The Federal Government is considering an amendment to the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) Act, yo ensure more stringent regulation of the activities of oil-producing companies against oil spillage.
This follows incessant oil spills and their attendant negative effects on the environment in the oil producing communities in the Niger Delta.
Minister of State for Environment, Sharon Ikeazor, made this disclosure Thursday at the weekly press briefing organized by the Presidential Communications Team at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
She also said the government had commenced clean-up operations at the recent AITEO Nembe oil spill site in Nembe, Bayelsa State, with collaboration among her Ministry, that of Petroleum Resources and the oil company involved.
Ikeazor further disclosed that the government has perfected plans to provide alternative jobs for the youth of the oil-producing communities so that they could move away from illegal bunkering and refining.
“It goes beyond the oil companies giving out palliatives, they must put measures in pace to prevent such accidents from happening. They are also claiming that the spill was do due sabotage by the local communities.
“We are going to have a targeted approach to illegal bunkering, tampering with oil installation and artisanal mining in the Niger Delta to get alternative livelihood for the young people of the Niger Delta, so that they would desist from this because it is further polluting the environment.
“The situation has been brought under control. I got a brief from DG of NOSDRA who was out on the field. So, now, work has to start on the proper clean up.
“I got briefings through the Director of NOSDRA, and what I saw in term of the pollution, either through oil refining or illegal oil refining and otherwise- the devastation of the Niger Delta is massive. As we are cleaning up, what we are cleaning up is minute compared to the devastation going on.
“It is something that government needs to tackle headlong. I hope they would have put the picture on, it was like a Hiroshima site. So, this is something we must tackle headlong. We are beyond talking and having workshops.
“On the issue of penalties, I mentioned earlier the review of NOSDRA Bill. You know most of Acts we have were passed years ago. You will see that they will give maybe N100 fine, anyone can pay that and go back and re-pollute.
“We need to put stiffer penalties, build the capacity of NOSDRA which is the regulatory agency in the oil sector, to be able to have the teeth to bite. Without enhancing their capacity and reaffirming the legal framework, getting it stronger, they can’t do much. These are areas we are looking in to, it has to stop.
“Government is working on alternative livelihood for the communities so that we can move them away from illegal activities and further polluting of the environment,” she said.
The Minister also expressed worry at the increase in the price of cooking gas lamenting that the development has led to depletion of the nation’s forests.
According to her, those people who cannot afford cooking gas have begun to fall back on firewood and charcoal which, she noted, could lead to deforestation and reverse the gains already made by the government in its efforts to address the challenges of climate change.