The illogical, uncaring and unprincipled manner in which the three arms of government behave these days is making the international community and indeed most Nigerians fear for the future of the nation. The sort of political entity todays leaders will leave to our children has become a choice between the current inequalities and injustices of unity, the benefits and advantages of restructuring, or the freedoms and problems associated with break-up. None the less whether or not Nigeria will still bear the same name in years to come or be divided into several countries, the land mass will still be here. So much effort is expended in worrying about the political legacy for the future and so little effort in ensuring an environmental legacy. The lack of employment opportunities in rural areas has led to mass urban migration in Nigerian.
Lack of planning and the absence of effective local governance has turned Nigerian urban areas into massive rubbish tips with every public space being a dumpsite. Ironically the same people who litter the streets with abandon queue up in front of foreign embassies seeking ways to get out of what US President Trump described as a “sh*thole country” and live in a decent environment. Nigeria hasn’t always been an environmental mess. The internet is replete with pictures of cities like Kano, Lokoja, Lagos, Ibadan, Enugu and others in the 1960’s and the striking feature of all these photographs is that they capture images of an orderly society with a pristine environment. Even pictures taken inside market places back then show little evidence of the abandoned refuse which are a feature of today’s markets. It’s true to say that Nigerians have become pitifully less environmentally friendly.
The Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA) is charged with overall responsibility for environmental management and when it was created Nigeria became the first African country to establish a national institutional mechanism for environmental problems which included air pollution, water pollution, desertification, industrial waste, solid waste, oil spills, deforestation and wind erosion. From this glorious past the nation now lags behind the rest of Africa. The single biggest environmental problem is plastic pollution. Plastic is a substance the earth cannot digest which releases toxic chemicals in our soil water to cause groundwater pollution, and has other long term effects such as land pollution, air pollution, and death of animals. Almost every nook and cranny in Nigeria is littered with pure water sachets and flimsy cellophane bags.
It’s been estimated that about 70% of adult Nigerians drink at least two sachets per day which means that over 100 million sachets are being dumped on our streets and gutters daily! This uncontrolled use and arbitrary disposal poses a great danger for the future. A UN report says that African countries are leading the way in banning plastics, but as usual Nigeria is lagging behind the progressive African governments. For example the Kenyan government discovered that the over 100 million plastic bags per year issued from supermarkets alone polluted their environment and clogged up the drainage system just as in Nigeria.
They also discovered that 50% of their cattle near urban areas had plastic bags in their stomachs. Consequently they banned the use of plastic bags by enacting a law stating that anyone found manufacturing, importing or selling plastic carrier bags could be fined up to $40,000 or face a prison sentence of up to four years. Kenyans found guilty of using banned plastic bags are liable to be fined more than $500 or jailed for one year. Now Kenyans have learned how to make boats and houses out of plastic bottles while the Nigerian government ignores the problem.
Often described as the world’s number one consumer product, plastic shopping bags are now amongst the worlds most banned. The United Nations reported that 127 countries have either banned or taxed plastic carrier bags. In the UK shoppers are charged for bags and encouraged to re-use old ones whenever going shopping. In addition to Kenya other African countries like Rwanda, Cameroon, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Malawi have adopted measures to reduce the production and use of plastic bags through an outright ban or imposition of tax. Nigerians on the other hand continue to destroy their environment through single-use disposable plastic used to package soft drinks, water, electrical goods, cosmetics, toys, and hair and skin care products, toys and all manner of goods with severe environmental consequences.
Scandalously most of these goods are still placed in cellophane bags. These non-biodegradable flimsy cellophane bags along with empty pure water sachets litter the Nigerian landscape. However all is not lost. A member of the House of Representatives Honorable Sergius Ogun representing Esan North East/ Esan South East Federal Constituency sponsored a Bill which seeks to prohibit the use, manufacture and importation of plastic bags for commercial and household packaging. This is the sort of legislation the nation requires and is a credit to the sponsor. The actual title of the bill is self-explanatory.
It is “An Act to prohibit the use, manufacture and importation of plastic bags used for commercial and household packaging in order to address its harmful impacts to oceans, rivers, lakes, forests, environment, wildlife as well as human beings and also relieve the pressure on landfills and waste management and for other matters”. This bill must be enacted into law at the earliest possible time.
The current political struggles for unity, restructuring or even break is analogous to a house being on fire and people fighting over ownership of the property without doing anything to put out the blaze or even reason what type of property will be left by the time agreement has been is reached. It is pertinent to ask; “do we really want to bequeath this sordid environmental mess to our children?”