Law is a tool for positive change. In a recent United Nation’s worldwide assessment of environmental rule of law, the report shows that environmental laws have grown impressively globally over the years and people have come to appreciate the vital connections between the environment, economic growth, public health, social cohesion, security and business.
Consequently, irrespective of Nigeria as one of the largest members of OPEC and producer of Oil and also as a signatory to Paris Climate Agreement of 2015 signed by 176 countries; it cannot be an island on its own but must constantly update and review its laws in regulation and enforcement in respect of environmental law and business in Nigeria.
In business, companies make decision every day with environmental consequences even before discharge of waste products or emission of toxic or hydro carbon materials into the atmosphere or air. It is also noteworthy that the most pressing environmental problem of our time facing the entire world is issues of cumulative effects of Climate Change which the impact is being felt in the Environment and business in Nigeria today. For example, the desertification and encroachment of the desert in the Northern part of Nigeria, which has led to civil crisis between the commercial famers and herdsmen and also the high pollution of the environment through the production of fossil fuel in the southern part of the country which has led to pollution of environment, aquatic life and fishing business. More so, the high pollution rate by emission into the air and also discharge of toxic waste in industrial cities of Lagos, Kano and Port-Harcourt etc. All these activities have great effect on enterprise and business in Nigeria.
The statutory agency National Environmental Standards Regulation and Enforcement Agency (NESREA), is the regulatory and major federal body in charge of protecting Nigeria environment and also responsible for enforcing all environmental laws, regulations, guidelines and standards. These include enforcing environmental conventions, treaties and protocols to which Nigeria is a signatory.
Although, Nigeria being a developing country, the law is still evolving, however the enforcement of these environmental laws has changed the way some Nigerian companies do business. It is a fact that every day, many corporate bodies or enterprise deal with one or more environmental laws especially with the agencies that enforce the law.
It is now compulsory under some provisions of various environmental laws that a business owner or manufacturer must bring to the notice and educate their staffs or employees about dangerous materials in their work place as stipulated in several section of the Nigeria Environmental laws. Also, the communities and immediate environment where they operate, must be adequately protected from pollution or hazardous production materials or waste product in respect of health of the local communities.
The business owner must comply with all health and environmental regulations that may cause damage or alter the bio-life of the communities. Now, companies are being required to clean up or pay for clean-up of environmental contamination caused by either their past acts or practices, example of this is the cleanup of Ogonis’ Land and Communities in Rivers State, Nigeria by the companies operating in the communities due to heavy pollution of the environment.
It is now legally advisable for business Lawyers and Corporate Law firm in Nigeria to adequately guide and advise their clients operating in any Business District or Industrial Area to be conversant with the problem and regulations stipulated by the environmental laws, the content of the laws and the administrative agencies of Government through which the environmental laws are enforced on business and companies in Nigeria.
Nigerian environmental laws deal with plethora of pollution problems on everyday life. Pollution could be within the building or walls of industrial zones like factories and other business facilities or outside it.
Furthermore, environmental laws deal with pollution or contamination of air, land, groundwater, surface flowing water and even the water we drink everyday. Since multinational companies operates in several countries today, environmental law in relation to business enterprises goes beyond local and national concerns and issues, it is a global and international law which every forward-thinking businessman must take cognizance of for smooth running of his business without running afoul of the law at the location the company is domiciled.
Compliance with laws and legal advice of the company lawyers or external commercial solicitors will help and save the company from heavy legal liabilities or personal injury claims of the employee, the communities and the regulatory agencies penalties for failing to comply with the law and regulations.
The regular claims of negligence, personal injury, and tort claims of strict liability, trespass, nuisance, vicarious liability and exemplary damages usually sued upon by the Claimant lawyers or attorneys will surely be avoided.
Nigeria regulatory approach through National Environmental Standards Regulation and Enforcement Agency and law are proactive ways of dealing with projected environmental issues with specialized set of laws pass by the Nigerian Law Makers.
Therefore, the National Assembly must enact laws quickly and amend laws that cover protection of the proprietary interest of business and companies; also include in the law workers and communities in planning processes, environmental lawyer’s initiative, expert or technical assistance. They must also do an in-depth research to assist the business facilities and funding of such programs, the law makers can also enact laws for enforcement and penalties for non-compliance by the business owners and companies.
The aim of every business owner or company is to continue to grow within Nigeria and even outside the country, however a good company with intention to grow and expand business must conform to the environmental law of the local community or state of operation of business.
Since there is only one planet to live, taking into cognizance the environment and compliance to environmental laws and regulations of geographic location of a business environment should greatly impact our daily conduct and operation of everyday business in Nigeria.
Therefore, the current environmental law must be updated and reviewed by the newly inaugurated National Assembly. It has become imperative that the business sub-sector of Nigerian economy, the government, employees, environmentalists, stakeholders and environmental lawyers in Nigeria must collaborate to find economically strong mechanism of cutting down the volume of toxic materials and substances released to our environment without jeopardizing business and economic growth of Nigeria as a developing country.
ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS AND REGULATORY BODIES FOR LOCAL AND FOREIGN INVESTORS IN NIGERIA
BAM & GAD SOLICITORS