The Legal Framework Governing Environmental Protection in Nigeria

The Legal Framework Governing Environmental Protection in Nigeria

It is only recently in the face of global warming concerns that many people have realized the need to care for the environment, and in some cases there is still a lot that needs to be done regarding the conservation of the earth and its wildlife.

In Nigeria, environmental pollution is a very serious problem, with its Niger Delta facing some of the worst cases of environmental degradation known to man due to Oil Industry activities, and places like Lagos having to deal with astronomical heaps of garbage blocking many natural inland waterways in the state.

This article will thus be focused on the topics of:-

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– The legal and regulatory framework governing environmental conservation in Nigeria.

– What actually constitutes environmental pollution under Nigerian law.

– Activities that are regarded under Nigerian law as having a potentially huge environmental impact.

– The available environmental pollution regulation licenses in Nigeria.

What constitutes the legal and regulatory framework governing environmental conservation and pollution in Nigeria?

The main pieces of legislation governing environmental conservation and pollution in Nigeria are :-

– The Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA) Act 

– The National Environmental Protection (Pollution abatement in Industries & facilities generating waste) Regulations.

– The National Environmental Protection (Management of solid and hazardous wastes) regulations.

– The Environmental Impact Assessment Act

– The Harmful wastes act

– The Environmental guidelines & standards for the petroleum industry in Nigeria (EGASPIN).

The overall government agency in charge of coordinating the implementation and enforcement of these legislations is the Federal Ministry of Environment.

Is environmental protection/conservation under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Federal Government in Nigeria?

No it isn’t. Each state and local government can set up its own environmental protection agency pursuant to the FEPA Act as well as make environmental protection laws for their respective state jurisdictions.

How is environmental protection legislation to be complied with?

One major way of doing this is complying with the legal requirement for Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) reports when any individual or organisation is carrying out any activity which may have a negative effect on the environment.

These reports must clearly state the environmental risks involved in the activity to be engaged in as well as the measures for dealing with these risks.

What are the activities deemed capable of posing a risk to the environment under Nigerian law?

These activities as outlined under Nigerian law are typically of a commercial nature and include the following :-

– Mining

– Housing and Construction

– Infrastructural development

– Power Generation & Transmission

– Manufacturing industries

– Petroleum drilling and refining activities

– Agricultural activities

– Forestry/Wood harvesting

– Waste/Sewage treatment and disposal

What are the environmental law permits available in Nigeria?

Apart from mandatory Environmental Impact Assessment EIA reports for certain activities deemed environmentally risky, there are permits applicable to certain economic sectors such as :-

– Permits from the Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Authority for persons engaged in activities that generate radioactive waste.

– Permits from FEPA for the storage & treatment and evacuation/discharge of harmful toxic waste into natural waterways such as lakes or rivers.

Are there sanctions for violating the provisions of environmental legislation in Nigeria?

A violation of environmental protection legislation in Nigeria can lead to civil and criminal liabilities on either individuals or corporations found guilty.

Emmanuel Ifeanyi Ogbuka, Esq, a legal practitioner and consultant, writes from Lagos and can be reached via 07011261897 or [email protected]

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