Crude oil exploration has witnessed an upward growth since the commodity was first discovered in the country in the 1950s. While it has sustained the Nigerian economy, oil exploration activities have taken a toll on the Nigerian environment. One such consequence is the effect of oil spillage on the terrestrial and aquatic life.

The National Policy for the Environment outlines a broad spectrum of environmental issues that require definite attention and action by all stakeholders. Among these is the critical concern on oil pollution emanating from spills, oil well blow-outs, pipeline vandalism, and equipment failure.

The National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, NOSDRA, was established in 2006 as an institutional framework to co-ordinate the implementation of National Oil Spill Contingency Plan, NOSCP, in accordance with the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Cooperation (OPRC 90) to which Nigeria is a signatory.

NOSDRA is, therefore, the lead agency of government in ensuring timely, effective and appropriate response to oil spills, through clean up and remediation of all impacted sites to all best practical extent.

Speaking with Sweetcrude in Abuja, the NOSDRA boss explained that the Agency ensures that all oil spills are cleaned up by the company responsible for the spills, adding that failure to clean up promptly attracts fines from defaulters.

He added, “NOSDRA has been engaged in monitoring of remediation of past impacted sites, and has inspected more than 1,150 impacted sites of various oil companies, out of which some have been certified as having been restored to their natural status. An inventory of past impacted sites in the country is in progress. So far, the Agency has issued remediation certificates for about 269 sites.”

Idabor stressed that the Agency is also involved in the cleanup of Ogoni land, which is being handled by the United Nations Environmental Programme, UNEP at the behest of the Federal Government.

He explained that in an effort to curb pollution of land and water resources caused by oil and gas activities in Nigeria, national laws, regulation, guidelines and standards have been developed to control and manage the operations of the petroleum sector to achieve sustainable development.

He, however, noted that with increasing activities in the new horizons of the deep and ultra-depth offshore areas, it has become imperative to review and update the existing environmental regulations for the petroleum industry to conform to the challenges as well as reflect new advances in technology.

Idabor disclosed the Federal Government’s White Paper on the UNEP Report is expected in the next few weeks. “Now, all effort is directed towards going in and ensuring a proper remedial clean-up exercise that will bring back some level of normalcy in the area, beginning with the provision of clean, potable water for use by the people of the area.”

He further announced that as an outcome of a preliminary meeting with Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State, the agency is working towards sealing off contaminated wells, and supplying fresh potable water for consumption by Ogoni people.

The NOSDRA Chief Executive pointed out that the Agency is in the process of establishing a National Command and Control Centre for the purpose of detecting and managing oil spill incidents through the use of Geographic Information System (GIS) technology.

To this end, he said that approval has been given via the Ecological Funds Office for the procurement and installation of the GIS equipment at the centre.

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