May 11, 2021

Academic discuss on ‘Marine plastic pollution governance in Nigeria’

Lagos loses $2.1bn to environmental pollution

plastic pollution

File: Plastic pollution

The Institute of Maritime Studies, University of Nigeria Enugu Campus yesterday held a zoom meeting on “Marine plastic pollution governance in Nigeria”.

The event was sponsored by the Association of Commonwealth Universities ( ACU) Blue Charter Knowledge Exchange project with generous funding from Waitrose & Partners.

The meeting that lasted for hours saw some dignitaries in virtual attendance like the Minister of State for Environment Sharon Ikeazor represented by Mr Jubrin Ahmadu, Dr Ndubuisi Nwafor ( Associate Dean of the Faculty of Law UNEC) Professor Justitia Nnabuko ( the Director of Institute of Maritime Studies  UNEC ) the Association of Commonwealth Universities Blue Charter team represented by  George Lakey, the current Head  of University of Bradford School of Law Professor Engobo Emeseh, and other experts who delivered papers like Dr Collins Ajibo, Benjamin Mukoro , Amarachi Dike, and Dr Emmanuel Nwanmuo.

The event was part of the Knowledge Exchange grant awarded to Dr Ndubuisi Nwafor by the Association of Commonwealth Universities Blue Charter project to investigate marine plastic pollution governance in  Nigeria.

Africa has joined the global movement to eliminate plastics. Several African countries, are now taking steps to eliminate the production and distribution of single-use plastics; some are even adopting a total ban on the production and use of plastic bags. Cameroon, Egypt, Eritrea, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritania, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa and Tanzania have taken the lead, others, like Botswana and Ethiopia, are following suit.

Nigeria, being the most populous country in Africa is affected by plastic pollution menace. The reason is its large population in the urban and commercial cities, especially in the South east and south west of Nigeria and her large coastline.

Lagos which is the biggest city in Nigeria has been under plastic pollution siege, without any hope of abatement. The WEBINAR engaged various stakeholders and participants around the world.

The focus of the WEBINAR was to articulate national, regional and global legislation, policies and strategies that will prevent plastics from getting into the environment. The indiscriminate dumping of land waste materials such as bio degradable and non-bio degradable wastes of which plastic debris are inclusive find their way into the environment through the drainages, culverts, gutters and canals into adjoining rivers within the cities and towns, and consequently into the ocean.

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It is reported that the Imo River in the Eastern Nigeria discharges over 17,500 tons of plastic debris annually making it one of the world’s most polluted rivers. It is important to note that the Imo River flows through the city of Aba carrying with it plastic debris through its adjoining tributaries until it finds its way into the nearby Atlantic Ocean.

The need to act timely in order to save the planet from plastic devastation cannot be over emphasized. The statistics are hideously looking gloom on the negative impact of plastic to the environment. It has been projected that, by 2050, there could be more plastic in the world’s waters than fishes. Researchers have identified 400 species of animals whose members either ingested plastics or got entangled in it. Year in, year out, the plastics that are constantly thrown into the oceans are responsible for killing one million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals. It has been canvassed that up to 13 million tonnes of plastic leak into our oceans every year.

The award recipient Dr Ndubuisi Nwafor presented a paper on the plastic pollution governance in Nigeria. Nigeria’s House of Representatives passed a bill banning the use and sale of plastic bags in the country. According to the legislation, anyone that fails to provide customers with paper bags in place of plastic ones risks three years in jail or a fine of N500,000 – or both at the worst case scenario. The bill would have to be worked on by a conference committee of the House and Senate before being sent to the president for assent to become law.

One of the most visible challenges to this would –be law is that, in a complex and undeveloped country like Nigeria, this law may end up before another long essay in the statute books without any chance of optimizing its legal, jurisprudential and governance efficacy.