Text of the Media Briefing by The Director General of NESREA Prof. Aliu Jauro
The National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) is the foremost environmental enforcement Agency of the Federal Government of Nigeria saddled with the responsibility of enforcing all environmental laws, guidelines, policies, standards and regulations in Nigeria; prohibiting processes and the use of equipment or technology that undermine environmental quality; and also enforcing compliance with provisions of all International Environmental Agreements, Protocols, Conventions and Treaties to which Nigeria is signatory.
This is the mandate that Nigerians have given the Agency and which we are working tirelessly to carry out without fear or favour. It is in line with this mandate that I have invited you here this morning.
Recently, the Agency has been inundated with several complaints on the resurgence of the activities of artisanal miners in the area raising fears of degradation of the environment, destruction of farmlands and contamination of water sources especially the Osun River. It is important to note that such mining activities are not new in the area because Osun State sits on a schist belt that is richly endowed with mineral resources like gold, tourmaline, tantalite, topaz and other gemstones and which attracts the artisanal miners.
The Osun River is situated in Osun State and is a very important river in the South Western part of the country. Apart from the fact that it is a key source of water for humans, plants and animals within the area, this river is of interest internationally because it passes through the Osun Osogbo Sacred Groove which is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Indeed, the Osun River is reputed for its cultural, religious and economic significance.
In 2012, NESREA carried out sensitization workshops for artisanal miners drawn from different parts of the state, which was held in Ilesha, Osun State. The miners were enlightened on the effects of their activities on human health and the environment, and were also encouraged to carry out their activities in more environmentally sound manner. After the workshop, a total of three hundred (300) full kits of personal protective equipment were distributed to the miners.
Following the recent reports, the Agency had intensified its compliance monitoring of the affected areas which revealed a large presence of Chinese miners, who with the aid of excavators and related equipment, mine and wash the minerals along or close to river courses. There was also high activity of artisanal miners who scavenge surface minerals at abandoned mine pits and wash them in nearby rivers, most of which flow into the Osun river. The river has become more turbid with reddish colouration from the disturbance of mining and washing into the river. This is worrisome since the cultural practices at the Osun Grove require contact with the water in the form drinking, bathing and people also use the water daily in their homes.
A full-fledged investigation has been launched and officers from the Headquarters and the South West Zonal Office have been in Osun State, collecting water and soil samples which have been taken for laboratory analysis to determine the level of pollution of these activities which will inform our enforcement decisions so as to protect the life of Nigerians affected by these activities.
At the conclusion of the investigation, the provisions of the National Environmental (Mining and Processing of coal, ores and industrial minerals) Regulations, 2009 and other environmental instruments will be invoked against those involved in unsustainable mining practices in the state. This will definitely mean that perpetrators will have their facilities sealed and they would also be charged to court for environmental violation.
NESREA is on a mission to protect the environment in line with its mandate and no environmental offender will be spared. Just last week, the Agency embarked on an enforcement drive which led to the sealing of Thirty-Nine (39) facilities in different parts of the country for failing to comply with extant environmental laws.
The facilities had been given notices of compliance concerns in line with legal provisions but failed to abate their infractions against the environment. These facilities will be penalized for their offences and some will be prosecuted in courts of competent jurisdiction. The enforcement is an ongoing exercise and I assure Nigerians that no erring facility will be spared.
The Agency is indeed strengthening its enforcement infrastructure by building the capacity of its workforce and reviewing the National Environmental Regulations to make them more deterrent and also incorporate emerging environmental issues.
A few weeks from now, the Agency will host its Annual Federal/ State Regulatory Dialogue, which brings together environmental policy makers at both the State and Federal Levels, as well captains of industries and the academia to discuss the National Environmental Regulations and ensure that roles are well delineated for ease of operationalization.
The main objectives of the 2022 National Regulatory Dialogue are to fill in identified gaps in some select National Environmental Regulations, delineate roles and responsibilities among stakeholders, and incorporate operationalization of Eco-Guard into the National Environmental (Permitting and Licensing System) Regulations.
The Regulations slated for review are:
a. The National Environmental (Electrical/ Electronic Sector) Regulations, 2011
b. The National Environmental (Sanitation and Waste Control) Regulations, 2009
c. The National Environmental (Permitting and Licensing System) Regulations, 2009
d. The National Environmental (Domestic and Industrial Plastics, Rubber and Foam Sector) Regulations, 2011
e. The National Environmental (Food, Beverages and Tobacco Sector) Regulations, 2009
f. The National Environmental (Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides) Regulations, 2011
There are emerging environmental issues and interventions that have come up since some of these National Environmental Regulations were developed. Take for instance, Circular Economy, an environmental protection model being championed globally and which Nigeria is implementing under the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Programme. Some of our regulations predate the EPR, hence the need to review and incorporate it. The review of the regulations will also address the lapses that have been noted in the course of implementation.
Two regulations developed by the Agency were recently gazette and are set for operationalization. They are:
a. National Environmental (Health Care Waste Control) Control Regulations 2021
b. National Environmental (Polychlorinated Biphenyl) Regulations 2021
Permit me to once again reiterate that as citizens we have very important roles to play in protecting the environment and the Agency continually educates Nigerians on their roles and responsibilities.
Gentlemen of the press, you are our partners and the effort you put in in educating Nigerians about the environment is well appreciated. As field journalists, we also count on you to bring information that we can work with as we all join hands to ensure a cleaner and healthier environment for all Nigerians.
Thank you for your kind attention.