…Says agency an Act of Parliament
By Chris Ochayi
The Director General, National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, NOSDRA, Mr. Idris Musa, has said that the proposed scraping of the agency would not only have great consequences on the environment, but will return the nation to the Dark Age.
Mr. Musa, who stated this during an interactive session with journalists in Abuja, advised that the agency should be spared but strengthened in order to delivers its mandate to Nigerians, especially in the Niger Delta region, which has suffered devastating oil spill impact.
Musa, who spoke in view of recent moves by the Federal Government to embark on streamlining of government agencies, said NOSDRA plays very crucial role in ensuring the protection and of environment.
He said NOSDRA was among few globally recognised agencies having established through the Act of international convention charged with mandate to safeguard the maritime environment from any form of pollution.
Recall President Muhammadu Buhari recently directed the Federal executive Council, FEC, to review the Oronseye report on streamlining government agencies.
The review of draft white paper on Oronsaye committee report, were parts of numerous steps being taking by the government cut cost in the wake of economic downturn in the country.
The Presidential Committee on Reform of Government agencies had recommended the reduction of statutory agencies of government from 263 to 161.
The proposal, which contained in an 800-page report, was submitted to former President Goodluck Jonathan by the former Head of Service and Chairman of the Committee, Steve Oronsaye, but nothing was done to implement the report by the administration.
Speaking further, Musa was however optimistic he present administration of the course of implementing the report will see reasons why NOSDRA should be retained to prevent the nation from having oil pollution.
According to him, “ And we believe that this government too will also see reason why NOSDRA as an agency of Ministry of environment should stay and make sure we don’t have oil pollution.
Revealing what transpire between the agency and the Steve Ornsaye Committee during the submission of papers, Musa recalled, “I think the report been as it was, either, the members of the Oronseye Committee did not understand what the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan stands for.
“And he agency in charge of implementation of it and also supervising in ensuring compliance with environmental regulatory in the petroleum industry did not understand it or, they chose not to understand.
“I recall when that Committee was on, we were invited, we went in there, we submitted all the papers that we had to present just as we are addressing you here.
“But to our dismayed, the committee Chairman did not take our submission. That was just the truth. He just said, well from NOSDRA, we know NOSDRA, we know what to do with NOSDRA. No comment at all.
“We were not given the opportunity to even make the presentation as to what we do, how are we created. This agency was not administratively set, up agency, this agency was set up by an Act of Parliament. And it was not set up for the sake of setting it up; it was set up in response to an international convention.
“And apart from that international convention, which was signed to so many countries in the world, there was also another convention called Abidjan Convention, that the sub-regional for ECOWAS countries.
And one thing or the other, the Committee felt NOSDRA should be scrapped. If you scrapped it, you are taking us back to the scenario I explained earlier.
“When there was no contingency plan and National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, we knew what we experienced; it is like going back to Egypt. It will talk us far back.
“But again, graciously enough, when this report was presented to the government and the white paper was issued on it, the white paper did not accent to the fact that the report said scrap NOSDRA. Rather, it said noted.”
The DG noted that the plans to cede the NOSDRA, an agency under the Ministry of Environment to the Department of Petroleum Resources would be counterproductive.
He said though, when verified the remarks in the white paper pointed that NOSDRA should not be scrapped, adding, “Until the present administration takes a look at Oronseye Report.
“And we believe that this government too will also see reason why NOSDRA as an agency of Ministry of environment should stay and make sure we don’t have oil pollution.”
On what NOSDRA is all about, he said, “Let me give you the background of now NOSDRA came in to be. You know, we started oil production in commercial quantity in 1956 at Oloibiri.
“And from 1956 to year 2000, we did not have what we called National Oil Spill Contingency Plan. And this National Oil Spill Contingency Plan is what we ordinarily should have in order to protect ourselves against any oil pollution.
“However, we are not the only country producing oil. There have been nations producing oil even before us, many years before us as a country. And oil has always being moved from one point to other across the world, both the crude oil as well as petroleum products.
“So, what happened was that the International Maritime Organisation, IMO, felt that if been the United Nations, UN, organ that is in charge of maritime environment, needs to safeguard the maritime environment from any form of pollution.
“And towards that, there was an international convention called International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness Response and Corporation. Nations were sensitized to be part of this convention. And in 1990, the convention proper was put in place and countries began to sign into it.
“Nigeria was part of the countries of the world that signed to that convention. It was International Oil Pollution Preparedness Response Corporation 1990. So, Nigeria is a signatory.
“And what is the import of that, when this convention was signed, all member countries, which they called member states were urged to have what they called National Oil Spill Contingency Plan.
“And that was how Nigeria began the steps to put in place what is called, National Oil Spill Contingency Plan that was in 1990.”
Musa recalled that it was the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan that later give birth to National oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, NOSDRA, under the civilian administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo.