THE Federal Government on Thursday announced need for the Joint Task Force (JTF) to partner with the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) in order to properly decommission abandoned and artisanal refineries in the Niger Delta region.
Sharon Ikeazor, Minister of State for Environment disclosed this while highlighting the significance of reviewing the NOSDRA Act, during a workshop organised by the oil spill detection agency in Abuja.
“NOSDRA will be strengthened in capacity to work closely, monitor and oversee the decommissioning of abandoned facilities of individual refineries together with the JTF so that they do not burn the refineries in an unregulated manner, thereby constituting further environmental degradation,” Ikeazor said.
“Another issue of concern is the issue of illegal mining of the product (oil) in the Niger Delta. We have to find a way of standardising the artisanal refineries into modular refineries to save lives of the people especially in Port Harcourt, with the soot particles they breathe in every day.”
The problem of environmental pollution in the Niger Delta, particularly in Rivers state has been a serious issue of concern.
People of the region have complained for over five years of the blackish particle, mostly consisting of carbon monoxide enter into their houses.
Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) also had demonstrated several times, calling government’s attention to the environmental threat.
“This apart, burning of illegal crude oil; waste products from multinational oil companies may also have caused the black soot in the region. Presently, the government has no political will to end it,” Austin Udeh, NOSDRA Head of Public Affairs said in 2018.
Meanwhile, during the event, Chinedu Obidigwe, Deputy House Chairman on Environment, revealed that a technical committee had been set up to review the NOSDRA Act.
“By 24th of this month most actions regarding the bill will be set in motion in the National Assembly,” Obidigwe said.
Ibrahim Hadeja, representative of the Senate Committee Chairman on Environment advised NOSDRA to always ensure that due diligence is followed and the proposed amended bill is well looked into before submission to consideration.
“On our own part, sometimes, hiccups can be avoided if we take proper care in preparing for the legislative process before bills are sent for an ascent.”
The Bill seeking a review of the NOSDRA Act has been in the national assembly since 2011. It was rejected by President Muhammadu Buhari due to concerns of likely overlapping functions, particularly with the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources.
However, the minister advocated for better supports from the lawmakers, promised to work with other stakeholders on the proposed amendment bill.
“It is therefore imperative that an institution saddled with the responsibility of environmental protection in the oil and gas industry should be adequately empowered by law to discharge its statutory responsibilities, effectively and efficiently in view of the enormous challenges in the sector,” Ikeazor said.
“Once we have the bill scale through, these are arrears we have to go into…NOSDRA and DPR should work together and complement each other. Not to be in competition with each other.”