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SACRIFICING OUR ENVIRONMENT FOR THE LAW!: BURNING OF CONFISCATED ITEMS BY JTF, NAFDAC, NDLEA AND NIGERIAN CUSTOMS
BY: OSOSE EIDENOJE ESQ. .  
 Published  July 29th, 2012

It is now common practice for officers of the JTF(Joint Task Force), NAFDAC(National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control), NDLEA( National Drug Law Enforcement Agency) and Nigerian Customs to set fire to items confiscated on suspicion of having been obtained through pipeline vandalisation/bunkering, uncertified/substandard production, prohibited trafficking or smuggling. Probably, for the sake of transparency, the burning of those items is done in pubic, with wide media coverage. Many regard the officers involved as gallant patriots (which they ordinarily are), in view of their seeming resolve to “follow orders” in ensuring that the Law is obeyed. However, it behoves of the enlightened mind to attempt a critical analysis of the situation.  

Indiscriminate burning of diesel and petrol, which constitute much of the items seized from suspected oil thieves, releases carbon gases into the atmosphere, causing Environmental Pollution. Smoke from burning pharmaceutical and other complex chemicals which are the active ingredients in suspected substandard products seized by NAFDAC and psychotropic materials like Indian hemp or Marijuana, impounded by NDLEA, tyres, electronics, poultry and other goods seized by Nigerian Customs, releases hazardous substances into the Nigerian Atmosphere. Scientific Research shows that CFC’s (Chlorofluorocarbons), Carbon-IV-oxide, lead and other Green-House Gases that make up those hazardous substances are responsible for the depletion of the Earth’s Ozone Layer. The results, which are not farfetched, include irregular rainfall patterns, flooding, heat waves, devastating increasing weather temperatures, pandemics, acid rain. Nigeria has received its fair share of those Environmental Hazards in recent times.

Spokesperson for the JTF was heard on National TV stressing that they have received express order from relevant authority to promptly burn illegal refinery plants, vehicles, drums,, barges and other items suspected to have  been used by oil thieves. In other words, government has indirectly ordered this “official onslaught” on the Nigerian Environment. This, with the greatest respect, is unconstitutional and unreasonable, against the background of modern trends in both the international arena and scientific development.

Section 20 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, (as amended)   , admonishes the government to protect the country’s Environment. Similar obligation exists under several international documents to which Nigeria is a signatory like the African Charter 1979, Vienna Convention 1985, Montreal Protocol 1987 and Kyoto Protocol 1997. Indiscriminate burning of confiscated items obviously contravenes the provisions of the Constitution, International Law and Nigerian Environmental Laws e.g. NESREA Act and Guidelines. Besides, the validity of any purported order as above given to the JTF and others is in question, because under section 1(3) of the Constitution, any Law which is contrary to the provisions of the Constitution is void (assuming such order was Law). The big question therefore is SHOULD WE SACRIFICE OUR ENVIRONMENT AT THE ALTER OF ENFORCEMENT OF LAW AND ORDER? The ready answer is No, because, our existence, both as individuals and as a nation, depends on the Sustenance of our Environment.

Proper methods for disposing of confiscated items abound. It must be noted that confiscated items or goods do not automatically become waste. “Waste”, according to Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary is “something that is not or no longer useful and is to be thrown away or disposed of”. Confiscated diesel and petrol should be tested by appropriate authority and if found okay, used by the government or auctioned to members of the public, while money realized is credited into public account. This will also discourage scampering for such fuel by residents of areas close to seized illegal refineries and fuel laden trucks, especially as memories of Jesse fire incident and similar incidents are still fresh. Seized poultry certified fit for human consumption and used clothing or tyres likewise certified could be auctioned or used for charity. Unfit poultry and Indian hemp should be sterilized and used for making organic or Compost manure. Seized vehicles should be auctioned or converted to use by the government. This will stop the growing size of dumpsites where seized vehicles and other items are burnt by the JTF and others in the prosecution of the war against oil theft, smuggling and drug trafficking. Whatever cannot be disposed of in the methods described above, becomes waste, items like chemicals and non-degradable plastics, should be incinerated. Incineration is a controlled burning process used in advanced countries like the UK and Germany. Metallic wastes can be recycled to improve our local steel industry.

Meanwhile, government should send a bill to the National Assembly for the enactment of a law to provide for the proper procedure for disposing of confiscated goods , incorporating the foregoing suggestions and other Best Available Practices. The call is hereby made for Environmental Interest Groups, NGO’s and other public-spirited individuals to intensify efforts aimed at ensuring that the Sustenance of our Environment is not sacrificed on that alter of enforcement of Law and Order. Let us not forget that NO ENVIRONMENT, NO LAW!

 

OSOSE EIDENOJE ESQ. is a lawyer, author, researcher, public speaker and a member of the Nigerian Bar Association, Benin branch. He can be reached on +234(0)8020351379; email: eidenoje2004@yahoo.com. And on twitter and face book, or at www.simeoneidenoje.blogspot.com


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