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Nigeria leads other W/African countries to ban ‘dirty fuels’ from Europe

Almost more than two month after a group of civil society carried out a peaceful demonstration in Abuja over the importation of killer fuel products from some marked parts of Europe, especially Switzerland, the federal government has seen the reason in the campaign and banned importation from the region.

Also, more West African countries have followed suit including Ghana, Togo and Benin Republic.

It would be recalled that the UN Environment Programme had raised an alarm on the matter which caught the fancy of the protesters in Abuja early October.

Otherwise, a recent report revealed that European companies were exploiting weak regulations in West Africa to export fuels with high levels of sulphur. Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana, and Cote d’Ivoire agreed on the import ban.

The UN says the move will help more than 250 million people breathe safer and cleaner air. The sulphur particles emitted by a diesel engine are considered to be a major contributor to air pollution and are ranked by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of the top global health risks. It is associated with heart disease, lung cancer and respiratory problems.

In a statement, the UN environment programme says the West African group, in addition to banning the import of dirty fuels, has also agreed to upgrade the operations of their national refineries. The upgrade, which will concern both public and privately owned refineries, is meant to boost standards in the oil produced in the five countries.

The report into Europe oil exports released in September particularly criticised the Swiss for their links to the African trade in diesel that has toxin levels illegal in Europe. The study was by the campaign group, Public Eye, which said retailers were exploiting weak regulatory standards.

Erik Solheim, the head of UN Environment Programme, hailed the import ban. “West Africa is sending a strong message that it is no longer accepting dirty fuels from Europe,” Mr Solheim said. “Their decision to set strict new standards for cleaner, safer fuels and advanced vehicle emission standards shows they are placing the health of their people first,” he added.