Disturbed by the devastating effects of the oil spills in the Niger Delta, the Federal government on Thursday said it is reviewing the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency NOSDRA Act, to impose stiffer penalties on perpetrators of the spill.
Minister of State, Environment, Sharon Ikpeazu announced this on Thursday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja while speaking at a Media briefing organized by the Presidential Media team.
Sharon, who was reacting to questions on the Nembe oil spill in Bayelsa state, noted that the “ laws have been weak in dealing with oil spills in Nigeria”
“We need to review the NOSDRA Act to put stiffer penalties in place to be able to have the teeth to bite. The government is working to create alternative livelihood for the communities to be able to move them away from illegal activities.”
“It goes beyond the oil companies giving out palliatives, they must put measures in place to prevent such accidents from happening. They are also claiming that the spill was due to sabotage by the local communities.
“We are going to have a targeted approach to illegal bunkering, tampering with oil installation and artisanal mining in the Niger Delta to get alternative livelihood for the young people of the Niger Delta, so that they would desist from this because it is further polluting the environment. The situation has been brought under control. I got a brief from the DG of NOSDRA who was out on the field. So, now, work has to start on the proper clean up.
“I got briefings through the Director of NOSDRA, and what I saw in terms of the pollution either through oil refining or illegal oil refining and otherwise- the devastation of the Niger Delta is massive. As we are cleaning up, what we are cleaning up is minute compared to the devastation going on.
“So, it is something that the government needs to tackle headlong. I hope they would have put the picture on, it was like a Hiroshima site.
So, is this something we must tackle headlong. We are beyond talking and having workshops. On the issue of penalties, I mentioned earlier the review of the NOSDRA bill. You know most of the Acts we have passed years ago. You will see that they will give maybe N100 fine, anyone can pay that and go back and re-pollute.
“We need to put stiffer penalties, build the capacity of NOSDRA which is the regulatory agency in the oil sector to be able to have the teeth to bite. Without enhancing their capacity and reaffirming the legal framework, getting it stronger, they can’t do much. These are areas we are looking into, it has to stop.
The Minister noted further that such stiffer laws will check the issues of buck passing between the oil companies operating in the Niger Delta region and the communities.
“ The operating company of the OML29 in Nembe, Bayelsa state, has blamed the most recent oil spillage in the country on sabotage by the locals”
“ We have brought the Santa Barbara spillage under control after weeks the incident occurred; with necessary personnel and equipment deployed to begin recovery and remediation efforts” she said.
She however disclosed that the Federal government was yet to carry out full post oil spill impact assessments, adding that such assessment will be done after effectively controlling the current situation.
“ We must confess that the oil spill situation in the Niger Delta is devastating as it is massive. So, this is something we have to tackle heads on”
On measures to check oil bunkering and illegal refining of crude, Sharon revealed that the government had embarked on Mangroves restoration, training of the local communities in agriculture, to provide alternative sources of employment
“ They must be gainfully employed by the contractors, provided with sound trading in agriculture, soil management remediation and environmental protection. If we had carried out these earlier, things would not have been as bad as they are now”
Ikpeazu disclosed that the federal government has provided over 735 direct jobs, as part of efforts to create alternative means of livelihood.
“Government is working on alternative livelihood for the communities so that we can move them away from illegal activities and further polluting of the environment”
Speaking further on the ongoing Ogoni clean up, Ikpeazu who stated that the clean up cannot be complete in a year or two, however disclosed that the government was working with the communities to mitigate the effect of the spillage.
“ So far about 65 sites were identified and work is going on in 25 of them
The Minister also noted that the increasing prices of gas may further worsen the climate change situation in the country, adding that already, “ Nigeria has the highest rate of firework smoke related deaths”
“ We are working to reduce the cost of cooking gas, because we know that such high cost may push Nigerians to using more firewoods”