My post today encompasses a little awareness on the environment and hinged on the Sustainable Development Goals covering sanitation, good health and wellbeing. Ever wondered why it is so easy for people to litter and get away with it? As a matter of fact, it is quite the norm; it seems like one of the characteristics that make us Nigerian so that when you try to practice more environmentally friendly habits, you are perceived as the awkward one #IamsoNigerianthatlitteringisnormal. Every day, and I literally mean ‘Everyday’ we see people throw things out of moving vehicles, and even parked ones. Children are taught to do this from a very young age and less people care. The act of littering is at the detriment of environmental cleanliness, health and safety of urban residents. If you’re like me, then you are unflinchingly irritated by this act.
Problems in Nigeria are centered on corruption, poverty, violence, insurgency, amongst others. How about the environment? As much as the aforementioned problems are important, the care and love for environment is just as important but unfortunately not as loud. The environment is the platform on which we operate; without it, we would probably not exist. This post displays a legal angle on the environment.
Basically, Nigeria’s constitution, more appropriately cited as ‘The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended’ provides in its Section 20 that:
“The State shall protect and improve the environment and safeguard the water, air and land, forest and wild life of Nigeria.”
Well, it seems we are protected. OR NOT! These rights are more popularly referred to as non-justiciable rights. This translates to the fact that the above quoted section is merely directional and declaratory without any enforcement teeth. The enforcement of this section thus remains dependent on the priorities of the government in Nigeria, more appropriately called political propaganda.
However, credence must be given to the National Assembly for the enactment of The National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (‘NESREA’) Act in 2007 which further empowers the Agency (NESREA) to make regulations for the purpose of protecting public health and promotion of sound environmental sanitation, the violation of which is subject to certain specified penalties.
Lagos, always being a step ahead of other states in Nigeria as regards enactment of modern laws has complemented the NESREA Act by enacting the Lagos State Environmental Management Protection Law, 2017, which considerably attempts to delve into more modern cosmopolitan environmental issues like: litter, waste management, dumping of untreated toxic and or radioactive material into public drains, obstruction to drainage systems, etc. Hence, this law instructs that all residents are now statutorily required to keep their premises and surrounding environment, forty-five (45) metres from all public sidewalks of a street, clean and devoid of litter and waste. A breach of this provision attracts serious penalties amongst which are; sealing of the subject premises, fines and terms of imprisonment.
I intentionally omitted effects of littering because I know they are obvious- sickness which may lead to death and all manner of diseases, not to talk of loss of integrity of the designated littered area and its inhabitants. The laws regarding enforcement of environmental sanitation are insufficient or perhaps, it is the enforcement techniques that make environmental sanitation non-sustainable. Theodore Roosevelt said “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” So, since we have to work with what we have, here are three workable factors recommended in an article published in the African Research Review; improvement in the level of civic education especially among urban dwellers (garbology education), change in public attitude-behaviour starting from the household level, and strict enforcement of laws against littering.
Action points: STOP LITTERING! KEEP NIGERIA CLEAN!
I sincerely hope this read has been value for your time. If so, kindly leave a comment below. Thank you.
Post by: Kitan Kola-Adefemi
For: MindtheGap Legal Team