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The fact that the environment belongs to everyone is not disputable. A proprietary right to use the environment exists in law. The earth that is the environment as defined by [1] includes water, air, and all plants and human beings or animals living therein and the interrelationship which exist among them. The environment provides the basic necessity for human existence. Genesis chapter 1 verse 26 provides direction to human kind to,” Multiply, replenish the earth and subdue it”. Thus, everything was placed at the disposal of humans according to creation story. The significance of this from the legal perspective is that it has given environmental proprietary rights to humans. In return, it logically demands that certain environmental responsibilities attach to these rights and should be protected by humans as the benefits are derived from the earth.

The rights to explore, discover, and utilize the environment and its resources necessarily imply that corresponding duties exist to protect, recover and conserve them. This is the ultimate aim of environmental law. Environmental law therefore, constitutes a special body of official, rules, decisions and actions concerning environmental quality, natural resources and ecological sustainability [2] . The problems of the environment have transcended national boundaries.  Governments all over the world, and especially in the developing nations, have made decisions between environmental concerns, economic growth, prosperity and technological advancement. This has caused several worldwide environmental problems. In Nigeria, since the 1960s and 1970s, (and even today), the oil and gas industry has been the source of the nation’s earnings, and has created environmental degradation. The industry has also helped in the advancement of the country since independence. Apart from the oil sector, rapid industrialization in developed and developing countries has increased hazardous wastes. These include heavy metals such as lead, cadmium and mercury along with toxic organic chemicals such as pesticides. There have incidents such as the Minamata incident in the 1960 in Japan, the Bhopal, India incident in 1984, the Chernobyl incident of 1986, the Forcados blow out and fire incident of 1980, and the Afam/Obigbo incident of 2005 in Rivers State. These environmental accidents have affected the land cover surface, ground water, air pollution in Nigeria and the world [3] .


All of these environmental issues triggered the concern all over the world on the need to save our environment. In Nigeria, legislative action on prohibiting water pollution dates to 1915.  On the international scene, as far back as 1941, an arbitration tribunal noted pollution due to in the Trail Smelter between Canada and the United States, which increased consciousness about the environment. The case of the Lake Lanoux Arbitration between France and Spain in 1957 served as an impetus to adopt through the International Law Association in 1966, the

Helsinki Rules on the use of International Rivers [4] .  All of these efforts were limited to specific forms of pollution. There was no global articulation of principles on environmental problems until the Stockholm Conference of June 1972. The Stockholm conference sponsored by

United Nations Conference  on  Environment and Development (UNCED)  could, therefore be said to be the first forum  where serious efforts were made by members of international community to create awareness of the dangers of environmental pollution worldwide. The Stockholm Declaration of 26 principles, while conceding to states “sovereign rights to exploit their own resources pursuant to their environmental policies”, emphasized the fact that states at the same time have a responsibility to ensure that, “activities within their jurisdiction or control does not cause damage to the environment of other states or areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction”. The United Nations

General Assembly Resolution 38/161 adopted in 1983, empowered the United Nations Secretary General to set up the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) and other committees, lead to the promulgation of regulations and laws in the different members’ states on the protection of the environment [5] . In Nigeria, the awareness became clear after the Koko incident where toxic waste was dumped by an Italian firm in Nigeria in 1988, and led   to the subsequent promulgation of [1] . Since then, the challenge has been to enforce these Federal Environmental Protection Laws and other Regulations in Nigeria. This is the focus of this research project.


1.1 Statement of the Research Problem

The task of effective enforcement of environmental protection laws in Nigeria begins with the understanding of the linkage between human activities and the dynamic activities within the ecosystem. If human activities clearly threaten to overwhelm the sustaining capacity of the natural system, as current data has shown, either nature must be technologically redesigned or human beings must alter the destructive effects of human activity through development of an effective legal framework [6] . Environmental law and legislation has become a universal tool for the management of the environment and associated natural resources.


The task of halting degradation and reversing pollution trends hinges on the enactment of enforcement policies, backed by appropriate legislation. In many states in Nigeria including the Rivers state, environmental legislation is a legacy of the colonial period. It is known that the colonial legal systems did not make adequate provisions for the conservation of forests and wildlife, and the protection of water and marine resources. The law did not regulate activities that could damage the health of the human environment [4] . Despite the fact that these laws were enacted during the colonial period, they went a long way in maintaining a good quality environment [7] . For example, during the colonial period, cleanliness in the rural and urban areas were in the hands of the sanitary inspectors.  The people feared them more than the local policemen, because of the fines that were levied for breaking the law. The scenario is completely different today. According to [6] , past efforts of the Nigerian state government in environmental protection (pre – and post-independence) were geared towards safety, or the protection and conservation of economically important natural resources. There were no laws covering industrial pollution and hazardous wastes. States and municipal government, such as Port Harcourt city in Rivers State provided tax and other concessions to establish industries in their states.  The citizens were uninformed, about the potential hazards and lived with the resultant pollution and hazardous wastes. Over time, heavy metal laden, effluents discharged into streams from textile factories in certain localities, including the creeks around the Port Harcourt Municipal local government [8] .


Industrial effluents and sludges were erroneously used to fertilize crops which were consumed in the kitchens and on the dining tables of our urban and rural populations. Fish and crabs caught from polluted rivers and lagoons were sold and eaten freely. Containers for chemicals and pesticides littered the surroundings in open dump sites. These were picked up by residents who used them to store their own food and water. This is the situation in most urban and rural areas in Nigeria, especially the cities and states of the Niger including Port Harcourt. There are relevant laws and regulations in both federal and State in Nigeria, but there are challenges. Enforcement is the process of compelling compliance with legal requirements available to the enforcement agencies [9] . However, it is an obvious fact despite the well-structured National Policy on Environment of 1989 and the Rivers State Blue print on sustainable environmental practices of 2004 and the penalties which they contain, poor enforcement still exists. Akanke (2005) identified problems in designing and applying appropriate sanctions as being a major issue that needs to be resolved.  The situation is further compounded by present day judicial attitudes to litigation arising from or in relation to the environment. The issue of ‘Locus Standi’ and public interest makes it difficult for the court to reform common laws is a major setback. [10] opines that despite the powers vested in the federal environmental agency to inspect, search, seize and arrest offenders, other factors such as lack of political will, is an impediment. Furthermore, [3] says that the core difficulty  in enforcing as regards the environmental laws in Nigeria is the lack of commitment  to effect sustainable changes for environmental protection. This research project examines the challenges and prospects of enforcement of environmental laws in Port Harcourt Rivers State.


1.2 Aim and Objectives of the Study

This research was designed to meet the following objectives:

  • Determine the socio-economic characteristics of the respondents in the study area.
  • Examine the various environmental laws or regulations in Port Harcourt Metropolis from 1995 to 2015.
  • Identify the agencies responsible for the enforcement of these laws in Port Harcourt Metropolis.
  • Determine the challenges and prospects of enforcing environmental laws in the Rivers State.
  • Examine the major factors that impede the enforcement of the environmental laws in Port Harcourt Metropolis.
  • Assess the perceptions of the residents of Port Harcourt on the enforcement of these laws.


1.3 Research Hypotheses

The following hypotheses were tested in this research

  • There is no significant difference in the perception of Port Harcourt residents of the role of environmental laws and regulations.
  • There is no significant variation in the effects of the factors influencing noncompliance to environmental laws in Port Harcourt Metropolis.




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