STAKEHOLDERS REVIEW WASTE MGT BILL, ADJUDGED TIMELY
Stakeholders in the Environmental sector have adjudged the bill to ‘Establish Akwa Ibom State Environmental Protection and Waste Management Agency and Other Matters Connected Therewith,’ as timely which will help to reposition the 21 years old Environmental Law.
This was the position of stakeholders during the public hearing organised by the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly through its Committee on Environment today.
Declaring the event opened, the Speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Aniekan Bassey said the processes to fine-tune the bill will further boost the image of the state as the cleanest in the national sphere when finally passed into law.
The Speaker who was represented by the Eket state lawmaker and Deputy Chief Whip of the House, Rt. Hon. David Lawrence, however hoped for informed inputs to have a comprehensive law at the end of the day to properly manage the environment of the state to be more friendly and greener.
According to the Chairman of the House Committee on Environment, Rt. Hon. Asuquo Archibong, “It is desirable, obligatory and non-negotiable. The excuse that the economy is in a bad state is absolutely unacceptable for refusing to keep to waste management global standards.
“We can no longer allow such excuses to becloud the objective of this bill. If we manage our waste properly, we will succeed to have a clean and friendly environment devoid of pollution, disease but safer for mankind.”
The Chairman who was represented by his Deputy and also the lead sponsor of the Bill, Rt. Hon. Mark Esset, said, the Bill which seeks to address key environmental issues in the state will in future harness positive impact on the citizenry.
In his contribution, the Commissioner for Environment, Sir Charles Udoh commended the cordial relationship between the Ministry and its relevant agencies in managing waste in the state which has accorded Akwa Ibom the cleanest in the nation for three consecutive years including last 2020.
He however intimated the audience of the executive laws underway for Environment and Petroleum respectively; which will further strengthen and improve laws in these sectors for the development of the state.
The Chairman of the Akwa Ibom State Environmental Protection and Waste Management Agency (AKSEPWMA), Prince Ikim in his address stressed the focus of the agency which is to ensure Akwa Ibom State has a safer and greener environment by ensuring there is a sustain enlightenment programme on waste disposal by residents and programmes fashion to promote a cleaner state.
“The present review of the agency’s law 2000 which is coming twenty -one years after it came to existence needs to stand the test of time in view of the industrialization of the state government through His Excellency’s sustained completion Agenda mantra and the coming on stream of the Ibaka Deep Seaport Project, Liberty Free Zone, etc.
“This therefore underscores the need to sustain and apply the pollutants pay principal (PPP) as applicable and enforceable in all international major environment conventions, protocols and entreaties to which Nigeria has fully subscribed to and by extension Akwa Ibom State.”
However, the State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Oku Essien Udom (SAN) represented by Mrs Ime Ekpo Esq said the bill should be put on hold to avoid duplicity as there are executive bills underway for environment and petroleum, respectively.
In reaction, the Speaker of the State Assembly and other stakeholders reminded the office of the State Attorney General of one of the core functions of the Legislature which is lawmaking and as an executive arm, executive laws can always be reviewed before passage by the State Assembly for synergy. Also, the House noted the need to strengthen the year 2000 extant law.
In his contribution, the Chairman of the Assembly Service Commission and former Legal Adviser of PDP, Barr. Godwill Umoh said the bill should not talk about pre or pro action court notice as it is not in tandem with the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He also noted that designations of magistrates over Sanitation Courts in LGAs; description of the qualification of Chairman and members of the board should be clearly spelt-out.
Dr. Uwemedimo Okon of Nigerian Conservation Foundation said the Agency should not be directly involve in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) rather it should be handled by an independent EIA consultant to report to a designated desk in the Agency as is the best global practice.
In her memorandum, Mrs Comfort Etuk of Environmental Society appreciated the sponsors of the bill for the timely work to repeal the obsolete law which does not meet up with the time. She however observed that powers should be separated from the Chairman to head only the Board while a member of the Board heads the Technical Committee.
Other stakeholders who gave their inputs towards the bill included; the Civil Liberty Organisation (CLO); Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ); Prof James Asuquo; Mr. Mfon Gabriel of Policy Alert and Dr. Ime Ukpe.
Other members present were; Rt. Hon. Uduak Odudoh – Ikot Abasi/Eastern Obolo; Hon. Mfon Idung – Etim Ekpo/Ika; Hon (Chief) Effiong Johnson – Mbo; Rt. Hon. Nse Essien, Dpty Chief Whip – Onna;
Hon. Kufreabasi Edidem – Itu; Hon. Udeme Otong – Abak and Hon. Charity Ido – Ukanafun.
It could be recalled that recently the bill passed through 1st and 2nd reading on the floor of the House and committed to the Committee on Environment for indepth legislative work.