The word ‘Africa’ often evokes romantic images of elephants crossing the Kalahari, thundering water at Victoria Falls, or panoramic views from Table Mountain.

But an increasingly common sight for Africans — especially those in Nigeria — is that of smog, rubbish and polluted water, according to a new report. Data released by the World Health Organization (WHO) reveal that four of the worst cities in the world for air pollution are in Nigeria.


Onitsha — a city few outside Nigeria will have heard of — has the undignified honor of being labeled the world’s most polluted city for air quality, when measuring small particulate matter concentration (PM10).


A booming port city in southern Nigeria, Onitsha recorded 30 times more than the WHO’s recommended levels of PM10.

images (21)-1-1

Named and shamed

The other three cities named and shamed in the WHO report for high PM10 levels are the transport hub of Kaduna, in the north, which came fifth, followed by the cities of Aba — in sixth place — and Umuahia, in 16th position, which are both trade centers in southern Nigeria.

unnamed (1)

Last year, the World Bank reported that 94% of the population in Nigeria is exposed to air pollution levels that exceed WHO guidelines (compared to 72% on average in Sub-Saharan Africa in general) and air pollution damage costs about 1% post of Gross National Income. The WHO study tracked the growth in the two different sizes of particulate matter, PM10 and PM2.5, per cubic meter of air.


PM2.5 particles are fine, with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers (µm) to more than 40 micrometers, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
PM10 particles are less than or equal to 10 micrometers in diameter. Nigeria did not feature in the top 10 for PM2.5 levels.

unnamed (9)

Why is Nigeria so polluted?

The cause of Nigeria’s pollution problem is a complex story.

“The contributing factors to pollution are a reliance on using solid fuels for cooking, burning waste and traffic pollution from very old cars,” Dr Maria Neira, WHO Director, Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health, tells CNN.

unnamed (4)

At home, due to unreliable electricity supplies, many Nigerians rely on generators, which spew out noxious fumes often in unventilated areas. On the street, car emissions go unregulated.


Neira adds: “In Africa, unfortunately, the levels of pollution are increasing because of rapid economic development and industry without the right technology.”


Indeed, Nigeria’s economy has raced forward in the past decade, overtaking South Africa as the continent’s largest economy in 2014, following a recalculation of its GDP. Agriculture, telecoms and oil are all driving this growth — at a certain environmental cost.

images (20)

Steps towards a solution

The latest WHO report may highlight Nigeria, but the true story in other parts of the African continent remains unknown.

unnamed (5)

The report only included pollution levels from cities with a population of over 100,000 residents that monitor their pollution levels — something many African cities don’t do.

unnamed (7)

“We need to do an assessment of the sources of pollution at city level, also work on better planning of urban collective transport systems, and take very old cars out of service,” says Neira.

images (22)

“Regarding the four cities in Nigeria, we would actually like to praise them. They are at least monitoring the pollution levels, others are not even monitoring the air, we know that some are very polluted. These four cities are moving towards taking action to reduce pollution.”

unnamed (8)

With more than 50% of the African population predicted to live in cities by 2030, according to global accounting firm KPMG, the health of the continent’s urban areas is a key concern.



Credit: WHO, CNN


About Dr. Ken

Medical Doctor, Publisher, Editor, Novelist, Playwright, Visionary Poet, Activist, Blogger
This entry was posted in News. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Prechy says:

    Are you surprised?

  2. Jennifer Okorie says:

    What’s the government doing about this?

  3. Esther says:

    Naija! Na wa ooo

  4. Anonymous says:

    I am not surprised at all!

  5. Chuks says:

    The Ministry of Environment should be ashamed.

  6. Mrs. Ahmed says:

    Onitsha is really dirty! Worse than Ajegunle!

  7. Audu says:

    Another bad record for Nigeria.

  8. Zeb says:

    The report says we don’t monitor our pollution levels. Which year do we start to do that?

  9. Gideon says:

    So the world’s most polluted city in the world is Onitsha? Izzoray!

  10. Chike says:

    Let me get it straight. Onitsha is No. 1 on the list. Kaduna is No. 2. Aba is No. 3 and Umuahia is No. 4. Abi?

    • Jibril says:

      Let me help you. Onitsha is No. 1. Kaduna is No. 5. Aba is No. 6. Umuahia is No. 16. All four of them are in Nigeria.

  11. Ngozi says:

    This is very bad. Chai!

  12. Chinyere says:

    Nigeria No. 1 for corruption. No. 1 for pollution. We nor dey carry last sef?

  13. Mr. Ben says:

    The pictures are very clear. They tell the whole story even without reading it. Nice job, doc.

  14. Jackie says:

    A well illustrated article. More grease to your elbows.

  15. Akpan says:

    What’s the way forward, my people?

  16. Ebere says:

    Four of the worst cities in the world for air pollution are in Nigeria. Three of them are in the East. #FoodForThought

  17. Mrs. Judith says:

    I hope they won’t blame Jonathan for this one too. Everything bad in Nigeria is GEJ’s fault. Smh

    • Lizzy says:

      Let them blame Jonathan. Let them continue the blame game. That’s why we’re not moving forward. We keep blaming others for our own misfortunes.

  18. Anthonia says:

    This government has a lot of work to do. We don’t need this kind of reputation.

  19. Mrs. Ayuba says:

    The report says these four cities are moving towards taking action to reduce pollution. So at least something is already being done about it. Let’s be optimistic.

  20. Abubakar says:

    Pipeline vandalism is part of the problem.

  21. Egbon says:

    Wait ooo. Is Onitsha a city? That place nor be like city ooo

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s