Poor solid waste management seems to have defied solutions introduced by several administrations in Nigeria. With the country’s growing population and poor waste management habits of the populace, solid waste management has posed a threat to the environment and health of several people.
Indiscriminate dumping of refuse by Nigerians has led to increasing illegal dumpsites while refuse heaps have become a common sight in popular urban centres across the country.
The attitude of the people in disposing waste is discouraging, as it is now considered normal for entire communities to either dump refuse along streets and drainages or engage in open burning practice.
An environmental expert, Dr Chukwukelo Chukwogo, had said Nigeria is currently generating 24 million tonnes of waste annually at refuse dumpsites across the country.
He said the nation’s poor waste management culture had been having some adverse effects on the environment, while exposing the citizens to serious health challenges.
“Indiscriminate dumping of waste in Nigeria has increased the generation of greenhouse gasses, such as carbon dioxide, and this is partly caused by rapid urbanisation and poor waste management in the country,” he said. The menace of poor solid waste management and sanitation as well as other environmental pollution issues including oil spill in Nigeria were, therefore, among the concerns observed at the last National Council of Environment by stakeholders.
The stakeholders agreed that the issue should be tackled if the country is to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) regarding the environment.
It is in line with this that the federal and state governments, private sector and relevant stakeholders expressed the need for greater attention to be paid to the campaign and idea of turning waste into wealth through an Integrated Waste Management System.
But several administrations have only paid lip service to having a functional waste management plant despite that being in line with global best practices.
In spite of these challenges, the Deputy Director, Solid Waste Management and Technology at the Federal Ministry of Environment, Oladipo Jide, said constitutionally, it was the states and local governments that should be responsible for the management of municipal wastes. He said the Federal Government in 2005 decided to come up with an intervention plan after it discovered that there was huge deposit of waste across the country at unauthorised places.
The ministry, according to him, designed a framework to work with both the states and local governments to get rid of the waste and to provide a lasting solution to the problem.
“We came up with an idea that what will work for the country is an Integrated Waste Management System, in the sense that when you move a waste to a location prepared for that, there you have many components ranging from waste recycling plants, biometrical waste incinerator and landfill, material recovery facilities, all these are so that at the end, nothing comes out from there again,” he said.
He said a few states were identified to pilot test the scheme with one plant each constructed in Oyo, Aba, Ibadan, Kano and Onitsha with an agreement entered into with the states and investors on a public private partnership arrangement. He said a tripartite agreement was signed and each party has role to play.
While noting that IWM is capital intensive and the government had provided N250 million to the pilot states to kick start the project, Jide added that it, however could boast of only one in Oyo State that is somewhat functional. Oladipo Jide said government is now developing an idea called Community Based Solid Waste Management.
“We want communities to participate in the process of managing their wastes, when you know that you can generate wealth from waste you cannot throw it anywhere, we are trying to sensitise them on that,” he said. The experts generally hold that though the actualisation of a proper waste management system could be capital intensive, it is a venture worth investing in for the benefit of the environment, job and wealth creation.
An environmental activist and waste management expert, Emmanuel Unaegbu, told Daily Trust that waste management in Nigeria is the most pressing environmental challenge especially in urban areas, adding that with the country’s exponential population growth and general changing consumption patterns, waste management will continue to be of grave concern.
He said, “Conservative estimates indicate that over 40,000 tonnes of waste is generated across the 36 states and the FCT daily. Only about 20 to 30 per cent of this waste is collected. The remainder ends up in drainage systems causing flooding along streets and defacing cities.”
According to him, beside Lagos that operates some form of waste recycling, no other state has a waste recycling system, adding that based on the waste hierarchy, Nigeria uses the least preferred waste management option: disposal in open dumpsites that are often set on fire. As the country lags behind in integrated waste management, there is need to adopt the global best practice according to Unaegbu, who suggested that the most appropriate method of managing waste that cannot be prevented is recycling and that since not all waste can be recycled, the next appropriate method is energy recovery.
This involves producing electricity and heat from waste. This method of waste management is gaining global acceptance due to environmental policies that are driving the closure of landfill sites. He said, “Educated analysis shows that Nigeria has the potential to generate over 26,700kwh of electricity per year. With an average of 3,600Kwh per year electricity consumption in Nigeria, this amount of electricity will serve 7.4 million homes.”
The Executive Director of Conservative Environmental Growth and Development Centre (CEGDEC), Maryam Olayeni, also stated that there is no homogeneous state of waste management across the country.
She however said the best practice is the promotion of waste reduction, reuse and recycle principle.