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Saturday, December 2, 2023

North-Central stakeholders want stringent punishment for environmental pollution offenders

Stakeholders in parts of the North-Central and Taraba have decried the lingering environmental pollution in the zone while calling for stringent punishment for offenders so as to check the menace.

Dondo Ahire
Benue State Commissioner for Water Resources and Environment, Dondo Ahire

The respondents, in a survey, blamed the situation largely on open defecation, as well as indiscriminate bush burning and dumping of refuse.

In Jos, Plateau State, an organisation, Society for Water and Sanitation, decried the practice of open defecation in the state, and the absence of a law criminalising it.

The Programme Officer of the organisation, Mr Jephthah Daleng, said the absence of the law was hampering the fight against the menace.

According to Daleng, unlike in other states, Plateau has not constituted the State Council on Sanitation.

He said that the state only had a Task Group on Sanitation which had no powers to sanction anyone caught defecating in the open.

“The only thing being done most especially by the civil society organisations (CSOs) is advocacy and sensitisation of the general public to have a behavioural change on open defecation,” Daleng said.

He said that advocacy by CSOs has yielded some positive results, but there is much work to be done particularly in rural communities.

Daleng called on the state government to enact a law criminalising open defecation to curb the menace and ensure a healthy society for its citizens.

He also called on government institutions to be more proactive in sensitising the people on the dangers of open defecation and poor sanitation.

On indiscriminate burning of bush or waste at undesignated places, Daleng called on the government to ensure total enforcement of the law prohibiting such unwholesome act so as to save the environment.

Mr Gabriel Bako, General Manager, Plateau State Environmental Sanitation and Protection Agency (PEPSA), said government would soon start prosecuting residents who erected buildings without toilet facilities.

Bako said open defecation was a menace that must be addressed, hence the state government, through its relevant agencies such as PEPSA, would work to achieve the objective.

He said that plans were on to construct toilets at public places such as markets, abattoirs, schools and offices.

Bako said the state had an environmental law in place, but lamented that its enforcement had been the challenge.

“We have environmental laws in place, what we need to do more in 2021 is enforcement.

“The authorities saddled with the responsibility of enforcement are developing strategies, as the level of compliance is abysmally low.

“We have intention of reviewing the laws to meet current realities but at the moment we will use the old ones,” the general manager said.

Similarly, the Benue State Government had decried the continuous dumping of waste on footpaths, median strips and other unauthorised places by residents of Makurdi, the state capital.

The Commissioner for Water Resources and Environment, Dondo Ahire, said the habit was posing severe health hazards to the people.

Ahire, an engineer, lamented that, in spite of several warnings by government, the residents had continued to dump waste indiscriminately.

He said that most of them were continuously flouting environmental laws and degrading the environment by frequently dumping waste on streets, footpaths, and median strips.

Ahire said that government would continue to apprehend and sanction those found guilty.

On gas flaring, the commissioner said there were no incidents of gas flaring in the state, as the area had only few cases of industrial waste.

“We do not have flaring in the state because we are not producing gas here. It is just for domestic use. Even in industries there is very little use of industrial gas here,” he said.

Ahire said there were laws on pollution, adding that the Vehicle Inspection Officers were mandated to monitor and arrest those who refused to comply with the law.

Meanwhile, a cross section of respondents in Nasarawa State have commended the Federal Government for its decision to build a waste recycling plant in Lafia, the state capital.

The stakeholders expressed optimism that the plant would address the challenge of environmental pollution in the state.

One of them is the Commissioner of Environment and Natural resources, Mr Musa Ibrahim, who said establishing the plant at Angwan Rere in Lafia would immensely assist in mopping of waste for conversion to other products.

Ibrahim said the government was determined to create an enabling atmosphere for the building of the plant by the Federal Government.

He said the government had handed over the site of the waste recycling plant to the Federal Government and expressed optimism that very soon work would commence there.

“As soon as the waste recycling plant is ready for operation, waste from the streets would be mopped up to the site for recycling to other products,” Ibrahim said.

The commissioner also announced that government had adopted holistic measures to tackle environmental pollution.

He said part of it was the effort to end open defecation in line with the Federal Government’s policy against the practice.

Ibrahim said the government had been sensitising the people on the need for them to provide toilets in their houses.

He said that the government was also building public toilets to address the menace of open defecation in the state.

Mr Emmanuel Envoy, Chief Executive Officer, Beacon of Youth Initiative, a private organisation, also commended the Federal Government for its decision to establish the recycling plant in Lafia.

Envoy called on the private sector to invest in waste recycling to complement government’s efforts.

He said that the challenges associated with environmental pollution could not be handled by the government alone, hence the need for all hands to be on deck to tackle the problem.

On his part, Usman Umbugadu, Aren Akun, the traditional ruler of Akun Development Area, commended government for the initiative to mop up waste for the purpose of converting to useful products.

Umbugadu called on members of the public to support the government in order to ensure a clean and friendly environment.

Similarly, the Taraba State House of Assembly says it will review the state laws against bush burning to make them stringent, to check the tide of bush burning.

The Speaker of the assembly, Dr Joseph Kunini, said bush burning was adversely affecting the economy and the environment.

Kunini said indiscriminate bush burning had always caused environmental pollution through burning of some waste that required specific methods of disposal.

He said that the legislation against indiscriminate bush burning would come very soon.

On his part, Mr Angelo Bukuni, a cereal farmer at Ardo-Kola Local Government Area of the state, decried leaching and loss of nutrients of the soil caused by indiscriminate bush burning in the area.

Bukuni urged the state government to ban indiscriminate bush burning, saying the practice was negatively affecting food production.

Mr James Audu, an environment expert, called on the state government to domesticate the National Environmental Regulation 2011 Law (control of vehicular emissions from petrol and diesel engines) in the state.

Audu, who is the Executive Director of Social and Environmental Rights Advocacy, a Jalingo-based civil organisation, said adoption of the vehicular emission test would check enormous pollution emanating from unworthy vehicles and other machines.

He said that the domestication of the law would provide punitive measures against violators, hence reducing environmental pollution to the minimum.

The expert also decried the rate of noise pollution emanating from sellers of CD plates in public areas as well as hawkers of traditional medicines, while urging the government to control it.

In Kogi State, the Provost, College of Health Sciences and Technology, Idah, Dr Nuhu Anyegwu, identified the major effects and hazards associated with bush burning as destruction of animals and precious economic trees.

Anyegwu further identified destruction of arboreal and terrestrial habitats of animals, as major effects.

”The effects also include influencing of climate change and destroying of harvested farm products by uncontrolled bush burning.

”The farmers often find it difficult to cope because they do not have resources with which to quench the fire,” he said.

Anyegwu said there were no tangible efforts put in place so far, to control toxic fumes in the air, from exhaust pipes of vehicles and motorcycles, hence the impact of climate change was becoming pronounced everyday.

According to him, these fumes are major green house gases such as carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide that cause climate change through destruction of the ozone layers.

Anyegwu, who is the former Deputy National President of the Environmental Health Officers Association of Nigeria, said that even in some states where the laws existed in Sanitation Boards or Environmental Protection Agencies, they were not being enforced.

”There are no efforts put in place at all to control noise pollution especially in our urban centers, and most noise produced at worship centres and by CD sellers are above 95 decibels, not good for health.

”Worst still, there is no environmental health instrument like noise sampling machines for environmental health officers to monitor noise production,” he said.

Contributing, Mr Tunde Adigun, the state director, National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) in Kogi, said that oil spillage could be caused through sabotage.

Adigun listed bunkering, carelessness of people, use of obsolete equipment, accident arising from vehicles and fuel tankers, among other causes.

He said there were laws to regulate oil spillage and other environmental pollution activities in the state.

Adigun said the effects and hazards of such oil spillage included air pollution, destruction of habitat and loss of biodiversity.

He said efforts made to control the problem included enactment of regulations, sensitisation of the public and procurement of equipment for monitoring.

On the health implications of pollution, the director said the menace could cause transmission of diseases and psychological effects, among others.

Adigun said that there were sanctions against open defecation and urination, and they included fines and community service by the offenders.

By Razak Owolabi

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