• Thursday, May 23, 2024
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A call to action: Strengthening HSE governance for a safer, cleaner energy future in Nigeria

Forging alliances: Onshore and offshore collaboration driving success in African energy ventures

Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer and a country rich in natural resources has enormous potential to propel its economy forward while prioritising the health and safety of its population and the environment. Nigeria is at a critical point in its energy trajectory, with an urgent need to reconcile economic development goals with environmental sustainability and public health issues. However, attaining this delicate balance would necessitate a concerted effort to improve health, safety, and environment (HSE) governance throughout the energy sector.

Nigeria’s energy sector has multiple parties, including government agencies, international enterprises, local people, and regulatory authorities, making HSE governance complicated. Despite efforts to apply HSE legislation and standards, difficulties remain, ranging from ineffective enforcement mechanisms to a lack of openness and accountability.

Read also: Waltersmith HSE week harps on safety as personal responsibility

Nigeria’s energy sector relies heavily on its abundant natural resources, such as oil and gas. Despite considerable expenditures and technological improvements, the sector has several issues, particularly in terms of HSE governance.

Occupational hazards: Workers in the energy sector confront several occupational hazards, including exposure to harmful chemicals and gases, as well as the risk of accidents and deaths. Inadequate safety measures, insufficient training, and slack enforcement compound these hazards, endangering workers’ health and lives.

Environmental Degradation: The mining and production of energy resources can cause pollution, deforestation, and habitat devastation. Poor waste management procedures, oil spills, and gas flaring increase environmental issues, endangering ecosystems and human health.

Regulatory Compliance: Enforcing and complying with HSE laws in Nigeria’s energy sector remains a significant concern. Weak regulatory monitoring, corruption, and a lack of accountability jeopardise efforts to maintain HSE standards, resulting in widespread violations and impunity.

Case Study: Ogoniland.

The Ogoniland problem is a significant example of the importance of strengthening HSE governance in Nigeria’s energy sector. Ogoniland, located in the Niger Delta region, has long been a hub for oil extraction, with global firms working there.

Scenario: Decades of oil exploration and exploitation in Ogoniland have caused disaster. Oil spills, gas flaring, and other industrial activities have polluted land, rivers, and groundwater, making them unsuitable for human settlement and agriculture. The once-thriving ecosystem has collapsed, leaving populations dealing with environmental degradation, health issues, and socioeconomic concerns.

Read also: Importance of home and office HSE tools

Response and lessons learned:

The Ogoniland crisis highlighted the crucial need for robust HSE governance in Nigeria’s energy sector. It emphasises the value of proactive risk management, community engagement, and environmental stewardship in resource extraction activities. The case study serves as a clear reminder of the long-term implications of ignoring HSE considerations as well as the importance of prioritising sustainable practices.

Furthermore, occupational safety requirements in the energy sector are frequently inadequate, resulting in accidents, injuries, and fatalities among workers. Poor safety practices endanger workers’ lives while also lowering the industry’s overall productivity and reputation.

To address these issues and pave the way for a safer, cleaner energy future in Nigeria, a holistic strategy is required, including legislative reforms, institutional strengthening, capacity building, and community involvement.

-Improving regulatory frameworks: Nigeria should evaluate and update its HSE rules to ensure they are comprehensive, up-to-date, and effectively implemented. This could entail amending current legislation, such as the Petroleum Act and the Environmental Impact Assessment Act, to accord with international best practices and growing environmental standards.

Additionally, regulatory authorities such as the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) must be appropriately enabled and resourced to carry out their supervision tasks effectively. This includes improving monitoring and enforcement capacities, as well as encouraging more transparency and accountability in regulatory processes.

-Promoting industry best practices: In addition to regulatory compliance, the energy industry should prioritise HSE performance as a business necessity. This includes implementing internationally recognised best practices for environmental management, occupational health, and safety regulations. Companies should invest in cutting-edge technologies and infrastructure to reduce environmental impact, emissions, and dangers to employees and communities.

Moreover, industry groups and forums can help stakeholders collaborate and share knowledge, allowing for the exchange of experience and new solutions to HSE concerns.

-Empowering local communities: Engaging and empowering communities affected by energy activities is crucial for sustainable development. Communities must actively participate in decision-making processes, ranging from project design and implementation to monitoring and assessment. This necessitates encouraging discussion, establishing trust, and ensuring that communities have the correct information and resources to advocate for their rights and interests.

Companies working in these communities should prioritise social responsibility activities that address local needs such as healthcare, education, and economic empowerment, thereby contributing to the communities’ overall well-being and resilience.

-Investing in human capital: Creating a culture of safety and environmental stewardship necessitates investing in employee development. This entails offering extensive training and capacity-building programmes to workers, regulators, and other stakeholders. Nigeria can develop a culture of continuous improvement and innovation in the energy sector by providing individuals with the knowledge, skills, and tools necessary to successfully identify and handle HSE risks.

Finally, achieving sustainable energy development in Nigeria will necessitate a coordinated effort and coordination among stakeholders. By putting health, safety, and environment (HSE) governance first, Nigeria can manage the intricacies of its energy landscape, mitigate risks, and unlock the potential for long-term development. Nigeria has the potential to become a pioneer in sustainable energy in Africa and beyond by implementing effective policy frameworks, technical advances, community participation, and regulatory enforcement. As stakeholders work together to achieve a shared vision, the path to a sustainable energy future becomes clearer, brighter, and more feasible.

About Author:

Toyin Banjo is the Vice Chairman of BonnyLight Energy and Offshore Limited as well as the Chief Executive Officer of Oriental Capital and Asset Management Group. He has decades of experience in the Financial sector, Oil and Gas, Real Estate Development, and the Export of Agricultural Commodities. Mr Banjo has decades of experience in capital raising (debt, equities, and hybrids) and financial advisory services (mergers and acquisitions, corporate restructuring, privatisation advisory services, and project financing).