The Federal Government has solicited the cooperation of local communities to enhance its Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) plan on the dangers caused by pipeline vandalism in the country.
Peter Idabor, the Director-General of National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), made the appeal in Uyo at a public sensitisation campaign on dangers of pipeline vandalism.
Idabor, who was represented by Simon Ugbe, the Director of Finance and Accounts in NOSDRA, said that the agency planned to expand the scope of the DRR project to all communities in the Niger Delta region.
He said that the pilot scheme of the DRR plan, which was carried out in Rivers and Bayelsa between 2014 and 2015 by NOSDRA, recorded a huge success.
He said that the government would sustain the sensitisation, engagement and empowerment of all stakeholders in its efforts to curb pipeline vandalism which often caused oil spills and environmental pollution.
Idabor urged stakeholders in oil-producing communities to see oil pipelines passing through their communities as their project, saying that they must strive to protect the pipelines and the environment.
“The agency is dedicated to expanding the scope of the DRR project to all the communities of the Niger Delta and driving it through a strategy, which is the continuous sensitisation, engagement and empowerment of all stakeholders.
“I, therefore, urge you to cooperate with the government to make this project more successful and memorable.
“We must note that the mitigation of disasters by promoting collaboration with our local communities will enhance sustainable development and reduce level of poverty in the Niger Delta region,” he said.
Idabor said that the DRR would be a community-driven, community-implemented, community-monitored and community-evaluated project.
He said that the DRR project would be actualised, in collaboration with stakeholders, in order to ensure communal responsibility and protection of the immediate environment.
He said that the DRR plan was developed by NOSDRA to create and sustain an interface with stakeholders in efforts to curb pipeline vandalism across the country.
“While it is true that crude oil is spilled into the environment due to equipment failure or pipeline vandalism by unscrupulous elements; it also contributes largely to the menace that results in adverse socio-economic, health and environmental conditions.”
Earlier, Dr Iniobong Essien, the Commissioner for Environment and Mineral Resources in Akwa Ibom, said that environmental pollution and ecosystem damage by oil spills should be discouraged by communities.
He said that the community-based disaster risk management would strengthen stakeholders’ engagement and facilitate peaceful co-existence between the host communities and oil-producing companies.
He said that the DRR project was a complete departure from the past where communities affected by oil spills were not allowed to participate in the remediation programmes.
Essien urged the communities and stakeholders to embrace the DRR plan.
He said that the plan would help to unite the communities in understanding the risks, adding that it would also engender the communities’ input in preparedness, instigation and preventive actions against pipeline vandalism.
“The programme hopes to integrate mainstream active community engagement into the NOSDRA plan for oil spill management in Nigeria, with a view to achieving community-driven and community-sustained system of environment protection and management,” he said.
Essien said that the government, in partnership with all relevant agencies, would continue to monitor and ensure compliance with environmental laws so as to ensure clean, healthy and sustainable environment.