REMARKS BY RT. HON. YAKUBU DOGARA AT THE OPENING CEREMONY OF THE NATIONAL STAKEHOLDERS SUMMIT ON LEGISLATIVE FRAMEWORK FOR ENVIRONMENTAL LAW AND POLICY
REMARKS BY RT. HON. YAKUBU DOGARA, SPEAKER, HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, AT THE OPENING CEREMONY OF THE NATIONAL STAKEHOLDERS SUMMIT ON LEGISLATIVE FRAMEWORK FOR ENVIRONMENTAL LAW AND POLICY HELD ON THE 3RD OCTOBER, 2017 AT THE INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE CENTRE, ABUJA, NIGERIA.
It is indeed a great honour and privilege to be with you this morning and to welcome very distinguished dignitaries and participants to this opening ceremony of the National Stakeholders Summit on Legislative Framework for Environmental Law and Policy. The programme of activities for this three day summit midwifed by the House of Representatives Committee on Environment and Habitat, is expected to provoke robust debate and frank exchange of ideas as well as provide a platform for the formation of deliberate partnerships and collaborations among arms of government as well as strategic stakeholders on issues of Environmental law and policy.
2. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, since this Summit is basically on Legislative Framework for Environmental Law and Policy, it becomes necessary to determine from the onset the status of the current legislative framework for the Environment in Nigeria, and in particular who has legislative authority to deal with environmental matters. Is the position very clear or should the legal framework be made clearer? I believe this is one of the main questions this Summit should provide an answer to.
3. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, (CFRN) as the grundnorm and the fulcrum of the existing legal order, recognizes the crucial importance of improving and protecting the environment and provides in Chapter 2, S.20 thereof dealing with the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy that “The State shall protect and improve the environment and safeguard the water, air and land, forest and wild life of Nigeria”. Section 12 of the CFRN establishes, though impliedly, that international treaties (including environmental treaties) ratified by the National Assembly should be implemented as law in all States and Local Governments in Nigeria.
4. “Environment” has been defined by “Collins’ English Dictionary (1985 Edition) and judicially recognized as “external conditions or surroundings especially those in which people live or work: the external surroundings in which a plant or animal lives which tend to influence its development and behaviour”.
5. There are many laws dealing with the Environment deemed to have been passed by the National Assembly which were existing laws made under military regimes in Nigeria.
A synopsis of some of the laws and regulations on the environment in Nigeria, include:
The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999); National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) Act;Environmental Impact Assessment Act; The Land Use Act; Harmful Waste (Special Criminal Provisions) Act; Hydrocarbon Oil Refineries Act; Associated Gas re-injection Act; The Endangered Species Act; Sea Fisheries Act; Exclusive Economic Zone Act; Oil Pipelines Act; Petroleum Act; Petroleum Products and Distribution (Management Board) Act; Territorial Waters Act; Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection Act; Nigerian Mining Corporation Act; Quarantine Act; River Basins Development Authority Act; Pest Control of Production (special powers) Act; Agricultural (Control of Importation) Act; Animal Diseases (control) Act; Bees (Impact Control and Management) Act; Civil Aviation Act; Factories Act; Water Resources Act; Hides and Skins Act; Federal National Park Act; Niger-Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Act, etc
6. Over the years, some of these extant legislations have become obsolete due to emergence of new international conventions and treaties coupled with advances in science and technology, among other reasons.
7. The location of legislative authority to deal with different aspects of our environment is not very clear, in spite of S.20 of the Constitution. Even the Supreme Court of Nigeria battled with these matters in the celebrated case of Attorney-General of Lagos State v. Attorney-General of the Federation & 35 Ors. In this case, Lagos State Attorney General, as he then was, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, challenged the constitutionality of the Federal Government relying on the Nigerian Urban and Regional Planning Act 1992 (NURPA) (formerly Decree No 88 of 1992) to interfere with and make incursions into the arrangement of the Lagos State Government in town and country planning matters, notwithstanding Lagos State’s Town and Country Planning Laws. Each of the 7 Justices of the Supreme Court gave different reasons and often confusing basis in support of their positions. I have provided the relevant quotes for those who intend to further interrogate this subject matter.
UWAIS, JSC said: “It is clear then that the power of the National Assembly to legislate in respect of Chapter II, and in particular under Section 20 of the Constitution, is both Concurrent and Exclusive, in the context of this case; but I prefer, with respect, to hold that it is concurrent in view of the definition of the word “State” in Section 318 of the Constitution… as such both the National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly can legislate on “safeguarding land” under Section 20 of the Constitution.”
UWAIFO, JSC said: “Section 20 of the 1999 Constitution is meant to support such laws as the Federal Environment Protection Agency Act, Cap. 131, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990, the Harmful Wastes (Special Criminal Provisions) Act, Cap. 165, the Environmental Impact Assessment Decree No.86 of 1992, the National Environmental Protection (Pollution Abatement in Industries and Facilities Generating Wastes) Regulations, 1991 Etc. These laws and regulations are more in tune with Section 20 of the 1999 Constitution (and indeed show that that section is meant only for that purpose) than the said section bear on physical town and regional planning” .
KALGO, JSC had an entirely different view, as he said: “Although S. 20 of the 1999 Constitution gives the National Assembly the legislative jurisdiction on environment generally, it did not give it the power to legislate on planning and development control over land in the States or Local Governments and this cannot in the circumstances of this case be implied. It is not the function of the National Assembly under the 1999 Constitution to exercise any legislative powers of planning and development control of land in the jurisdiction of the States or Local Governments as this is not necessarily incidental or ancillary to effective legislation under S. 20 and Item 60(a) of the E.L.L (Exclusive Legislative List) of the said Constitution…Also the word “State” in Section 20 does not mean Federal Government alone but according to S.13 applies to “all organs of government and all authorities and persons exercising legislative, executive or judicial powers,” and makes no distinction between Federal, State or Local Government as component parts of the Federation. See also S. 318(2) of the 1999 Constitution of the definition of “State.” …By my judgment, planning and development control of land is a residual matter within the legislative competence of the State Assemblies.”
For ONU, JSC “Since town and regional planning is not in the Exclusive and Concurrent Lists, it is clearly a residual matter for the States…In the same manner, town and regional planning as far as the Federal Capital Territory is concerned is a residual matter for the National Assembly by virtue of Sections 4(4)(b) and 299 of the 1999 Constitution: ..It follows that Decree No.88 of 1992 which remains an existing law will, where appropriate, be an Act applicable in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja; and similarly, mutatis mutandis, it will be a law in the different States of Nigeria.”
8. The position of the Supreme Court Justices demonstrates the apparent confusion and uncertainty in the interpretation of the existing legal framework. It is as a result that the leadership of the Constitution Review Committees of the National Assembly, listed “ Environment” separately as an item in the Concurrent List in the just concluded voting on Constitutional alteration which did not garner the required 2/3 majority votes of each Chamber of the National Assembly.
9. The goal of a sound environmental law and policy in environmental governance is sustainable development. Sustainable development lacks precise definition. Its original conceptualisation is defined in ‘Our Common Future’ (otherwise known as the Brundtland Report) as “…development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. This is why environmental sustainability has remained an enduring theme in the mandate of the House Committee on Environment and Habitat. Since the administration of the environment is governed by laws, it is therefore important to review extant legislations to meet up with the emerging environmental trends. The urgency of these reforms stems from the fact that environmental laws are put in place to mitigate or prevent the threatening environmental challenges associated with human activities in the quest for economic growth and development.
10. The Nigerian Environment currently presents the picture of a threatened heritage. Unfortunately, in our bid to improve quality of life we deplete the natural support systems through by-passing natural process and defying sustainable development practices. Environmental change is expected to increase the likelihood and impact of extreme weather variability while the parallel and paradox of climate change continue to exacerbate the plight of many local communities. Significantly, Climate-related disasters have increased displacement and vulnerability of exposed populations. It’s like these disasters convey a brutal message to those who believe climate change is a hoax that they can only continue to ignore environmental issues at unremitting peril. Some of the emerging national environmental concerns include depletion of biodiversity and illegal trade in wildlife. This fast growing habitat alteration and illegal trade in wildlife products is eroding Earth’s precious biodiversity, robbing mankind of our natural heritage and driving important species to the brink of extinction. It only stands to reason, that this National Summit should proffer practicable policy and legislative solutions to this menace.
11. The leadership of the National Assembly is very conscious of the grave threats posed by such issues as global warming, climate change, ocean surge, drought/desertification, oil spillage and general environmental pollution, erosion, waste management and gas flaring, degradation of agricultural lands, soil loss, erosions, landslides, bush burning, unwarranted and uncontrolled grazing, and deforestation etc. We should therefore design new rules to help Nigeria’s transition to a Green economy.
12. The issues of human, economic and social progress are inseparable from the protection of the physical environment. Therefore, limiting the issues to one or the other is not the way to go. This is because the environment does not exist as a separate sphere from human actions, ambitions and needs. Every human development has an environmental cost.
13. I am certain that this National Summit considering the array of intellectuals, practitioners, participants and stakeholders will certainly provide a well thought out framework and policy options and initiate a proactive, innovative and inventive reform of the Legislative framework on environmental issues in Nigeria. I expect also that the deliberations of this summit will enhance the quality of any Bill that will in due course be considered by the House.
14. On this note, permit me to thank all of you for being part of this process and to wish us successful deliberations. Let me also specifically, commend my colleagues in the Committee on Environment and Habitat and the organisers of this Summit for taking the pains to put this together for the purpose of ensuring a seamless transformation of the sector for environmental sustainability, protection, management and governance.
15. May God bless you all and bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.