Nigeria is one of the most populous nations in Africa and is rich in crude oil, however, it has experienced its own share of environmental problems. Oil companies in their bid to explore and exploit oil have done more harm than good to the overall condition of the natural environment. This has resulted in need to regulate the activities of oil companies. One of such regulations brought about the promulgation of several laws like the Harmful Wastes (Special Criminal Provisions, etc.) Act, amongst others. This Act provides the legal framework for the effective control and management of the disposal of harmful waste into any environment within the confines of Nigeria. In view of this, this study therefore seeks to appraise the impact and effectiveness of this law in regulating the criminal prosecution of oil companies in default of waste management regulations/legislations in Nigeria.
1.1 Background to the Study
Over the last 50 years, Nigeria has witnessed serious environmental degradation occasioned by harmful waste from oil exploration and exploitation, refining, transportation and product marketing. Oil exploration activities have extended from the Niger Delta Basin to the Lake Chad Basin in the north-eastern part of the country and the south-east Niger Delta.
The Nigerian government has ordered oil companies operating in the country to comply with guidelines published by the DPR (Department of Petroleum Resources), the monitoring arm of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), or risk criminal prosecution. The 300-page guidelines provide rules to reduce environmental pollution, harmful waste and enforce procedures for environment monitoring. The DPR has also been tasked with conducting regular checks on overall environmental health and safety, with strict environment audits on the oil company’s activities.
This environmental pollution audit is the focus of the Harmful Waste (Special Criminal Provisions, etc.) Act, which takes an all-encompassing outlook on pollution caused by improper waste management. This includes all waste management activities whether it relates to those affecting the water, (including fresh water and marine), land (including the underground and the topsoil) or the air (i.e. everything above the ground). It also looks other health hazards as it relates to the environment, affecting all living creatures, terrestrial, aquatic and the birds of the air.
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