Zeroth strategy for waste oil disposal in Nigeria

by Emeka Chiakwelu

Nigeria is relatively an emerging industrial nation, with dilapidated automobiles roaming the nooks and corners of the country together with the outdated industrial machineries are generating thousands of litres, if not millions of waste oil and lubricants. So are the emissions of the alarming quantities of atmospheric pollutants including photochemical pollutants, smog, gas flaring, sulfur oxides and fluorides that are contributing and enhancing global warming and ozone hole.

Again engine and lubricant oil are common elements in the daily lives of Nigerians, as they are essential, to enable motor engines and industrial equipments to operate. But there is no environmentally safe and sound strategy to dispose the generated spent oil that are carelessly discharged and abandoned in the contaminated gutters, including the roadside and any place deem convenient to the generator of the waste oil.
In Nigerian cities – Kano, Lagos, Onitsha, Calabar, Warri, Aba and all the major cities, The National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA), the Nigerian environmental regulatory agency have no presence. NESREA neglected their major function in the urban settings which is to regulate, control and eliminate domestic and industrial waste that poses health hazard to the people and the environment. There are no adequate formulae to control sewage disposal generated by citizens and industries. In the case of spent automobile oil there is no atom of effort to collect, store and recycle. This incompetence is the major reason that used oils are litter across the country without strategy to correctly handle and safely dispose them in Nigeria.

Used oil or spent oil is a product of petroleum, produced during the process of fractional distillation. Due to the presence of the hydrogen carbon bond and hydro-carbon chains it poses a health danger to man and the ecosystem. When virgin oil is introduced and injected into an automobile, it does undergo both physical and chemical changes. It mixes with car dirt, impurities, and water and engine scrapings and finally emerged more toxic than virgin oil. In this case, the oil must then be changed. The used oil must be properly collected and efficiently disposed; this is where environmental bureaucrats have failed Nigeria. The dangers associated with used oil are:

“Waste oils are hazardous waste as they display some hazardous properties. Waste oils that are found in rivers, lakes and streams threaten aquatic life. Indeed, a litre of waste oil can contaminate a million litres of water. Furthermore, severe soil contamination can result from waste oils being left on the ground. Used motor oil is insoluble, persistent and can contain toxic chemicals and heavy metals. It’s slow to degrade. It sticks to everything from beach sand to bird feathers. It’s a major source of oil contamination of waterways and can result in pollution of drinking water sources.”

NESREA cannot afford to stand on the road side and do nothing to contribute and hence the environmental integrity of our country Nigeria. Protection and maintenance of the environmental reliability for Nigeria is the fundamental responsibility of NESREA. A sustainable strategy must be formulated and implemented that is comprehensively tailored to collect, store, and recycle waste oil.

Awareness First and foremost, the agency must alert and disseminate to the Nigerian public the in depth and requisite education on the dangers of oil spills and illegal discharges of the used engine oil. The public must be given the adequate disposal means particularly the civic responsibility and information tool that will enable them to comprehend the ramifications of illegal discharge of waste oil. The local chapters of The National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) must initiate meetings and collaborations with operators of mechanic workshops who are the greatest culprits in the unsafe discharge of used oil, in order to aid them in collection and recycle of waste oil. The educational awareness is the greatest empowerment of the citizens and commencement of healthy and sustainable green environment.

NESREA can set up front store centers and depots in different parts of the cities, where the public and mechanic workers can bring in their waste oil for storage before they are safely transported to the appropriate location for reprocessing and recycling. The NESREA can be financially self-sustainable in this endeavor by levying small fees on the public citizens and mechanic workers that are bringing their used oil for recycling.

NESREA which is the major Nigerian environmental agency must have a comprehensive strategy grounded on standard operation procedures; a paradigm for collecting, disposing and recycling of spent oil in a manner that will be safe, efficient, environmentally sound and cost-effective for Nigeria.

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