Stakeholders in the environment sector in the North-East have called on the Federal Government to formulate a national policy on waste management.
Speaking with News Agency of Nigeria in Bauchi, Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Gombe and neighbouring Jigawa, they said such policy, if domesticated by states, would enable the harnessing of the abundant wastes littering the nooks and crannies of the country.
According to them, apart from keeping the environment clean, the wastes when taken off the streets can serve as sources of revenue by being recycled or converted to organic fertiliser.
Ahmed Dallari, the Director, Inspection, Enforcement and Compliance of Bauchi State Environmental Protection Agency (BASEPA) believed that formulation of the policy was long over-due.
“For now, there is no waste management policy even at the Federal level, not to talk of the states, but a process of initiating same has commenced.
“Last year, we were in Abuja to work on a draft of the National Solid Waste Management policy.
“The draft was brought to us for vetting, which we did, but up till today, the clean copy of the draft is yet to see the light of the day,” the director stated.
He said that because of the long-span period of degradation, disused plastics and polythene bags posed serious threat to the environment.
“Polymer products generally have serious and disastrous effect, especially on the land, because they do not degrade easily.
“They take many years and if not handled well, can take a hundred or thousand years without degrading, unlike those components of the waste that are degrading over the years,” he said.
Dallari said that though his agency faced challenges in the past, it had been doing its best in evacuation of waste.
According to him, they have plans to collaborate with all those interested in recycling some of these wastes.
“Already, a stakeholders meeting had been summoned and we are working on how to find a lasting solution to the problem of proper waste disposal and management.
“Influx of internally-displaced persons from neighbouring states had been tremendous because of the insecurity in those states and facilities are being over-stretched, resulting in huge generation of wastes,” he added.
The director said there were two waste recycling plants in the state, one is based in Azare and not functioning, while the one in Bauchi metropolis, which uses polythene bags as raw material, is functional.
Dallari also said that the agency was given the responsibility of registering waste managers and as a result, had registered many waste managers in the state.
He said the measure will reduce the burden of waste disposal on government, thereby ensuring the participation of the people.
Dallari told NAN that the agency had received a lot of requests from investors who were willing to harness the abandoned resources from the waste and turn them to either manure or recycle them for other uses.
He said the appropriate authorities were looking into those requests.
Borno Government, on its part, said it had established a plastic bag recycling plant to turn waste into treasure and enhance effective waste management.
Alhaji Nasiru Surundi, Sole Administrator of Borno State Environmental Protection Agency (BOSEPA), said the 10 tonnes capacity plant was designed to recycle polythene, plastics and solid wastes, into bigger cellophane leather.
He said the agency had engaged youth volunteers to collect cellophane and wastes littering the environment, adding that the government was providing a token of money to motivate the volunteers.
Surundi attributed the indiscriminate disposal of waste plastic bags to lack of laws in the country that would regulate the use of such wastes.
“We cannot deny that plastic bags are necessary in our daily life, and we cannot also deny that most of us did not find a suitable way to dispose those bags when they lose their function.
“Today, waste plastic bags are posing a great challenge, not just in Borno alone, but in the entire country, due to lack of proper waste management policies in states and the country at large,” he noted.
He said that the agency had reached an agreement with a company in the United State to supply a plant that produced disposable paper bags to replace polythene plastics in the state.
He also lamented that activities of insurgents in the state was discouraging some stakeholders and waste managers from contributing their quota to proper waste management.
The sole administrator, therefore, urged government to design some policies that would promote active participation of people in the community for effective environmental management.
“People should be advised to protect their environment and defaulters should be charged to pay fine for littering their environment.
“We cannot be cleaning your environment, clearing your culvert and fumigating your homes for the mess you deliberately created all the time,” he said.
Whereas in most states, there are environmental and waste management boards, however, stakeholders in Adamawa are lamenting the absence of same in the state.
Some of them, who spoke with NAN said the absence of such board was responsible for the poor attitude to waste management in the state.
They explained that there was a bill for a law to establish the board before the last assembly but could not be passed due to lack of time, hence the need for the present assembly to restart the process again and pass it.
Mohammed Ibrahim, an environmentalist, said the board became necessary to develop policy guidelines for efficient and sustainable waste management in the state.
In his contribution, Mr Dimas Yohanna, a resident of Yola, said that with the way waste management was being handled in the state, the board was needed to make a change.
There should be penalties for everyone from tenant to landlord that contravenes environmental law.
Yohanna explained that the law setting up the board, which is expected to have area offices in all the 21 local government areas of Adamawa, specified who would be responsible for cleaning up culverts around a building and the penalty for not doing that.
“If we have the board as proposed by the law before the Assembly; I can assure you that all the problem of recycling, using waste for power generation and other issues regarding waste disposal, will be addressed,” Yohanna said.
Also speaking on waste management, Alhaji Inusa Yerima, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of a Yola-based waste management firm, Rubix Logistics Ltd, said effective waste management would help in boosting power generation in Nigeria.
Yerima said that waste had the potentials to generate electricity, thereby complementing other sources of power generation in the country.
He then suggested that the Federal Government should formulate a national policy on waste management, through National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA), and then impress it on states to domesticate such policies.
“Refuse collection is not enough to be seen as effective waste management; it is just one of the component units of it; there is more to it as the process can yield wealth through waste recycling methodology,” he added.
Similarly, Mr Timothy Samuel, Managing Director, Tunaf Cleaners Ltd in Yola, decried poor waste management practice in Adamawa and other parts of the country.
Samuel said that all major components of modern waste management were alien in the state.
He noted that such components like water treatment plant, dumpsites, waste recycling plants were not in place.
He observed that the Adamawa State Ministry of Environment was only carrying out environmental sanitation within the metropolis.
Malam Baba Kachallah, General Manager, Yobe Environmental Sanitation Agency, said about 1,000 casual labourers employed for daily sanitation of Damaturu, the state capital, had reduced the negative impact of disused plastics and polythene materials.
Kachallah said the state and local governments had been responsible for regulation, management and disposal of wastes in the urban and rural communities in the state.
“The reinforcement of laws against indiscriminate disposal of waste in drains and undesignated areas had assisted in effective waste disposal in the state.
“We have a multi-purpose waste recycling plant; there are also plans to introduce the waste-to-wealth programme when the multi-purpose recycling plant goes operational,” the manager said.
Meanwhile, Dr Danladi Umar, an Associate Professor of Fresh Water Ecology said Nigeria has a lot of natural resources to produce degradable package or bags that can be used by traders, instead of polythene bags.
Umar, who is the Head of Biology Department, Gombe State University, told NAN that some natural options like Baoba trees, which had good source of fiber, Grass and Raffia trees, among others could come handy and useful.
He said used plastics could also be recycled to reproduce another bottle out of it, thereby serving as source of revenue for the government.
Malam Nasiru Abubakar-Bonu, Director Environment, Ministry of Environment, Gombe state, said there was a recycling plant constructed by the Federal Government, in collaboration with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the state, but had not started operating.
He said civil work of the recycling plant was completed and installation of machines had started but some parts of the building were destroyed by rainstorm.
In Jigawa, the Managing Director of Jigawa State Environmental Protection Agency (JISEPA), Alhaji Umaru Ahmadu said that the agency had over 3,000 personnel in the state capital and 27 local government areas, working to keep the environments clean.
He said the state had no recycling plant for waste products but plans were in the pipelines by the state government to ensure the conversion of organic waste to fertiliser.