BETTER LATE THAN NEVER: NIGERIA RESPONDS TO PLASTIC POLLUTION CHALLENGES AS HOUSE OF REPS. PASSES BILL

By KUNLE JOB.

One of the major environmental challenges facing the world today is Plastic Pollution, which informed the decision of the United Nations to adopt “Beating Plastic Pollution’ as the theme for the 2018 celebration of the ‘World Environment Day’.

Millions of people in many countries of the world, took part in registered activities to highlight this pressing issue, proffer solutions and take action.

Nigeria, the world’s most populated black nation, was caught napping as many African countries had swung into action to ban plastic bags, some since 2017.

It was therefore a welcome development when on Tuesday, the 21st of May 2019, the House of Representatives Committee on the Environment and Habitat made a much anticipated decision on Plastic Pollution that led the House to pass a bill to prohibit the use, manufacture and importation of plastic bags. The bill, sponsored by Hon. Sergious Ogun, is to be sent to the Senate for concurrence.

It is for an Act to amongst other things prohibit the use, manufacture and importation of all plastic bags used for commercial and household packaging.  The plastic bags are expected to be replaced by paper bags. The punishment laid out is N500,000 for an Individual, or a jail Term not exceeding 3 years or both and a fine of N5million for companies found guilty of breaking the law.

The bill, when it becomes law will no doubt hurt the poor. Poverty in Nigeria over the years, has led to what Tunji Andrews of Nigeria Info 99.3Fm, coined as the ‘Sachetization of the economy.’ A situation, whereby companies, who produce consumable items, had to reduce their products into sachets, with low prices the masses can afford. This has led to the need for the use of more polythene bags otherwise known as Nylon, sachets, plastic bottles and others. So, implementation will be another kettle of fish.

To carry the citizens along, Government will need to embark on a massive sensitization and public enlightenment campaign for them to understand. This will prevent misconceptions that could be exploited by politicians.

The proposed legislation is expected to sail through as Nigeria has signed, and in some cases ratified bilateral agreements, which deal directly or indirectly with environment matters. When the bill becomes law, Nigeria will be behind Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda and other African countries who have already taken action in phases.

Anyway you look at it, we are taking a step towards restituting for our sins against the Almighty God for destroying the environment bestowed on us.

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