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21st of October 2018

Nigeria News

Pollution and sustainable development in Nigeria

Apart from the available data, our mind’s eye observes that Nigeria’s income has been on the increase since independence. As the income increases so does the expenditure. But as expenditure is increasing, so has budget deficit been on the increase as well.An unconstructive trend it seems but such an appalling episode seems not limited to the public finance sector as a recent widely circulated report on the state of the Global Air Report by Health Effects Institute indicates that the burden of pollution on Nigeria has transcended to a “word made flesh” and now dwells among us.Coming just a few days after the Department of Petroleum Resources’ declaration that the country has about 139 gas flare locations spread across the Niger Delta, the HEI described Nigeria as a country with the highest burden of fatalities from air pollution in Africa and fourth globally-with pollution now responsible for the death of 150 per 100,000 Nigerians; a position that barefacedly revealed that the nation’s environment is sick and the ecosystem troubled.Although an unhappy revelation, the greatest of this liability is that the nation found itself in this condition and yet failed to develop a new attitude that the situation demands, thereby railroading us slowly but inevitably to what future historians shall describe as a nation devastated by pollution, a fault both corporate organisations and the government must share in its guilt.The fear expressed by Nigerians is that the solution appears not to be in sight and the situation constituting a challenge to the accomplishment of the 2030 sustainable development agenda.While this probable fear pervades the nation, it is important to state that the major factor fuelling this environmental crisis is that, nowhere in the world have environmental issues caused so much discord like in Nigeria.A region in Nigeria such as the Niger Delta houses the crude oil deposits but lacks the constitutional power to sign, monitor or regulate the explorations as the Land Use Act and other mineral laws exclusively vest such powers on the government at the centre which, unfortunately, lacks the interest, plan and the will to develop the regions while forgetting that the Chapter Two of the 1999 Constitution vests on them the responsibility to ensure equitable and efficient management of these resources.The situation becomes more worrying when one remembers that in case after case, successive administrations had at different times and places expressed more interest in promoting petroleum production and the mining industry in general, politicised the environmental protection process with the environment remaining vaguely prominent on the agenda and given a symbolic attention without any substantial action.As we know, it was in a bid to compel the government’s response to glaring environmental injustice meted out to the people of Ogoni and other Niger Delta communities that propelled the Social and Economic Rights Action Centre in close collaboration with the New York-based Centre for Economic and Social Rights to file a communication (SERAC) Vs Nigeria) with suit Number 155/96 before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights against the Federal Military Government of Nigeria asserting that the widespread contamination of soil, water and air, the destruction of homes, and the climate of terror visited upon the Ogoni communities constituted a violation of their rights to health, a healthy environment, housing, and food.As a response to the communication, the Commission in October 2001, gave a well-considered ruling finding the Federal Republic of Nigeria in violations of 2, 4, 14, 16,18(1),21 and 24 of the African Chapter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and therefore recommended a total clean-up of the polluted Ogoni and other adjourning communities in addition to taking preventive remedial and compensatory measures to improve economic and social outcomes for the Ogoni community.But guess what? Close to two decades after that judgment, Ogoni and other communities are still waiting for the Federal Government to implement the directive from the same commission that it is a signatory to; a development that is considered bad for morals.While this is ongoing, the oil majors operating in the region on their part capitalise on these regulatory loopholes in their day-to-day interface with host communities and other state parties. They pursue policies chosen in advance of reason, designed to push the host communities further and farther away from getting involved in the management of their resources.Regrettably, the vast majority of these operators’ Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives are considered ‘a dangerous fiction created as an excuse to impose an unfair burden upon the wealthy and powerful’.

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