ENVIRONMENTAL ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES AND THEIR MECHANISMS
Environmental enforcement agencies are authorized agents established by law to ensure a cleaner and healthier environment for Nigerians. These enforcement agencies include; National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA), National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), National Water Resources Institute (NWRI), Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) National and State Environmental Protection Agency/Local Government Environmental Protection Agency and The Court.
In addition, Nigeria’s federal and state environmental protection legislation offers an excellent selection of enforcement methods. They include a permit, a license, a certificate, an inspection and searches, sealing and seizure, an arrest, recourse to courts for civil penalties for violations, injunctive relief to force compliance, criminal penalties for violations, and citizen lawsuits to enforce the laws in the absence of effective government enforcement.
INSPECTIONS AND SEARCHES:
The main purpose of the inspection is to ensure that the laws applicable to individuals, industries and companies are obeyed. This is one of the most important enforcement methodologies; it also helps to know who has violated environmental laws in order to be able to take legal actions against such persons.
Authorized officers are empowered to request for and examine any mandatory licence, permit, certificate or other document, as well as any appliance, device or other items used in relation to environmental protection. A clear instance is, under NESREA, an authorized officer may enter and search any land, building, vehicle, tent, vessel, floating craft, or other structure without a warrant if he has reason to believe that an offence against the decree or any regulations made thereunder has been committed.
SEALING AND SEIZURE:
This mechanism involves sealing up any area which will be used directly or indirectly for the purpose of depositing or dumping harmful waste and also authorized law enforcement agents under some statutes are empowered to seize any item or substance when there’s a reasonable suspicion that such substance will be used or is used in commission of crime.
This is the most common of all the enforcement measures. It is provided for in all states and local governments that deal with environmental protection. The authorized government agent is given the power to arrest any person whom he has a reason to believe has committed an offence under the said law.
This entails payment of damages or costs as a result of the violation of any of the environmental protection laws in Nigeria. Under NESREA47, where an owner or operator of any vessel or onshore or offshore facility responsible for the discharge of hazardous substance contrary to Section 20, in addition to the criminal penalty prescribed in that section he will be liable for:
1) the cost of removal of the hazardous substance as well as any cost incurred by the Government or its agencies in the restoration or replacement of natural resources damaged or destroyed as a result of the discharge; and
2) Costs of third parties in the form of reparation, restoration, restitution or compensation as may be determined by NESREA from time to time.