Business is booming.

One year after, we expect more from the Ministry of Environment

If there’s still a Nigerian home or abroad that needs convincing that our economy is in shambles, then such a person probably has been on Mars all this while. Only a person who hates Nigeria or suffers from a kind of self-delusion will say everything is fine with the current state of our nation. The inflation rate is reading a fat double-digit, making everyday goods and services more expensive for people. The unemployment level is not going down and many Nigerians are struggling to find stable jobs. Fluctuating global oil prices is also not helping our oil-dependent economy.

Across the board, progress is slow, and many Nigerians are in perpetual hardship. When things are in the current state it is, people are only focused on the three basic human needs – food, clothing, and shelter. Many would disagree with this, citing that food is already a challenge for many Nigerian families. I quite agree, recent data from BudgIt indicated that food inflation has moved from 22.41% to 33.695 in one year. Let’s not get carried away. I have not written this week to analyse the economic situation of our beloved country; there is already enough of that on the internet.

On Wednesday, this new administration led by Bola Tinubu clocked one year in office, but there is still so much ground to cover, especially in the environment sector headed by the Honourable Minister of Environment, Mallam Babarabe Abbas Lawal. We have not seen any indication in these past 365 days that the Nigerian Ministry of Environment is a priority or any nationwide effort to tackle the myriad of environmental challenges facing Nigeria.

First, it doesn’t look like environmental matters are at the heart of this administration, but I am happy to be proven wrong. In the approved 2024 budget, the Ministry of Environment isn’t even a key sector for the federal government. Sectors that relate to the ministry that appeared on the budget, for instance, health, agriculture, and solid minerals, received low allocation. While the minister can only make use of the lean resources at his disposal, we are yet to see any sign of serious work.

There are many areas the Ministry of Environment and the honourable minister must focus on, at least for the next three years of his tenure. I will mention a few of the environmental problems facing Nigeria that haven’t received visible attention in the last year. In terms of attention, I don’t mean participation in conferences, seminars and workshops but thorough groundwork to fight these environmental menaces headlong. As I write this, the first that comes to mind is open defecation, a pressing issue in Nigeria that is posing significant challenges to public health, environmental sustainability, and socio-economic development.

In October 2019, Nigeria surpassed India to become the number one open-defecation nation globally, indicating the urgent need for action to improve sanitation infrastructure and promote proper hygiene practices nationwide. Despite concerted efforts by previous governments and various stakeholders, millions of Nigerians still lack access to safe toilet facilities, perpetuating the cycle of poor sanitation and hygiene practices. This alarming statistic reflects the pervasive nature of the problem and the daunting task we must address towards achieving universal access to safe sanitation.

As of November 2023, a staggering 48 million Nigerians continue to practice open defecation, solidifying our grip on the first position among nations with this harmful practice. Former Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, might have declared a state of emergency in the Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) sector in 2018, but we must do more than that in the next three years.

In addition, we have not seen enough attention from the federal government towards the growing problem of plastic pollution in Nigeria. We generate around 2.5 million tonnes of plastic waste annually. Lagos State alone sees plastic comprising 15% of its total waste. As Nigeria’s population is projected to reach 401 million by 2050, plastic production, including from the new Dangote Refinery, is likely to exacerbate the issue. We are amid severe plastic waste pollution, affecting cities, waterways, and rural areas, and we must get to work.

This unique kind of pollution poses environmental and health hazards, disrupting agriculture, harming aquatic life, and exacerbating air pollution and respiratory illnesses, particularly in marginalized communities near dumpsites. Aside from the efforts some states are making in this regard, we’d like to see more proactive action from the top in the coming years.

Worth mentioning is the issue of water scarcity. Although this may not directly be under the remit of the ministry, it is interrelated with the work of at least four departments in the Ministry of Environment. Nigeria is blessed with abundant water resources, including rivers, lakes, and aquifers.

However, uneven distribution, pollution, and inadequate infrastructure contribute to water scarcity in many parts of the country. According to the United Nations, over 60 million Nigerians lack access to clean water, with rural communities disproportionately affected. In urban areas, rapid population growth and inadequate water management exacerbate the problem, leading to unreliable water supply and waterborne diseases. The challenges of water scarcity in Nigeria are manifold but I have helped the ministry summarise them into three areas – infrastructure deficiency, pollution, and climate change.

About forests, we have made some progress in this regard but there is still more to be done. Nigeria’s forests are under increasing pressure from deforestation, illegal logging, agricultural expansion, and infrastructure development, despite their ecological and socio-economic significance.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Nigeria lost approximately 2.8 million hectares of forest between 1990 and 2020, representing a significant decline in forest cover. Deforestation rates have been particularly high in the southern regions of Nigeria, where agricultural expansion, logging, and urbanization have encroached upon forested areas. In the coming years, more attention should be given to forest conservation and the integration of sustainable land use practices into national development agendas.

Looking back at last year, Nigeria’s current administration has not prioritized the environment. With a budget that neglects key environmental sectors and limited visible action on vital issues. It would be a very long list if I attempted to list all that needs rejuvenation in our environmental sector. From the elephant in the room – climate change to the slow death of national parks and zoos in Nigeria, illegal mining activities, desertification, wetlands, biodiversity, and sustainable energy to mention a few. Addressing environmental issues in Nigeria requires urgent attention and sustained effort.

The new administration, led by Bola Tinubu, must prioritise the environment to combat problems such as open defecation, plastic pollution, water scarcity, and deforestation. Millions of Nigerians still lack basic sanitation, clean water, and sustainable waste management. The Honourable Minister of Environment, Mallam Babarabe Abbas Lawal, should utilise available resources to implement comprehensive policies and actions. Effective collaboration, increased funding, and a commitment to sustainability are crucial. By focusing on these areas, the government can improve public health, protect natural resources, and create a more sustainable future for Nigeria.

Olamide is a communications professional currently based in London, United Kingdom. He can be reached across social media platforms @olamidefrancis and via


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