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Key findings
  • More than half (53%) of Nigerians say pollution is a “somewhat serious” or “very serious” problem in their communities. o Citizens say trash and plastic disposal (cited by 27%) and human waste management (26%) are the most important environmental issues in their communities. o More than six in 10 respondents (63%) say plastic bags are a major source of pollution in Nigeria.
  • About one-third (32%) of Nigerians say the primary responsibility for reducing pollution and keeping communities clean rests with ordinary citizens. About the same proportion (31%) would assign that responsibility to the national government, while 26% would look first to their local government.
  • Almost two-thirds (63%) of Nigerians say the government should be doing more to limit pollution and protect the environment, including 48% who say it needs to do “much more.”
  • But only 37% would prioritise environmental protection over economic development, while 52% say the government should focus on creating jobs and increasing incomes, even if that leads to greater pollution or other environmental damage.
  • More than four in 10 Nigerians (43%) say the benefits of natural resource extraction outweigh its negative impacts, such as pollution, while 37% believe the opposite.
  • Seven in 10 citizens (71%) want the government to regulate natural resource extraction more tightly in order to reduce its negative impact on the environment
  • Half (50%) of Nigerians say local communities receive a fair share of revenues from natural resource extraction and have a voice in decisions about extraction activities, while 31% think they do not.

In 2022, Nigeria’s oil and gas sector led the country’s imports and exports in volume and value, accounting for about 88% of all exported goods and 30% of imports. The mining and quarrying sector, which includes oil and gas, coal, and metal ore in addition to quarrying, made up about 7% of the country’s gross domestic product (National Bureau of Statistics, 2023). 

While they contribute significantly to Nigeria’s economy, these sectors also help make environmental pollution a major challenge in the country through greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation and loss of habitat, soil erosion, and negative impacts on the health of citizens (Pona, Xiaoil, Ayantobo, & Tetteh, 2021; Guardian, 2023; Sam-Otuonye & Okoronkwo, 2022). 

Government efforts to address environmental pollution have included the establishment of regulatory bodies such as the Federal Ministry of Environment, the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency, and the National Emergency Management Agency. In November 2021, then President Muhammadu Buhari committed Nigeria to reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2060, joining more than 135 other countries working toward the same goal (Fasan, 2021).  

Meanwhile, the buildup of trash in neighbourhoods and marketplaces has become a recurrent problem. Regulations require dumpsites to be situated away from communities and watercourses to minimise contamination, but these rules are often ignored (Nation, 2018; Aderoju, Salman, Anjoye, & Nwadike, 2014). 

This dispatch reports on a special survey module included in the Afrobarometer Round 9 questionnaire to explore Nigerians’ experiences and perceptions of pollution, environmental governance, and natural resource extraction. 

Survey findings show that a majority of Nigerians consider pollution a serious problem in their communities, citing trash disposal and sanitation as the most important local environmental issues. While ordinary citizens say they share responsibility for limiting pollution, they also want the government to increase its efforts to protect the environment. However, fewer than half would prioritise environmental protection over jobs and incomes. 

Regarding natural resource extraction, Nigerians are divided as to whether its economic benefits outweigh its environmental costs. A strong majority favour tighter government regulation of the industry to reduce its environmental impact. 

Sunday Duntoye

Sunday is the data manager for NOI Polls

Chukwudebe Nwanze

Chukwudebe Nwanze is a senior research associate at NOIPolls

Raphael Mbaegbu

Raphael is a project manager for NOI Polls