By Udeme Akpan
THE Federal Government has been tasked to stop the proliferation of illegal refineries in Nigeria, as they impact very negatively on the environment.
In its 2018 health, Safety and Environment, HSE conference report obtained by Vanguard, DPR stated: “Illegal artisanal refining is now a major source of pollution and needs to be tackled, through immediate multi-stakeholder’s engagement among operators, regulators, Government Security Forces, and community leadership.
“The Federal and State Governments need to address the underdevelopment and feeling of neglect in the Niger Delta as this remains a challenge to improved environmental stewardship. Some of the statutory fees currently paid in foreign currency should be considered for payment/imbursement in our local currency.
“While HSE practice in the upstream sector has achieved a commendable minimum standard over the years, the downstream sector requires sustained attention to improve HSE performance. Pursuing sustainability has been proven to be good business as it positively impacts financial performance.”
It stated: “Accreditation of qualified medical professionals and facilities is important for the successful implementation of the new Occupational Health and Guidance and Standards for the Petroleum Industry in Nigeria.
“All industry stakeholders – government, operating oil & gas and service companies are encouraged to integrate physical activity and exercise within the workplace through modern technology such as gymnasium facilities.
“The practice of Hyperbaric Medicine (health of divers), requires urgent intervention, particularly in data collation, deployment of qualified medical personnel and training facilities.
“Mental Health Risks in the Oil and Gas Industry are high with serious consequences and should not be stigmatized, rather mental health should be integrated in the company’s wellness programmes using assessment, promotion and preventives strategies.
“Emphasis must be paid to depression, which has been recognised by WHO as the most common type of mental health challenge that can be resolved with early intervention. Work related stress should also be in focus. Employee Mental Health Provisions Using Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) should be included in the National Occupational Safety and Health policy and Occupational Health and Safety bill for effective legislative enforcement in all workplaces in Nigeria.”
It added: “There is an urgent need for establishment of a National Environmental Database for the oil and gas industry.”
The DPR should lead this effort. Performance reviews show that operators need to improve their compliance-performance in produced water handling, gas flaring and management of environmental issues.
“The regulators should lead a paradigm shift in the industry’s approach to biodiversity conservation starting with requirements for increased budgetary allocation by operators and a 5-yearly check on the region’s biodiversity. Operators must continue to improve on community-operator relations through sustained social interventions in infrastructure and human capacity.
“All new projects should have decommissioning in view from the conceptual stage of the project through design and implementation. Lessons abound from other countries with mature fields. Decommissioning guidelines should be sufficiently robust to also cover gas facilities.
“Sustained efforts are required to stem the pervasive mediocrity across environmental practice in Nigeria. Key actions required include intervention to ensure quick passage of the Bill for an Institute of Environmental Practitioners and a Voluntary Code of Ethics for environmental practitioners. The practice of burning crude oil recovered from illegal activities should be stopped forthwith. Revenue is being lost and it causes major air, water and soil pollution. Procedures, including temporary laydown areas, should be established to receive, monetize and/or responsibly dispose of recovered crude oil.”