Environment: Harmonised Bill Gives Excessive Powers To Commissioner, Say Lagos Lawmakers

By Yemi Adeleye

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Lagos –   Lawmakers in Lagos say the Environmental Management and Protection Bill, 2017 before them seeks to concentrate too much power in the hands of the state Commissioner for the Environment.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the state lawmakers cut short their seven-week recess on Monday to consider the bill, which seeks to harmonise all laws of different environmental agencies in the state.

The bill is entitled, “A Bill for a Law to Provide for the Management, Protection and Sustainable Development of the Environment in Lagos State and for other Connected Purposes.”

Lawmakers, after the bill was read for the first and second to time on the floor of the House, took turns to discuss the merits and demerits of the 251-section executive bill.

Mr Rotimi Olowo, the Chairman, House Committee on Budget and Economic Planning, noted that the intention of the bill was good, but it gave too much power to the commissioner.

“The power to borrow that is put in the hands of the commissioner can be abused; it should be subjected to the approval of the House.

“The bill, though, seeks to ensure that the state has a sustainable environment. Our environment is very important to our existence. It is good and we should allow it to go to the committee stage,” he said.

Mr Segun Olulade, the Chairman, House Committee of Health Services, also said that the bill sought to concentrate powers in the hands of the commissioner.

He said that local governments should be involved in the area of enforcement.

“It (bill) is good on paper, but we should look at the implementation. The Trust Funds should include key stakeholders. Great power is given to the commissioner,” he said.

The Deputy Majority Leader, Mr Muyiwa Jimoh said the bill had many benefits, but contained so many inconsistencies and conflicts with federal laws.

“The power of the commissioner is too much, compressing about eight laws of the state into one will make him more powerful.”

Mr Bisi Yusuf, the Chairman, House Committee on Public Accounts (Local), spoke in the same vein.

“This bill makes the commissioner to be higher than all the institutions under him.

“The commissioner has the power to hire and fire,” he said.

In his remark, the Speaker of the House, Mr Mudashiru Obasa said: “The bill is not new; the intendment is to have a written law. The executive wants to bring every environmental law together under a single umbrella.

“But the bill gives enormous power to the commissioner; in fact, giving him powers to oversee about seven agencies reduces the powers of these agencies. It will be too cumbersome for the commissioner.

“Meanwhile, the composition of the Trust Fund is not acceptable. If the stakeholders that are supposed to bring in investment are not involved in the board, it will defeat the purpose.

“I agree it is to keep our environment safe and healthy, create business and revenue, but if the shortcomings are not well addressed, there will be problems.”

The speaker said the House had a duty to make the environment safe and conducive for the residents.

On the non-involvement of local governments, Obasa said that when the council failed, the state had no option than to take the responsibility.

Earlier in his address, the Chairman, House Committee on the Environment, Dayo Saka-Fafunmi told the House that the Bill should be given accelerated passage because of its importance.

Saka-Fafunmi, who however, noted that there were areas that would be addressed at the committee stage, said the bill sought to create an Environment Sanitation Tribunal for resolution of disputes.

“The bill seeks to harmonise all the existing laws on the environment. It will create jobs for our people. It also seeks to have Environmental Sanitation Corps as well as Environmental Trust Fund.

“It is a law long overdue, having lot of advantages; the only disadvantage I can see is that of the over concentration of power to the Ministry of the Environment,” he said.

The harmonised laws include Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA) Law; the Lagos State Environmental Sanitation Law; the Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) Law; and the Lagos State Signage and Advertisement Agency (LASAA) Law, among others.

The House has slated a public hearing on the bill for Thursday.

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