International Finance Commission Logo

ESRM Africa

Overview Environmental Legislation – Nigeria

The Nigerian economy is dominated by the extraction of petroleum, followed by agriculture as the closest industry by export volume. There are numerous environmental issues associated to both industries, including land degradation from traditional agricultural practices such as slash and burn, deforestation and erosion from land clearing, as well as pollution from manufacturing companies. 

Social issues include child labor, particularly in the agricultural sector; health and safety of workers; impacts on the health and safety of local communities and resultant social unrest and significant security challenges. In addition, the regulator’s capacity to fully enforce the local environmental and social (E&S) law is limited and risk management for Nigerian banks concerns adequate E&S management systems within a challenging regulatory environment.

An overview of key environmental and social legislation and coordinating bodies pertinent to financial institutions is summarised below. This is not an exhaustive list, but is relevant to the priority sectors and E&S risk factors. Please consult national websites for further information

Overview of E&S Laws and Regulations

Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria

The constitution, as the national legal order, recognizes the importance of improving and protecting the environment and makes provision for it.

Various liabilities are prescribed in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for various offences.

Section 20 makes it an objective of the Nigerian State to improve and protect the air, land, water, forest and wildlife of Nigeria.

Section 12 establishes, though impliedly, that international treaties (including environmental treaties) ratified by the National Assembly should be implemented as law in Nigeria.

Section 33 and 34 which guarantee fundamental human rights to life and human dignity respectively, have also being argued to be linked to the need for a healthy and safe environment to give these rights effect. (

National Environmental Standards And Regulation Enforcement Agency (NESREA) Act 2007

Administered by the Ministry of Environment, the National Environment Standards and Regulation Enforcement Agency (NESREA) Act of 2007 replaced the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA) Act. It is the embodiment of laws and regulations focused on the protection and sustainable development of the environment and its natural resources.

Section 27 prohibits, without lawful authority, the discharge of hazardous substances (solid, liquid or gas, as defined by the regulations) into the environment. This offence is punishable under this section, with a fine not exceeding, N1,000,000 (One Million Naira) and an imprisonment term of 5 years. In the case of a company, there is an additional fine of N50,000, for every day the offence persists.

Section 7 provides authority to ensure compliance with environmental laws, local and international, on environmental sanitation and pollution prevention and control through monitory and regulatory measures.

Section 8 (1)(K) empowers the Agency to make and review regulations on air and water quality, effluent limitations, control of harmful substances and other forms of environmental pollution and sanitation

National Effluent Limitation Regulations.

Section 1 (1) requires industry facilities to have anti-pollution equipment for the treatment of effluent.

Section 3 (2) requires a submission to the agency of a composition of the industry’s treated effluents.

National Environment Protection (Pollution Abatement in Industries and Facilities producing Waste) Regulations (1991). 

Section 1 Prohibits the release of hazardous substances into the air, land or water of Nigeria beyond approved limits set by the Agency.

Section 4 and 5 requires industries to report a discharge if it occurs and to submit a comprehensive list of chemicals used for production to the Agency.

Federal Solid and Hazardous Waste Management Regulations (1991). 

Section 1 makes it an obligation for industries to identify solid hazardous wastes which are dangerous to public health and the environment and to research into the possibility of their recycling.

Section 20 makes notification of any discharge to the Agency mandatory.

Section 108 stipulates penalties for contravening any regulation.

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Act.  Cap E12, LFN2004

An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is an assessment of the potential impacts whether positive or negative, of a proposed project on the natural environment

Any person who fails to comply with the provisions of this Act shall be guilty of an offence under this Act and liable on conviction in the case of an individual to N100,000 fine or to five years’ imprisonment and in the case of a firm or corporation to a fine of not less than N50,000 and not more thanN100,000.

The E.I.A Act, as it is informally called, deals with the considerations of environmental impact in respect of public and private projects. Sections relevant to environmental emergency prevention under the EIA include:-

Section 2 (1) requires an assessment of public or private projects likely to have a significant (negative) impact on the environment.

Section 2 (4) requires an application in writing to the Agency before embarking on projects for their environmental assessment to determine approval.

Section 13 establishes cases where an EIA is required and

Section 60 creates a legal liability for contravention of any provision.

The Nigerian Urban And Regional Planning Act Cap N138, LFN 2004

The Urban and Regional Planning Act is aimed at overseeing a realistic, purposeful planning of the country to avoid overcrowding and poor environmental conditions

Section 59 makes it an offence to disobey a stop-work order. The punishment under this section, is a fine not exceeding N10, 000 (Ten thousand naira) and in the case of a company, a fine not exceeding N50, 000.

In this regard, the following sections become instructive:-

Section 30 (3) requires a building plan to be drawn by a registered architect or town planner.

Section 39 (7) establishes that an application for land development would be rejected if such development would harm the environment or constitute a nuisance to the community.

Section 72 provides for the preservation and planting of trees for environmental conservation

Harmful Waste (Special Criminal Provisions) Act Cap H1, LFN 2004

The Harmful Waste Act prohibits, without lawful authority, the carrying, dumping or depositing of harmful waste in the air, land or waters of Nigeria

Any person found guilty of a crime under sections 1 to 5 of this Act shall on conviction be sentenced to imprisonment for life, and in addition

(a)  any carrier, including aircraft, vehicle, container and any other thing whatsoever used in the transportation or importation of the harmful waste; and  

(b)  any land on which the harmful waste was deposited or dumped,   shall be forfeited to and vest in the Federal Government without any further assurance   other than this Act

The following sections are notable:

Section 6 provides for a punishment of life imprisonment for offenders as well as the forfeiture of land or anything used to commit the offence.

Section 7 makes provision for the punishment accordingly, of any conniving, consenting or negligent officer where the offence is committed by a company.

Section 12 defines the civil liability of any offender. He would be liable to persons who have suffered injury as a result of his offending act.

Oil in Navigable Waters Act, Cap 06, LFN 2004

The Oil in Navigable Waters Act is concerned with the discharge of oil from ships.

Section 6 makes punishable such discharge with a fine of N2, 000 (Two thousand naira)

Section 1 (1) prohibits the discharge of oil from a ship into territorial waters or shorelines.

Section 3 makes it an offence for a ship master, occupier of land, or operator of apparatus for transferring oil to discharge oil into Nigerian Waters. It also requires the installation of anti-pollution equipment in ships

Section 7 requires the records of occasions of oil discharge

Nuclear Safety And Radiation Protection Act, CAP N142, LFN 2004

The Act is concerned with the regulation of the use of radioactive substances and equipment emitting and generating ionizing radiation.  This is relevant to the medical sector and some extractive sectors where diagnostic imaging is used.

Any person who attempts to commit any of the crimes under this Act shall be   guilty of a crime and shall on conviction be sentenced to imprisonment for life

Section 4 provides authority to make regulations for the protection of the environment from the harmful effects of ionizing radiation.

Section 15 and 16 makes registration of premises and the restriction of ionizing radiation sources to those premises mandatory.  

Section 37 (1) (b) allows an inspector verify records of activities that pertain to the environment.

Section 40 clarifies that the same regulations guiding the transportation of dangerous goods by air, land or water should also apply to the transportation of radioactive substances

Water Resources Act, CAP W2, LFN 2004

The Water Resources Act is targeted at developing and improving the quantity and quality of water resources.

Section 18 makes offenders liable, under this Act, to be punished with a fine not exceeding N2000 or an imprisonment term of six months. He would also pay an additional fine of N100 for everyday the offence continues.

Section 5 and 6 provide authority to make pollution prevention plans and regulations for the protection of fisheries, flora and fauna

Sea Fisheries Act, CAP S4, LFN 2004

The Sea Fisheries Act makes it illegal to take or harm fishes within Nigerian waters by use of explosives, poisonous or noxious substances. 

Section 10 makes destruction of fishes punishable with a fine of N50, 000 or an imprisonment term of 2 years.

Section 1 prohibits any unlicensed operation of motor fishing boats within Nigerian waters.

Section 14 (2) provides authority to make for the protection and conservation of sea fishes

Other Acts and Regulations on the Environment in Nigeria

  1. Land Use Act, CAP 202, LFN 2004 (
  2. Harmful Waste (Special Criminal Provisions) Act CAP H1, LFN 2004 (
  3. Hydrocarbon Oil Refineries Act, CAP H5, LFN 2004 (www.Elri-ng.Org)
  4. Oil in Navigable Waters Act, CAP 06, LFN 2004 (www.Elri-ng.Org)
  5. The Endangered Species Act , CAP E9, LFN 2004 (www.Elri-ng.Org)
  6. Sea Fisheries Act, CAP S4, LFN 2004 (www.Elri-ng.Org)
  7. Exclusive Economic Zone Act, CAP E11, LFN 2004
  8. Oil Pipelines Act, CAP 07, LFN 2004. (www.Elri-ng.Org)
  9. Oil Pipelines Regulations (Under Oil Pipelines Act)
  10. Petroleum Act, CAP P10, LFN 2004 (www.Elri-ng.Org)
  11. Factories Act, CAP F1, LFN 2004
  12. Water Resources Act, CAP W2, LFN 2004
  13. The Federal National Parks Act, CAP N65, LFN 2004
  14. Criminal Code Act
  15. National Environmental (Permitting and Licensing System) Regulations, 2009. S. I. No. 29
  16. National Environmental (Mining and Processing of Coal, Ores and Industrial Minerals) Regulations, 2009. S. I. No. 31
  17. National Environmental (Noise Standards and Control) Regulations, 2009. S. I. No. 35
  18. National Environmental (Control of Bush/Forest Fire and Open Burning) Regulations, 2010. S. I. No. 15.
  19. National Environmental (Protection of Endangered Species in International Trade) Regulations, 2010. S. I. No. 16.
  20. National Environmental (Energy Sector) Regulations, 2014.