their functions properly. Nigeria lacks standard equipment and present day technology for monitoring the environment to prohibit pollution. Corruption has deeply eaten in the environment to the level that most genuine officers threaten and harass perpetrators of environmental laws with the objective of collecting funds from them and also the allocated funds for the execution of environmental laws are distributed between officers of the agencies for their private purpose
The punishment for going against the law is also too lenient. It is suggested that the Local, State and Federal Government should all re-insist on a tougher enforcement of Environmental legislation in the Country with the purpose of adequately punishing all defaulting organizations.
The National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement agency (NESREA); A major environmental law enforcement agency in the country should be properly restructured by bestowing on it more authority on all efforts on environmental law enforcement as well as the environmental monitoring and permitting of all existing and new projects and also the approval of strategic environmental impact assessment.
All Local and State Governments should own their independent monitoring and supervisory bodies that will be in charge of the enforcement of environmental laws. The Environmental laws of Nigeria should provide the Local Government the responsibility of environmental quality as well as providing awards to individuals and units that has made significant achievements in safeguarding the environment. All present environmental legislations should be reviewed in other to fill in the existing loopholes and gap which companies, industries and firms have taken advantage of
Funds for the purchase of equipments, creation of awareness as well as other basic necessities should be channeled and disbursed to the necessary quarters as they will be required for an effective environmental management as well as the enforcement of laws.
Finally, environmental courts must be set up in other to handle environmental issues as this will ensure a swift response to the demands of the environment, ensure rapid awareness of the demands of the environmental laws and also assist in the implementation of these laws.