International Treaties

Sustainable Development

Environmental Law

Case Studies


Environmental Crime Legal Framework in Nigeria

The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria includes “Fundamental Objectives and Directives Principles of State Policy'' provisions on the protection of the environment. Article 20 reads: “The State shall protect and improve the environment and safeguard the water, air and land, forest and wildlife of Nigeria''. However, these provisions are made unjusticiable by competing provisions in the Constitution that oust the jurisdiction of the court, impacting the enforceability of the provisions of chapter two.

Featured Legislation

1990: The Gas Re-Injection Act (Cap.12 L.F.N) was passed. The Act brings an end to the wasteful and destructive flaring of gas by compelling oil companies to develop schemes for utilization or re-injection of all gas produced in association with oil.

1990: The Land Use Act (Cap. 350) was created, providing measures for making land easily available for development and agricultural purposes, primarily by vesting land in a State Governor.

1990: The Mineral Act (Cap. 286) was signed. The legislation regulates non-oil mining of minerals and prohibits: mining operators from cutting or taking protected trees without consent; pollution of water course, unauthorized exploitation of water, water bodies, sacred areas, and other objects of veneration.

1991: The ​​National Environmental Protection (Protection Abatement in Industries and Facilities Generating Waste) Regulations (S49) were introduced, banning the unauthorized handling of toxic waste, discharge of effluent, industrial solid waste etc., in drains, water bodies, municipal landfill etc. The legislation also requires industries to install pollution monitoring devices with a view to making regular reports.

1992: The Environmental Impact Assessment Decree No.85 was adopted. The Decree requires proponents of development projects to assess the impact of such projects on the environment, designing mitigation measures as may be necessary and to refrain from executing such projects unless FEPA is satisfied that such impacts are negligible.

1992: Decree No. 23 was approved. The Act established the Oil Mineral Producing Area Development Commission to use sums received from the government to implement reporting mechanisms.

1997: The ​​Criminal Code Act (Cap.77 L.F.N.) was amended, containing the basic criminal law offenses that relate to damage to the environment, public health and natural resources.

2004: The Environmental Impact Assessment Ac (Cap E12) was enacted. The legislation deals with the considerations of environmental impact in respect of public and private projects.

2004: The Harmful Waste (Special Criminal Provisions Act Cap H1) was signed. The Act makes it an offense to carry, deposit, dump, or be in possession for the purpose of carrying, depositing or dumping any harmful waste anywhere in Nigeria, inland waters and sea, including the Exclusive Economic Zones of Nigeria (E.E.Z).

2004: The Niger Delta Development Commission Act (Cap. N68.) was brought into force, facilitating the rapid, even and sustainable development of the Niger Delta into a region that is economically prosperous, socially stable, ecologically regenerative and politically peaceful.

2015: National Biosafety Management Agency Act. This Act establishes the National Biosafety Management Agency as a body corporate. The Agency shall be the national authority on biosafety in Nigeria charged with the responsibility for providing regulatory framework institutional and administrative mechanism for safety measures in the application of modern biotechnology in Nigeria with the view to preventing any adverse effect on human health, animals, plants and environment. The Agency shall also provide measures for the case-by-case assessment of genetically modified organisms and management of risk in order to ensure safety in the use of genetically modified organisms to human health and the environment and ensure that the use of the genetically modified organisms does not have adverse impact on socio-economic and cultural interests either at the community or national level. The Act also provides for the establishment of a Board of the Agency.

2016: National Policy on the Environment. The goal of the National Policy on the Environment is to ‘ensure environmental protection and the conservation of natural resources for sustainable development’. Its strategic objective is to coordinate environmental protection and natural resources conservation for sustainable development. This goal will be achieved by the following strategic objectives: securing a quality environment for good health and well being; promoting sustainable use of natural resources and the maintenance of the biological diversity; promoting an understanding of the essential linkages between the environment, social and economic development issues; encouraging individual and community participation in environmental improvement; raising public awareness and engendering a national culture of environmental preservation; and building partnership among all stakeholders on environmental matters ensuring that gender is mainstreamed at all levels and times.

Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

  • The Nigerian Navy and other security operatives have ramped up efforts to ensure that stolen crude oil does not leave the shores of the country. Operating under the tutelage of the current Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo, the navy has waged a battle against oil theft, resulting in oil thieves having to explore new methods of illegally exporting this resource out of the country. The navy has reported that oil thieves have resorted to establishing artisanal refineries (Kpofire) to remain afloat. Kpofire is the process of hitting crude at makeshift locations called bunkering sites or dumpsites by illegal oil operatives. Naval operatives have been following the uptick in Kpofire, patrolling all areas to ensure that vessels that export stolen crude out of the country cannot re-enter. The navy’s maritime strategies have helped guide the deployment of the Falcon Eye system – a cluster of monitoring activities that detect oil theft, piracy and other crimes in the maritime environment. Falcon Eye serves as a force multiplier for naval platforms tasked with securing Nigeria’s maritime environment from external aggression, using state-of-the-art surveillance facilities that incorporate various sensors located along the nation’s  coastline – radars, long-range electro-optic systems with thermal or night vision capability, automatic identification system receivers, and high frequency radios for communication, to name a few. In the past five years, the navy has arrested over 500 ships involved in crude oil theft, but residents want more enforcement efforts on the ground: artisanal refineries cause soot pollution and some communities have been enveloped with black dust as a result of clandestine oil operations. Local councils, mostly Port Harcourt, Obio/Akpor, Ikwere, Emohua, Eleme, Ogubolo, Oyigbo, Okrika and Ogba/Egbema, have borne the brunt of illegal Kpofire. Twenty-seven deaths have been recorded at an illegal refining site in Rumuekpe community in Emohua in October 2021, prompting harsher punishment for those operating Kpofire sites.

References and Further Reading


Federal Ministry of Environment: