Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Wednesday in Abuja, assured that President Muhammadu Buhari will assent to the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) Bill 2018, that has been passed by the National Assembly.
Speaking at a stakeholders workshop on “Reducing Environmental Degradation in the Niger Delta through Improved Oil Spill Response,” the Vice President also assured that the cleanup of Ogoniland will happen any moment from now. He said contracts have been awarded and soon there will be boots on the ground.
The Vice President who spoke through his Senior Special Assistant on Niger Delta Affairs, Sir Peter Idabor, at workshop organised by the National Coalition on Gas Flares and Oil Spills in the Niger Delta (NACGOND), said, however, that there are processes to be followed leading up to the assent of the bill.
He said, “I have no doubt in my mind that the bill will be signed. But as you know there’s a process, at the end of that process I’m sure the bill will be signed because this President (Muhammadu Buhari) is committed to cleaner environment.”
He explained that there’s a lot of inputes in the amended NOSDRA bill that will change the way operations are currently carried out in the industry and largely change the narrative in the Niger Delta region. “All this goes to show how committed this government is to environment and the Niger Delta,” he said.
Also speaking, Hon. Obinna Chidoka, Chairman, House Committee on Environment, berated the oil companies for simply mining, repatriating resources to their home countries and leaving degraded environment behind in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region.
“It is our duty to stop these bad practices and make sure we hold them accountable for every inch of oil spilled in the Niger Delta,” Chidoka said.
To this end, he said the need to strengthen NOSDRA to not only effectively respond to oil spill but to prevent it, cannot be over emphasised.
Chidoka, who said, the National Assembly will Veto should the executive fail to assent to the bill, lamented that the oil companies do not adopt same operational standard in Nigeria as they do in other countries because they have been allowed to carry on far too long without strict regulations.
“But hopefully the President will assent to the bill or at worst make observations that the National Assembly can work on and send back for assent. That bill needs to assented,” Chidoka stressed.
In his remarks, the Director General of NOSDRA who was represented by the agency’s Director, Asset, Safety, Mitigation Department, Mr. Obanewa Oladipo, said that oil spill issues remains the most crucial challenge in the Niger Delta.
While noting that it is pertinent to stop oil spillage in the region, Oladipo explained that the effect of environmental degradation goes beyond the immediate impacted area, as the effect can be felt in other parts of Nigeria.
Speaking earlier, the National President of NACGOND, Fr. Edward Obi, explained that the group took up the challenge of pursuing an amendment to the NOSDRA act after observing gaps in the existing law which made it impossible for the agency to fulfil it’s mandate.
“Although there was a lot of opposition by the companies, but we worked with NOSDRA as well as the House and Senate, debated and defended the law until it was passed,” Obi said.
While calling on the President to assent to the bill, Obi said the move by NACGOND underscores how CSOs can collaborate with government agencies and the legislature to achieve results.
Obi explained further that the bill as passed by the legislature increases NOSDRA’s capacity to protect the environment, respond to oil spills and control the disposal of oily wastes in the Niger Delta.
It also bestows on NOSDRA the capacity to monitor the decommissioning of oil facilities in the region, amongst others.