Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja

On the day the world celebrated 2018 World Environment Day, Nigeria says it has developed a national strategy for the phasing out of non-bio degradable plastics in the country.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo disclosed this while speaking at an event to mark the 2018 World Environment Day at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

According to him, the Ministry of Environment is collaborating with critical stakeholders, in this regard.

He added that the ministry was also working in partnership with the state governments to develop a national plastic waste recycling programme involving the establishment of recycling plants across Nigeria.

Osinbajo, said that eight of the plastic waste recycling plants have been completed and handed over to the states, while 18 others were in various stages of completion.

“In addition, the Federal Government is also collaborating with the state governments to establish plastic waste recycling plants under the community-based waste management programme in the ministry,” he said.

The Vice President said that two plants have been completed in Ilorin, Kwara State; one in Lokoja, Kogi State; while work was ongoing on another in Karu Local Government Area of Nassarawa State, all in North Central Nigeria.

Osinbajo said that there were two privately-run plastic recycling plants in Gombe and Kano States that work for the recycling of plastic.

He said questions have been raised about limited options for cheap packaging of food and drinks, especially where consumers are relatively poor; micro marketing methods of fast moving consumer goods in sachets; and the retailing of detergents also in sachets.

Vice President Osinbajo challenged multi-national corporations that produce fast-moving goods in plastics to take action towards managing plastic wastes.

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“It is my view that for controlling the proliferation of plastic sachets, we must go back to the major producers of fast-moving goods to put in place recycling programmes that could effectively ensure that while we seek environmentally-friendly options for packaging, we are keeping the environment as free of plastics as possible,” he said.

The Vice President  said that Nigeria expects multi-nationals like Coca Cola, which has committed to collecting and recycling the equivalent of all drink containers it ships every, including  110 billion plastic bottles; and Unilever and Procter and Gamble, which have begun recycled plastics; would make and fulfill the same pledges in Nigeria.

He also called on the multinationals to partner with governments at the states and local governments “to ensure that we maintain the critical balance between economic growth and a safe and livable environment.”

“Nigeria is in a good place to lead Africa and indeed the world in beating plastic pollution,” Osinbajo said, pointing out that “there are a good number of effective initiatives that we are considering as we develop policies.”

Speaking at the event, President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, represented by Senator Victor Umeh, said the Senate would continue to support the Ministry of Environment “by providing robust laws that would ensure healthy and sustainable environment.”

Chairman House Committee in Environment, Obinna Chidioka, representing speaker House of Representatives, said most countries have outlawed the use of plastics bags and urged the federal government to step up action in this direction.

Earlier the Minister of State for Environment, Ibrahim Jibrin, said the ministry has done quite a lot in the area of pollution and waste management.

He said the ministry has formulated and articulated policy targets and regulatory benchmarks that end at reducing plastic pollutions in Nigeria.

He also gave update on the clean-up of Ogoniland inaugurated two years ago, he said that advertisement was done in April and  more than 400 contractors indicated interest in the remediation exercise, 16 of them foreigners.

He said out of this number, about 140 have been pre-qualified and are the ones that will be invited to submit their financial duty, adding that the process will continue in the whole of June and July and by August, the winner will be named.