The Presidency has assured Nigerians, especially the people of the Niger Delta region that President Muhammadu Buhari would soon sign the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) Amendment bill passed by the National Assembly.
Mr Edebor Iyamu, the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the Vice President on Niger Delta, gave the assurance at a one day workshop to highlight the socio-environmental benefits of the bill when signed into law.
Edebor noted that the Buhari-led administration was committed to a cleaner environment going by the theme of the workshop which is “Reducing Environmental Degradation in the Niger Delta through Improved Oil Spill Response”.
He said: “There is no doubt that the bill will be signed but there is a process and at the end of the process, it will be signed.
“The bill caters for third party pollution as it concerns refining and other things; there are so much in the bill that will change the narrative in the Niger Delta.
“We are aware of the Ogoni cleanup which will happen soon because the contract has been awarded and this is toward a cleaner environment and to ensure that things are done the way they should be.
“I know things will definitely get better in the region under this present administration.”
The presidency assurance came on the heels of an appeal by the National Coalition on Gas flares and Oil spills in the Niger Delta (NACGOND), which urged President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to the amended NOSDRA bill.
NACGOND, a coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) on oil spill, through its National Coordinator Rev. Fr. Edward Obi, said assenting to the bill would help to restore the Niger Delta environment.
“The bill will be a complementary effort to what the Hydrocarbon Pollution and Remediation Project (HYPREP) is doing in Ogoni land.
“The bill as passed by the National Assembly, increases NOSDRA capacity to protect the environment and respond to oil spills and control the disposal of oily wastes in the Niger Delta.
“This is important since the bill, among, other provisions, increases funding for NOSDRA to respond to spills by third parties including individuals, servicing companies, vandals and oil thieves.
“The bill enables NOSDRA to enforce increased fines that will encourage greater environmental accountability on the part of operators; there is also the capacity to inspect and monitor the decommissioning of oil facilities that are no longer operational,” he said.
Obi urged government agencies to synergise and ensure a cleaner Niger Delta as it would reduce land and water contamination levels and improvement in the traditional pattern of land use for rural livelihoods.
Also speaking, the Director-General of NOSDRA, Mr Peter Idabor, said that the amended bill took care of the inadequacies which had hampered the operation of the agency, especially as it concerned the oil spill in Ogoniland, Rivers State.
Idabor, who was represented by Mr Obanewa Oladipo, Director, Asset, Safety, Mitigation Department of NOSDRA, noted that the agency would soon achieve its full mandate.
“The issue of oil spill is the most worrisome in recent times because of its ripple effect and implication that could affect every state in the country and even beyond.
“The Ogoni oil spill issue needs to be urgently tackled. Having established this law about 10 years ago, it was observed that there were lots of flaws and then the need for the amendment bill submitted to the 7th Assembly.
“Graciously, the 8th Assembly took it upon themselves to pass it,” he said.
In his remarks, Rep. Obinna Chidoka, Chairman, House Committee on Environment, decried the environmental degradation caused by oil companies, noting that time had come for the Niger Delta people to heave a sigh of relief.
“Niger Delta is about 7,000km and oil pipes crisscross every part of the area and as such, there are oil spills everywhere and also gas flaring.
“The companies come and destroy the environment and go with the money; if I am the president of this country, the companies will have a hard time and pay for every oil they spill here.
“These companies get away with all these because some of our people go there and collect “bribe” and if that bill is to be vetoed, we will do the needful,” Chidoka said.