NASS must act now on NOSDRA Amendment Bill – Group

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* Says need to save oil region from spills, disasters

* Says President’s concerns have been addressed in new version

By Ignatius Chukwu

The National Assembly has been urged to act now to save the oil region from spills and disasters. The way to do it is to pass the NOSDRA Amendment Bill and get the president to sign it, so said a panel that reviewed the matter.

Details

Pressure now mounts on the National Assembly (NASS) from the oil region to make haste over the lingering Amendment Bill before it on the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA).

Stakeholders who met in a virtual forum over the matter on Friday, March 12, 2021, resolved to press the NASS to pass the amendment quickly so that NOSDRA can spring back into action and fight oil spill and pollution, especially prevention.

The panel was anchored by a catholic cleric, Rev Fr Edward Obi, who has done extensive work on the Niger Delta environment and oil pollution. He warmed the audience by showing why and how NOSDRA was formed in response to Nigeria’s signing of a global treaty on oil pollution.

The reverend father noted that the urgent need to pass the Bill followed recent engagements with relevant committees of the National Assembly and their renewed commitment to pass it. “This webinar will provide detailed insight into all interventions carried out so far in pushing for the passage of the Bill.

“It also seeks to increase the level of public awareness and help participants at the end of the workshop to share engagement plans towards increasing public demand for the effectual passage of the Bill.”

The lead consultant on the matter, Dr Sam Kabari, a university lecturer who has done extensive studies on oil pollution in the Niger Delta, showed evidence that NOSDRA has never been able to fight spills since its creation in 2006.

Rather, he stated, spills have blown up in higher proportions due to oil bunkering that has emerged as a new money spinner in the oil region.

Studies show that lack of funding and opposition from many quarters have been the bane of the agency which is under the Federal Ministry of Environment whereas the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) that leads in oil industry regulation is under the Ministry of Petroleum and thus under the president.

Dr Kabari’s presentation showed that the amendment was passed in 2018 but assent was declined by President Muhammadu Buhari who gave some reasons. One was that the amendment demanded for 50 per cent of the operational expenditure of oil companies to be given to NOSDRA and that the Bill seemed to usurp the powers of the Minister (President, in this case).

Dr Kabari disclosed that those behind the amendment went back to work and eliminated the areas of friction and that the Bill is now back to the NASS. He appealed to Nigerians to lend pressure for it to be passed and signed this time around.

He warned that passing the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) and expecting it to help the host communities would be a ruse if NOSDRA was not reformed by law to effectively regulate oil activities and stop oil spill syndrome in the host communities.

He noted that the success of NOSDRA would amount to environmental sanity for the oil region and would create confidence in the minds of host communities to give peace a chance.

Most participants suggested ways of creating public awareness to make the relevant organs of government grant NOSDRA more funds and powers to carry out is functions instead of always depending on the polluters to fund investigations of their spills especially n third tier (massive) pollutions that occur in both on-and off-shore locations in the oil region.

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