Stories by Muktar Ibrahim
In line with its vision ‘to be the foremost Environmental Protection Agency in Nigeria and Africa’ the AEPB recently invited stakeholders to a two-day retreat to review its twenty-one-year-old AEPB Act 10 of 1997 and bring it up to speed with current realities and in line with global best practices.
The two-day retreat offered discussants an opportunity to bond and to share insights on trending issues in environmental sanitation, safety and prosecution. It comprised members of the Board of Directors, including the chairman, Dr Bawura Yahaya, Professor Garba Muhammed, Alhaji Baba Shehu Lawan the Director AEPB and his staff, as well as, Heads of Environment from the Area Councils, representatives from the Satellite Town Development Department, Parks and Recreation Dept, the Legal Secretariat, Public Health Department, among others.
In his welcome address, Alhaji Baba Shehu Lawan, Director, AEPB noted that the time for reviewing the AEPB Act 10 of 1997 was now bearing in mind the fact that the prevailing Act 10 was enacted twenty-one years ago when the penalty of Two Thousand Naira for anyone who contravenes environmental laws still had a deterrent powerbut in today’s world a person who converts a residential premises to say, a commercial place for sale of alcohol, food or brothel would gladly pay Five Thousand Naira penalty to a mobile court and go back to commit the same offence as his returns on the crime far outstrip the cost.
Lawan noted that there were a lot of inadequacies in the current Act which the two-day review of the act was expected to address.
‘For instance, when you arrest a hawker now, he will just go to the mobile court, pay Two Thousand Naira and leave, laughing, but in Lagos he will pay Fifty Thousand Naira or more’, he said.
He said that ‘Lagos State had updated their Act in 2017 while the 1997 AEPB Act is twenty-one years behind’ adding that it was ‘necessary that we invited all the stakeholders for this retreat, after that there will be legal drafting followed by public hearing and then to the National Assembly for passage’.
He lamented the fact that in the Master Plan, there are areas dedicated for particular purposes like conservation, or green areas but that these areas have been converted to physical development that impacts negatively on the environment in terms of climate change and deforestation. ‘You see, in the master plan of the city, one-fifth of the land is dedicated to green areas, now almost all the green areas are gone, they have been converted to physical development and that makes Abuja a concrete city. Water bodies need to be protected, illegal settlements or developments need to be abated’.
He said issues of physical development, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), Environmental Audit (EA) and other sundry nuisances will be addressed with a view of coming up with workable strategies to ensure environmental sanity and provide adequate sanctions to check environmental abuses.
Court quashes attempt to criminalise AEPB staff
An attempt to criminalise a staff of the Enforcement and Monitoring Department of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board, (AEPB), Isa Umar, while carrying out his official duties has failed at an Abuja High Court.
The Court, presided over by Justice M.B. Idris, had thrown away a two count charge of culpable Homicide and Stealing brought against the defendant.
The Police had on January 20, 2016, charged the AEPB Staff to Court for alleged Culpable Homicide not punishable by death for allegedly pushing one Mrs Mary James, who fell and hit her head against a stone resulting in her death at Wuse Zone 6, within Abuja Metropolis.
The Police in a second count also alleged that the defendant stole 100 crates of Coca Cola, two grinding machines and 15 plastic chairs belonging to the deceased.
The two offences were said to be punishable under sections 222 and 287 of the Penal Code Act, 2004.
But two Pathologists from the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Gwagwalada, Dr Muktar Abdulrahman Umar, Chief Consultant Pathologist and Dr Asuzu that performed the Post mortem examination and Autopsy, reported that there was no sign of fracture on the skull bones of the deceased and that the mere pushing of the deceased as alleged by the Police could not have been responsible for her death.
The report stated that a disease process called “Uncontrolled Systemic Hypertension and Cerebral Vascular Haemorrhage with Cerebral Oedema could have been responsible for the death of the deceased.
Consequently, the Judge, Justice M. B. Idris, of High Court 22, Nyanya Division, in his judgement discharged and acquitted the Defendant based on the Medical report by the Pathologists and on the ground that the Prosecutor failed to produce credible witnesses or tender credible documents.