The United Nations recently disclosed that more than seven million people globally die annually from diseases induced by air pollution. Nigeria has the highest number of deaths from air pollution in Africa and the fourth highest in the world. Among the world’s most polluted countries, Nigeria is in the 10th position, below Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Mongolia, Kuwait, Nepal and the United Arab Emirates
Latest statistics in the State of the Global Air Report published by the Health Effects Institute (HEI) showed that more than 114,000 people died from air pollution in Nigeria in 2017, the highest in Africa.
The air pollution levels in many Nigerian cities are scary. Air pollution levels in places such as Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Kano, and Onitsha are said to be quite dangerous to the health of the inhabitants.
The 2018 World Air Quality Report Region & City PM2.5 Ranking by IQAir and Greenpeace, which ranked Nigeria the 10th most polluted country in the world, also ranked Kano the most polluted city in Africa.
In 2016, Onitsha recorded the world’s worst levels of PM10 (particles of less than 10 micrometers) air pollutants, with an annual mean concentration of 594 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3 ). The Onitsha record was reportedly 30 times above the World Health Organisation (WHO) annual guideline of 20 µg /m3 for PM10.
Nigeria’s mortality rate from air pollution is 307.4 deaths for every 100,000 people. It is the second worst in Africa. Unfortunately, more people die from air pollution in Nigeria than in South Africa, Kenya, and Angola combined.
Not even the industrialised countries record such alarming mortality rates. China, for instance, has 117 deaths per 100,000 people; Russia, 62 deaths per 100,000 people; Germany, 22 deaths per 100,000 people; United Kingdom, 21 deaths per 100,000 people; the United States, 21 deaths per 100,000 people; Japan 13 deaths per 100,000 people and Canada, 12 deaths per 100,000 people. While other countries are striving to curtail air pollution, Nigeria cannot be said to be doing much to curb the menace.
Yet, the consequences are grave. Air pollution is the cause of several life-altering conditions and fatal diseases. Experts have stated that after smoking, high blood pressure and poor diet, air pollution is the fourth highest cause of deaths worldwide, with most deaths occurring in developing countries.
Health challenges such as leukaemia, arthritis, lung cancer, impairment of the gastric system, chest pain, dry throat, nausea, aggravated respiratory diseases including emphysema, bronchitis, lung damage and asthma as well as several other lethal conditions, are often caused by air pollution.
Air pollution occurs virtually in every part of the country. In the Niger Delta region, many oil-producing communities are daily exposed to the hazardous effects of gas flaring. Among other things, gas flaring destroys the environment, kills farmers’ crops, and damages the land. Although it was banned officially in 1984, gas flaring continues unabated.
In most homes in Nigeria, generators supply power. Fumes from the generators pollute the air. Only recently, gas emission from a generator killed about 20 people in Imo State.
Nigeria has become the dumping ground for used vehicles from Europe, as many Nigerians lack the wherewithal to procure new automobiles. Most of the vehicles that ply Nigerian roads are old and they emit dangerous substances. Many Nigerians inhale these dangerous substances, which adversely affect their health.
While many nations are reducing their dependence on solid fuels, Nigeria is apparently not in a haste to do so. Over 70 per cent of fuel in the country comes from fossil sources. Kerosene stoves and firewood are still being used for cooking in many homes. Many Nigerians also burn their household wastes, thereby contributing to air pollution.
We call on the Federal Government to address the air pollution challenge forthwith. The public must be enlightened on the dangers of air pollution and how to stop the practice. Government should muster the political will to stop gas flaring. The relevant ministries and agencies should come up with measures to curb air pollution.