On Tuesday, May 21, 2019, the federal House of Representatives passed a bill that can send you to jail if you are caught with a plastic bag.
Labelled as the ‘Plastic Bag Prohibition Bill’, lawmakers say the bill would address the issues of waste management and environmental pollution in Nigeria, among others.
Plastic bags are made from substances that are very harmful to the living environment. These substances are not biodegradable, choke marine life, clog drainage channels and result in flooding.
There is also the big matter of poor disposal of plastic bags across Nigeria and how there are such an eyesore wherever you turn.
A section of the bill reads as follows: “An act to prohibit the use, manufacture and importation of all plastic bags used for commercial and household packaging in order to address harmful impacts to oceans, rivers, lakes, forests, environment as well as human beings and also to relieve pressure on landfills and waste management and for other related matters.”
Should the bill become law, the lawmakers say, it will become an offence in Nigeria to manufacture plastic bags for the purpose of buying and selling.
Shop owners or retailers would be mandated to offer a paper bag to the customer at the point of sale, the bill states that.
Anyone who contravenes the provisions of the bill or who is found guilty should the bill become an Act of Parliament, shall be liable upon conviction to a fine not exceeding N500,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to both.
Companies or retailers found guilty would cough out a N5million fine, according to the proponents of the bill.
TheCable reports that when Hon Tahir Monguno from Borno state contributed to the bill, he said plastic bags have had an adverse effect on Nigeria’s environment.
He said: “Nowadays we have a lot of plastic bags in our water bodies and they are adversely affected. So the bill seeks to regulate plastic bags to reduce the adverse effect on our environment.”
Hon Yusuf Lasun, Deputy Speaker of the House of Reps, wondered why the bill made no provision for recycling of plastic bags.
Lasun was quoted as saying: “There should be room for recycling. Because by this bill, you are simply saying that plastic materials should not be seen anywhere. And this would mean the need for another amendment. Recycling is still part of cleaning the environment.”
However, it is important to restate here that the bill would have to be debated by the senate and similarly passed and transmitted to the executive for assent, before it becomes law.