The National Assembly and the Federal Ministry of Environment are putting the finishing touches to a bill meant to prohibit the production of plastics, which pollute the environment. A member of the Senate Committee on Marine Transport, Senator Tolulope Odebiyi, disclosed this in Lagos at the launch of the Maritime Action Plan for Marine Litter and Plastics Management in Nigeria. Odebiyi, the drafter of the proposed bill, who represented the chairman of the committee, Senator Danjuma Goje, said the bill would be harmonised with input from the Federal Ministry of Environment to make a holistic law that would impose tough sanctions on the production of organic polymers.
Odebiyi stressed that the National Assembly was solidly behind the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) in the presentation and implementation of the action plan, which envisions the elimination of land-based sources of marine litter within five years.
Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Environment, Hon Johnson Oghuma, also stressed the lower chamber’s commitment to a cleaner environment. Oghuma said the House was always prepared to assist the executive in the implementation of government policies.
The Director-General of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, lamented that Nigeria was among the 20 countries generating more than 80 per cent of the land-based plastic wastes that end up in the oceans. Dakuku said the event was organised to raise public awareness about the deleterious effects of marine pollution and chart a national roadmap on solution to the menace.
“I am happy NIMASA has taken the lead in ensuring that our waterways and all our water bodies are clean, safe, and a vital source of economic activity for us in this country,” Odebiyi stated.
He added, “I drafted a bill with regard to plastic pollution and proliferation of plastics in the country. The issue is getting to an alarming state.
“NIMASA has taken the lead. But this is the backend of it. We also have to look at the frontend. We are spending billions of naira tiding up the environment; we also have people making billions of naira contributing to this menace. That is where the bill is aiming. You cannot continue to generate pollution, clog our waterways, cause erosion, flooding and all kinds of things, and some people are making money, knowing fully well that their product is contributing to the pollution.”
The senator also said, “The Senate is very much interested in this issue. We see the environment as a vital economic resource for us in this country. We will be working with NIMASA, Federal Ministry of Environment, and all the other agencies.”
The House Committee on Environment chairman spoke in a similar vein. “We are ready, and by the grace of God, I represent the Speaker in the Committee on Environment. Every legislation on the environment is jealously guarded by the committee. I urge everybody, wherever you are, behave like NIMASA, help us to save our environment,” Oghuma stated.
Dakuku prefaced his welcome address with two grisly true-life stories that underscored the dangers of marine litter and the need for urgent action. He then stated, “We all know that solutions to this global challenge are multiple and require consideration of a systematic approach to the various sources generating the pollution, both land- and sea-based contributors, and a combination of intervention in different sectors and at different levels.”
He said the action plan was aimed at setting a national roadmap for tackling pollutions, especially from shipping related activities; identifying specific actions that need to be taken by different parties to eliminate marine litter and plastics; strengthening stakeholder collaborations in tackling marine litter and plastics pollution; and establishing a template for monitoring progress in the fight against marine litter and plastics pollution.
Other objectives of the action plan, according to Dakuku, are to operationalise and complement the IMO Action Plan on Marine Litter from Ships; and enhance the enforcement of existing laws, conventions and regulations, including MARPOL-Annex V, London Convention and its Protocol, and the Nigerian Merchant Shipping Act 2007.
Dakuku listed actions already taken by NIMASA, which has the responsibility of ensuring clean seas and oceans in Nigeria, to include engagement of Marine Litter Marshals across coastal communities and littoral areas as a pilot scheme to clean up identified Marine Litter Hotspots. Marine litter sensitisation campaigns have also been carried out in several littoral communities, he stated.
In her own remarks, the Minister of State for Environment, Mrs. Sharon Ikeazor, sued for synergy among relevant government agencies and the private sector in the fight against environmental pollution. Ikeazor, said the ministry would establish more recycling plants for the collection of plastics and other litter that would be cleared from the oceans.
“You have started right with sensitisation of our people on what to do with plastics. The Ministry of Environment will definitely support NIMASA. We will take this further and put it together to be a national action plan,” she stated.
The highpoint of the event was the unveiling of the Maritime Action Plan for Marine Litter and Plastics Management in Nigeria by the representative of the Minister of State for Transportation, Senator Gbemi Saraki, Dr. Paul Adalikwu.
Other dignitaries at the launch included the chairman, House Committee on Maritime Safety, Education and Administration, Hon. Lynda Ikpeazu; Sokoto State Commissioner for Environment, Attahiru Bafarawa; and Yobe State Commissioner for Environment, Hon. Sidi Yakubu; Executive Director, Marine and Operations, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Dr. Sokonte Davies; and representatives of private sector organisations, including VSF, an environment company, and Food and Beverage Recycling Alliance (FBRA).