Nigeria, located in West Africa, has a total land area of 983,213 square kilometres. Presently, its estimated population is over 150 million people (World Bank Population figures) yielding an average density of more than120persons per square kilometres. Industrial activities, in its modern forms, are relatively recent in the history of Nigeria’s economic development. During the pre-colonial period, Nigeria featured considerable craft industry as modern factory activity was then not known. With the advent of the Second World War and its aftermath, the economy of Nigeria changed tremendously and there were demands from Europe for industrial raw materials. With time, due to the low technological base, industrial development took on the assembly-type pattern of import substitution (Wikipedia, 2015). However, political self determination since 1960 did provide the opportunity for improving on its import substitution strategy as well as developing its potentials for real industrial take off through capital goods industry. Prior to the discovery of crude oil in Oloibiri, Rivers State in 1956,agriculture (before 1970) was the mainstay of the Nigerian economy. The oil boom witnessed in the 1970s led to a tremendous increase in industrial activities. With financial resources available from oil and no development policy, unguided urbanization and industrialization took place. As desirable and necessary as this development was, it became an albatross not of itself but because of the lack of appropriate environmental protection policies to guide it. The result was the indiscriminate siting of industries, deforestation and desertification, disregarding the need for environmental concern. The process technology of some of these industries often resulted in unacceptable levels of toxic and dangerous industrial wastes and effluent emissions. These culminated in the degradation of the environment and devastating ecological and human disasters.
As a result of these, the need to combine industrial development and environmental protection arose. Acts of legislation for environmental protection, known as environmental laws, were then enacted. However, the researcher is seeking to provide an highlights on the various issues of environmental pollution and the challenges encountered in establishing an effective environmental enforcement programme and the solutions proffered by the government in tackling these problems (Wikipedia, 2015).
Oil is the primary base of Nigeria’s economy and is also the cause of major environmental and social problems in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. Over the years, oil exploration, production, and refinement in Nigeria has resulted in various environmental and ecological problems that range from oil spills, gas flares, habitat destruction, air and water pollution, and land degradation. Also, a major cause of oil pollution in that same region is also to a great extent, from the activities of illegal oil bunkering and illegal refineries operated indigenes and some highly placed individuals in government. The chemical properties of spilled oil often affect the productiveness of soil and pollute water bodies, thereby causing irreparable damage to agricultural lands as well as aquatic bodies.
Gas flaring is a significant environmental and economic problem in and Nigeria emits approximately 70 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually (US EIA1999). This adversely affects the socio-economic actives of local communities, which is primarily based on fishing and farming (Egunjobi1993). It is estimated that in one region alone in the Niger Delta, flaring is statistically likely to cause 49 premature deaths, 5000 respiratory illnesses among children and some 120,000 asthma attacks and 8 additional causes of cancer each year (Environmental Rights Action and the Climate Justice Programme).
Another major environmental issue ravaging Nigeria is water pollution. According to Anukam (1997), the main source of water pollution in Nigeria has to do with forestry activities. Deforestation and improper soil tillage practices increase the concentration of soil particles that make their way into water bodies and in turn increases their sediment loads.. The discharge of industrial waste materials into bodies of water is another major source of pollution in Nigeria. Discharges from industries such as petroleum, mining, iron and steel, pharmaceuticals, and textiles among others have increased the contents of sulfates and nitrates in water bodies and has altered properties such as color and odor (Adelegan 2004). These metals and other chemical substance increase the toxicity of water bodies as well as soils. A large percentage of Nigerians derive most of their domestic and drinking water from ponds, stream, and shallow wells. Hence, water pollution is a major health concern that places the health of about 40 million people at risk of diseases such as cholera, dysentery, diarrhea, and typhoid (Anukam 1997, Adelegan 2004, Orubu 2006). Domestic and industrial waste has also constituted a major source of environmental pollution in Nigeria. The improper disposal and ineffective management of municipal solid waste and industrial waste creates major environmental and aesthetic problems in most of Nigeria’s urban areas. Due to overpopulation and the creation of slums, most municipal areas currently generate more waste than they can manage (Ogbonna and Ekweozor, 2002). This has led to the accumulation of waste heaps in “several areas, blocking motorways and making passage along alleys and pavements difficult” (Ajayi and Ikporokpo 2005). The most common method of waste disposal in Nigeria is waste transfer from one region to another and incineration. The first involves the transfer of waste from a region that is considered to have a higher aesthetic value to one that has a lower one. The waste incineration method of waste disposal often results in air pollution due to the release of gases such as carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen, halogenated carbons, and other particulate matter.
There is need for government to enact and implement necessary environmental laws to control the issues of environmental pollution and this can be done by putting necessary environmental pollution enforcement structures in place to curb the spate of environmental pollution in Nigeria.