The Minister of State for Environment, Mrs Sharon Ikeazor says the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) Act is being amended to give it more implementation power.
Ikeazor made this known when a delegation of the Coalition for Socio Ecological Transformation of Nigeria (COSET), a civil society organisation, paid a courtesy call on her in Abuja.
“We are amending the NOSDRA Act to make it more effective to give it more power to implement; though it seems to be somehow in competition with the Department of Petroleum Resource (DPR) but all that will end with the amendment.
“We have had the first stakeholders meeting engagement with everyone in that sector; we just ended a meeting at the National Assembly and we will continue to have such engagements until that amendment is done for NOSDRA to take its place in regulating the oil and gas sector,” she said.
Ikeazor said the ministry had seen the United Nations Environment (UNEP) and Nigeria, through the ministry of environment was carrying out remediation of damaged environment.
She said that in spite of government’s remediation effort, somewhere in the Niger Delta, illegal refineries were causing more damage.
She said that Port Harcourt soot was the consequence of such act, adding that the laboratory test proved it and that the NOSDRA laboratory result also showed that the particles were from crude oil combustion.
She said the ministry was working closely with the Joint Task Force, the Navy and security forces to tackle the issue of illegal refineries.
She assured Nigerians that the government would continue to work to curb gas flaring that damaged environments and called on Nigerians to always conserve and protect the forest and ecosystem for safety.
Earlier, Mr Nnimmo Bassey, the Leader of the delegation said that COSET was established in 2018 and drew membership from civil society organisations, the media and community groups on environmental issues among others.
According to Bassey, the coalition’s objective is to mobilise, sensitise and educate citizens and stakeholder groups on the Socio-ecological Transformation (SET) alternative.
He said that it also worked to conduct research and generate knowledge on gas flaring, climate change, energy democracy and just transition and proffer viable alternatives among others.
He said that CoSET considered gas flaring an illegal and harmful practice with far reaching negative impacts on people and the environment, thus the introduction of its gas flaring campaign.
Bassey said the flaring of gas was a key source of greenhouse emissions, contributing significantly to global warming and climate change with Nigeria reeling under disastrous climate impacts.
He said that communities in which flare sites were located suffered untold hardships as a direct consequence of their exposure to these toxic flares, including shocking reduction in life expectancy, deadly illnesses, poisoned food systems, and destroyed livelihoods.
He said that gas flaring also led to an estimated 2.5 billion dollars worth of gas being wasted annually as routinely flared gas, a practice that was an economically wasteful one.
Bassey said that the group came to seek the support of the ministry of environment to pronounce actual date to end gas flaring and that the ministry should act as a driving force in ending gas flaring and not abdicate its duty to Petroleum Ministry.
He said the group encouraged the ministry to reproduce the kind of assertiveness that characterized its work during the Ogoni Clean-up, especially during the flag-off days.
He said that CoSET requested the ministry to compel oil companies to make public their plans for ending gas flaring and managing associated gas and carry out a health audit on the impact of gas flaring in affected communities.
He said that CoSET would work in synergy with the ministry of environment and be part of subsequent relevant national consultation or engagement in our areas of focus.
Mr Ulrich Thum, the Resident Representative of the Fredrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) office in Abuja, said that FES was in collaboration with CoSET to work for the total wellbeing of peoples, communities and the natural environment.
Thum said that FES was also supporting the coalition for ecological transformation by identifying issues, especially on gas flaring and looking for possible solutions to them.