Oil spills: Civil society hopeful of NOSDRA Act amendment

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By Innocent Eteng/Port Harcourt

After organising a roundtable discussion in conjunction with the House of Representatives Committee on Environment and Habitat in Abuja, Niger Delta-based group, the National Coalition on Oil Spills and Gas Flaring in the Niger Delta (NACGOND) now believes present defects in the Act  that established the National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) would soon be corrected.

“I have no doubts that the Act will be amended soon,” said NACGOND’S National Coordinator, Edward Obi, in Port Harcourt.

Obi said the assurances NACGOND got from members of the National Assembly at the Abuja discussion; which targeted lawmakers, oil companies and regulatory agencies like the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR; on February 19, 2018, were enough for the group to believe that a positive outcome is imminent.

“I got assurances from the members of the National Assembly that they will go to work on this matter. There is real, ample agreement around the table that this law needs to be amended and NOSDRA needs to be strengthened,” he said.

He said areas that need amendment as unanimously agreed by delegates include funding; regulatory overlap with other agencies like the DPR; lack of clarity on NOSDRA’s powers to issue penalties to oil companies in matters relating to gas flaring and oil spillage; as well as other technical gaps.

As such, he said, all delegates, including members of the National Assembly, were involved in the drafting of a communiqué containing areas of loopholes and recommended amendments.

Obi said: “There was agreement around the table, not only members of the National Assembly, but also DPR and the oil companies, particularly Shell (Petroleum Development Company) that stayed there and participated in the drafting of the communiqué. Everybody thus sees, now, the need for the amendment of the NOSDRA law.

“There was also a representation from the Senate. Victor Umeh actually sat through the entire event, but representing Remi Tinubu who is Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment. He sat through the entire thing and through the drafting of the communiqué and took a copy of the communiqué to the Senate Committee.”

He said some of the recommendations made include; “the need for the establishment of a National Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. NOSDRA (should) be given power to enforce compliance with the laws relating to oil spill management.

“Adequate and prompt compensation be made by the facility owner, and such compensation     must relate directly to an ecological, economic or property damage arising from an oil spill or gas leakage.

“NOSDRA should be a one-stop shop for all oil spill and gas flare related matters to ensure adequate and timely response. Communities should be recognised not only as stakeholders but also as shareholders in oil and gas exploration and exploitation.”

Excited that steps taken by NACGOND on the NOSDRA Act is seemingly going to bring positive outcomes, Obi said such approaches are necessary for amending grey areas in some other laws.

“This approach should be an approach that is not just for NOSDRA, but for any other law in the Federal Republic of Nigeria, that we as civil society working with the National Assembly, can do quite a lot to amend quite a number of things.”

The Abuja discussion is sequel to the one NACGOND earlier organised in Port Harcourt on the same matter, with traditional rulers, church leaders and civil society groups as target.