Evaluating the problems of solid waste management in Nigeria

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Solid wastes comprise all the wastes arising from human and animal activities that are normally solid, discarded as useless or unwanted. Also included are by- products of process lines or materials that may be required by law to be disposed of (Okecha 2000). Solid waste can be classified in a number of ways, on the basis of sources, environmental risks, utility and physical property. On the basis of source, solid wastes are again classified as: Municipal Solid Wastes, Industrial Solid Wastes and Agricultural Solid Wastes. Nigeria’s major urban centers are today fighting to clear mounting heaps of solid waste from their environments. These strategic centers of beauty, peace and security are being over taken by the messy nature of over flowing dumps unattended heaps of solid wastes emanating from household or domestic or kitchen sources, markets, shopping and business centres. City officials appear unable to combat unlawful and haphazard dumping of hazardous commercial and industrial wastes which are a clear violation of the clean Air and Health Edicts in our environmental sanitation laws, rules and regulation.

Refuse generation and its likely effects on the health, quality of environment and the urban landscape have become burning national issues in Nigeria today. All stakeholders concern with the safety and the beautification of our environment have come to realize the negative consequences of nucleated solid human wastes

Found in residential neighborhoods, markets, schools, and central business districts in our cities. These solid wastes have become recurring features in our urban environment. It is no longer in doubt that Nigerian cities are inundated with the challenges of uncleared solid wastes. As a result, urban residents are often confronted with the hazardous impact to their collective health and safety.

A United Nations Report (August 2004)noted with regret that while developing countries are improving access to clean drinking water they are falling behind on sanitation goals. At one of its summit in 2000 (Uwaegbelun 2004)revealed that The World Health Organization-(WHO 2004) and United Nations International Children Education Fund- (UNICEF 2004) joint report in August 2004 that: “about 2.4 billion people will likely face the risk of needless disease and death by the target of 2016 because of bad sanitation”. The report also noted thatbad sanitation – decaying or non-existent sewage system and toilets- fuels the spread ofdiseases like cholera and basic illness like diarrhea, which kills a child every 21 seconds.

The hardest hit by bad sanitation is rural poor and residents of slum areas in fast-growing cities, mostly in Africa and Asia.In 1992, the “Earth Summit” succeeded in alerting the conscience of the world to the urgencyof achieving environmentally sustainable development. The Summit asserted that ifwe know enough to act today, then we must also find answers to many tough conceptual and technical questions that have remained unsolved over time. It affirms that rapid urbanization in developing world if ignored can be a threat to health, the environment and urban productivity.

Cities are the engines of economic growth, butthe environmental implications of such growthneed to be assessed and managed better. Thecritical and most immediate problems facing developingcountries and their cities are the healthimpact of urban pollution that are derived frominadequate water services, poor urban and industrialwaste management, as well as air pollution,especially from particulates which constitutes part of solid waste.

Among the pressing environmental and publichealth issues in Nigeria today is the problemof solid waste generation and disposal. Theproblem of solid waste management is a historical onebecause man’s existence is inextricably linkedto the generation of waste. The problem is becomingintractable as many cities in developingcountries cannot keep pace with urbanization,pollution, and the increasingly concomitant generationof garbage due to changing life stylesand consumption patterns.

The mountainous heaps of solid wastes thatdeface Nigerian cities and the continuous dischargeof industrial contaminants into streamsand rivers without treatment motivated the federalgovernment of Nigeria to promulgate Decree58 for the establishment of Federal EnvironmentalProtection Agency (FEPA) on 30 December1988 (Federal Military Government 1988).

A national policy on the environment was formedand the goals of the policy include: to secure forall Nigerians a quality of environment adequatefor their health and well being; to raise publicawareness and promote understanding of the essentiallinkages between the environment anddevelopment; and to encourage individual andcommunity participation in environmental protectionand improvement efforts (FEPA 1989). Asregards the solid waste sector, the specific actionsdesired include collection and disposal ofsolid waste in an environmentally safe manner;setting up and enforcement of laws, regulations,and standards; encouragement of public participation;environment monitoring and impositionof penalties on defaulters to encourage compliance(FEPA 1989; FRN 1991).

In spite of the formulation of FEPA and anational environmental policy, the environmenthas not been adequately protected. Interest ismainly on aesthetics, which is rarely achieved(Agunwanba 1998). Wastes collection is irregularand restricted to the major cities. Improperlysited open dumps deface several cities,thereby endangering public health by encouragingthe spread of odors and diseases, uncontrolledrecycling of contaminated goods and pollutionof water sources (Adegoke 1989, Singh1998).

Sadly, there seems a resignation to the unremittingsolid wastes build up by the relevant authorities,where such bodies exist at all. However,in reactions to the inescapable environmentalimpact of delay in solid wastes removal,the federal government for example, introducedthe monthly environmental sanitation in the earlyseventies. There from the States and Local Governmentswere expected to take a cue and evolvetheir own solid wastes management (SWM) strategiesbased on the peculiarities of their environment.

Each state had in the process of mitigatingurban solid wastes, set up Wastes ManagementBoards (WMB) in attempts to tackle the occurrenceof wastes and their hazards to society asa whole. While the unhealthy aspects of abandonedsolid wastes can be contained, the moreavoidable features of blocked drains, traffic impedanceand floods have yet to be fully tackled.

One resonant feature common in the wastesbuild-up and emanating environmental degradationscenarios is the high cost or capital intensivenature of its amelioration as well as tacklingthe solid wastes menace. It requires a lot of financialand human capital to minimize and attemptto eradicate the adverse effects of exposedand untreated solid wastes in our urbancentres.

It is expected that government would in duecourse arrive at the means to combat solid wastesand reduce their negative impact on arearesidents and the perception of our cities asbeing dirty, chaotic, and full of traces of rottingor fermenting garbage that emit odours harmfulto the human body. Obviously, the timely removalof accumulated solid wastes require much morethan our governments at all levels are presentlyengaged in. Further plans, policies and programswould need to be put on a more permanent basisin order to combat the dastardly effects of environmental degradation. Understandably, itwould require effective mobilization of resourcessuch as involving all stakeholders in regularcounter measure to suppress uncontrolled solidwastes generation and irregular disposal outsidecity confines altogether.


As a result of increased urbanization and infrequent environmental sanitationexercises, urban residents dump solid wastescarelessly or haphazardly – anywhere they deemfit. Such controversial tendencies and attributeswould seem incomprehensible; if we desire tolive in beauteous environments.Some of the lagoon front in the country has been turned into a dump for humanand all sorts of solid waste. Trucks fully loadedwith feces queue up in large numbers to dischargethe contents into the lagoon (Njoku 2006).Environmental experts are of the view that theimplication of this practice is very grave. The failure of relevant agencies to stem thetide of reckless waste dumping and littering of Nigerian cities’ infrastructure (streets and roads) andsurrounding bushes indicate a clear pattern ofnon-enforcement or non-implementation ofexisting environmental sanitation laws.

Irregular and unplanned dumping ofsolid wastes, especially at night, which are oftenin gross violation of relevant rules and regulationscontinue to hinder plan preparationsand effective land use delineation which wereexpected to usher in a beautiful, clean and orderlyenvironment.Consequently, there remains a huge gapbetween policy formulation, execution and implementationwhich exacerbate the problem ofsolid waste management in Nigerian cities which necessitate the need to evaluate the problems of solid waste management in Nigeria by the researcher.


The following are the objective of this study:

  1. To evaluate the problems of solid waste management in Nigeria.
  2. To examine the consequences of poor solid waste management in Nigeria.
  3. To identify the strategies than has been adopted in solid waste management in Nigeria.


  1. What are the problems of solid waste management in Nigeria?
  2. What are the consequences of poor solid waste management in Nigeria?
  3. What are the strategies than has been adopted in solid waste management in Nigeria?


HO: Solid waste management has not been effective in Nigeria.

HA: Solid waste management has been effective in Nigeria.


The following are the significance of this study:

  1. This study will educate the general public, stakeholders in environmental management, students, government and policy makers on the problems of solid waste management focusing on Nigeria with a view of identifying management strategies to combat the menace associated with poor solid waste management.
  2. This research will also serve as a resource base to other scholars and researchers interested in carrying out further research in this field subsequently, if applied will go to an extent to provide new explanation to the topic.


This study on the evaluation of problems of solid waste management in Nigeria will cover all issues related to solid waste management system in Nigeria. It will cover the attitude of Nigerians to solid waste management, policies and regulatory framework.


Financial constraint– Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview).

Time constraint– The researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently will cut down on the time devoted for the research work.


Solid waste: means any garbage, refuse, sludge from a wastewater treatment plant, water supply treatment plant, or air pollution control facility and other discarded materials including solid, liquid, semi-solid, or contained gaseous material, resulting from industrial, commercial, mining and agricultural operations

Pollution: the presence in or introduction into the environment of a substance which has harmful or poisonous effects.

Environment: the surroundings or conditions in which a person, animal, or plant lives or operates.

Management: the process of dealing with or controlling things or people.



Adegoke OS 1989. Waste Management within theContext of Sustainable Development. Proceedingsof the Environment and Sustainable Developmentin Nigeria Workshop, 25 – 26 April, Abuja Nigeria,pp. 103 – 110.

Agunwamba 1998. Solid waste management in Nigeriaproblems and issues. Environmental Management,22(6): 849 – 856.

Federal Military Government 1988. Federal EnvironmentalProtection Agency Decree No. 58: A 911– A 932.

FEPA 1998 (Federal Environmental ProtectionAgency). 1989. National Policy on the Environment.Nigeria: FEPA, P. 22.

FRN (Federal Republic of Nigeria) 1991. Official Gazette78 (42): B15 – B37.

Njoku Jude 2006. Iddo: Where human waste is dumpedwith impunity. Vanguard, Monday, March 18,2006, P. 42.

Okecha SA 2000. Pollution and Conservation ofNigeria Environment. T Afrique InternationalAssociates Owerri Nigeria

Singh SK 1998. Solid waste management: An overviewof environmental pollution. Environmental ControlJournal, I(3): 50-56.

Uwaegbulam Chinedu 2004. World is meeting goals ofsafe drinking water but falling behind on sanitation,says UN. The Guardian, Monday, August 30, 2004.P. 50.


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