Senate seeks better approach to managing oil spill

Edwin Akwueh, Abuja

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The Senate has re-affirmed its commitment to protecting the lives of Nigerians by enacting laws that add value to the daily needs of every citizen.

This is especially those needs that are impacted by the activities in the oil and gas sector.

Chairman of the Senate committee on environment, Senator Olurenmi Tinubu re-echoed this on Tuesday at a one-day public hearing on the amendment of the Bill establishing the Oil spill detection and response Agency Act, 2006.

The Bill, which established the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), seeks to expand the responsibility of NOSDRA beyond oil spill and detection alone, and to strengthen it to perform all its statutory functions.

Impracticable to comply
Some of the stakeholders that participated in the public hearing, including local and International oil companies, expressed worry that the Bill contains lots of duplications with other existing laws in the country, which make it impracticable to comply with.

They also argued that latest additions in the amendment to the Bill will also overburden the sector thereby making it less attractive to investors.

Exxon-Mobile represented the group during the presentation of memoranda by participants.

In a statement, Exxon Mobil said, “Expansion of NOSDRA functions into other areas of hazardous waste management, gas flare, abandonment of drilling sites, radioactive waste management, and decomposition of drilling sites, aside that it’s a duplication of laws, it’s going to make compliance extremely difficult.”  

However, a member of the senate committee on environment, Senator Magnus Abe who hails from the oil producing, Niger Delta region, advised the stakeholders to understand that laws are made to protect the society as a whole and not to serve the interest of a section of the citizenry.

“In making your case against duplication, you didn’t talk about values, who can do it better? What is wrong with the way it is being done now? And how it can be made right. That is essentially what this hearing is all about, so just saying duplication doesn’t solve the problem for the Nigerian people,” Senator Abe stated.

“When you talk about laws being difficult to comply with, that in itself shouldn’t be a consideration for the laws that we pass because laws are not for the convenience of those who have to comply with them. Laws are for the good of the society,” he added.    

The Director General, Nigeria Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) Sir Peter Idabor wants the lawmakers to separate issues of environmental governance from those of technical governance in managing any level of oil spill in the country:

“Our job is to protect the health of the people, to prevent all these polluted substances coming from oil spill from entering our food chain. That’s the point we are making.”

Infant mortality
In another development, the Senate on Tuesday mandated it’s Committees on Women Affairs and Health to liaise with the Federal Ministries of Women Affairs and Health to find ways of curbing maternal, new born and infant mortality in the country.

The resolution followed a motion titled, “Alarming maternal and infant mortality rate in Nigeria,” and it was sponsored by Senator Ahmed Ogembe.

Senator Ogembe in his lead debate lamented that “Nigeria is the second largest contributor to the under-five and maternal mortality rate in the world”.

Senator Ogembe added that “research have shown that the essential interventions reaching women and babies on time is capable of averting most of these deaths.”

He noted that preventable or treatable infectious diseases such as malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea, measles and HIV/AIDS accounted for more than 70% of the death.

Air mishaps
Meanwhile, the Senate has resolved to invite the Minister of State for Transportation in charge of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, to update the lawmakers on the steps that have been taken to minimize human errors and avoid preventable air crashes in the country.

To appear alongside the minister are the heads of Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, (NCAA), Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) and every other relevant agency in the aviation industry.

Senate also urged the Minister to immediately direct all relevant agencies in the Aviation industry to conduct a maintenance and airworthiness audit on all commercial aircraft operating within the Nigerian airspace.

This is as well as the training of personnel in the industry.

These resolutions followed a motion on “The need to minimize the possibility of air mishaps and near fatalities in Nigeria,” sponsored by Senator Gbenga Ashafa and cosponsored by eight other lawmakers during Tuesday’s plenary.

Sammie Idika