Stakeholders meet in Port Harcourt to address complexities in the vexed issue of oil spill in the Niger Delta region of the country
Oil bearing communities, oil companies and regulators in the sector have called for the strengthening of the National Oil Spill Detection and Regulatory Agency (NOSDRA). This, according to them, is to enable agency deliver on its core mandate of responding to and managing oil spills in a sustainable manner that is beneficial to the environment, communities and the oil companies. The resolution was made at a one-day meeting of the communities, regulators and operators in Port Harcourt last Thursday, which also reviewed a number of cases of oil spills in the Niger Delta region and noted that a lot still needed to be done to clean up lands and waters impacted by oil spills. They also noted that apart from the impact of oil spills on the environment, cases that are not well managed often lead to social strife, disconnect and death.
The meeting was the Quarterly Meeting of the Rivers State Multi-Stakeholder Platform on Oil Spill in the Niger Delta (MSP) hosted by the Nigerian Stability and Reconciliation Programme (NSRP) of the British Council in collaboration with the African Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR). The meeting examined two cases of oil spill, one at the Ebeocha station operated by Nigerian Agip Oil Company Limited in Ogba/Egbema/ Ndoni Local Government Area, Rivers State and the other at Idagbori community in Ahoada West Local Government Area, Rivers State where Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC Limited operates several oil wells, and observed that the situations would have been better remedied if the agencies, communities and operators worked together.
In order to ensure the elimination of any conflict in the future, the meeting called on communities hosting oil installations to do all within their capacity to prevent oil spills and sabotage of oil facilities in their land and to promptly report cases of oil spills to the operator and respective government regulatory agencies. It called on security agencies “to thoroughly investigate all cases of alleged third party interference of oil facilities and ensure that culprits are arrested, prosecuted and punished” instead of blaming it on the host communities. Participants also urged operators in the oil industry to avail themselves of the opportunities created for mediation between them and oil communities to minimise grievances arising from oil spill response and management. That also comes with the responsibility of operators accepting responsibility for oil spills not caused by third parties, instead of alleging sabotage.
It called on the National Assembly and the Federal Government to strengthen the laws establishing the various regulatory agencies in the oil spill management sector for better coordination and framework for responding to oil spill issues and to revise laws that deny victims of oil spills compensation when oil spills are caused by third party interference.
While urging civil society groups to improve on the sensitisation of oil communities on the need for them to report promptly cases of oil spill to NOSDRA, it called on the mass media to focus on the real issues involved in oil spill cases and avoid sensationalising the issues. It deplored the resort by security agencies to burning impounded crude oil and illegal refineries in the Niger Delta because of the environmental hazards such type of destruction causes. It urged for a better way of managing the seized crude oil, which may include legalising the illegal refineries that create jobs for multitudes of youths in the Niger Delta.