Professor Paul Mamza is the National President of the Polymer Institute of Nigeria. He is also a lecturer in the Department of Polymer Science and Technology of the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria. In this interview with Daily Trust Saturday, he, among other issues, disagrees with views suggesting the banning of plastic materials in Nigeria, especially plastics bags. Excerpt
Daily Trust: The House of Representatives is presently considering a law that would prohibit the manufacture and use of plastics in Nigeria, which has passed first reading, what is your take on this?
Professor Paul Mamza: There’s no alternative to plastics yet. Plastics have replaced traditional materials due to its higher technical advantage and low cost. Most superior materials that run automobiles and household items are made from plastics. Initially, all materials in commercial uses are made from plastics.
In some countries like Singapore, polymeric wastes were utilized in the generation of electricity. The government of Nigeria rather than ban the use of plastic bags should engage the polymer professionals in finding ways of disposing plastics that are not environmentally friendly. Novelty of waste to wealth should be utilized in disposal of plastics.
Nigeria must be integrated into the technological world where plastic wastes are used as a veritable recovery rather than simple ban. Modern technologies also offer viabilities of biodegradable and photodegradable polymers. The built-in disposability of plastics through the use of microorganisms or photosensitive groupings is an area of current research and development that Nigeria should key into, not outright ban of plastic bags.
DT: You have been pursuing legislation for your institute to become a flagship for production of polymer materials, what is the position?
Mamza: The Chartered Polymer Institute of Nigeria was pursued decisively and the bill has passed first, second and third readings on both the Senate and House of Representatives. It is now before the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari, for final assent.
If assented to by the president, the Institute will be flagship for legislation in terms of production of polymer materials, control of the disposal techniques, regulation of teaching and research in institutions of higher learning in Nigeria. It will be a huge task ahead, but it is a task that must be done.
As you know, leadership is about taking responsibilities and anchoring inspirational steps that will bring about prosperity, consensus building and progressiveness. This was why under my leadership, the institute pursued chartered status and we are hopeful that the bill would become law and if this happens, Nigeria’s polymer industry would be better for it.
DT: What steps are you taking to convince the government, especially the National Assembly, that plastic materials are still relevant in Nigeria and how its ban can negatively affect the country?
Mamza: We are carrying out a lot of activities to allay the fears of the government. As researchers, one of the ways of convincing the government is through proffering scientific solutions to the problem. We are planning to bring together experts in the field from different parts of the country during our 30th Annual Technical Conference that would take place in October in Ibadan, Oyo State.
We agreed that the theme of the conference should address the concern of government on plastic materials. This is why the conference would go with the ‘Polymer Wastes Management: A Source of Economic Recovery in Nigeria.’ We feel that this theme is relevant to the current concerns by the Nigerian government.
As I said earlier, the conference will offer opportunities to polymer professionals all over Nigeria and beyond to discuss this very important challenge associated with polymer disposal. We hope that government will utilize the opportunity of this conference by allowing its agents to interact with our professionals.
We hope to, at the end of the conference, galvanize a common position on polymer wastes management and the viability of plastic waste management in the modern world, as our interaction would not only be with government agencies alone but the general players in polymer industries.
It is necessary to emphasize the importance of investment in science and technology, especially polymer science and technology, by governments at all levels, as the sector is now the springboard of economic prosperity.
The over-dependence on oil as a major source of revenue must be discouraged. Government should work hand-in-hand with professionals in policy formulations and decisions. I am appealing to His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the Chartered Polymer Institute of Nigeria Bill 2018, which is awaiting his assent.