Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) on Sunday urged the Federal Government to streamline its agencies tackling oil spills in order to conserve resources and avoid duplication of functions.
Mr Nnimmo Bassey, the Executive Director, ERA/FoEN, a non-governmental organisation that deals with environmental conservation, made the call in an interview with newsmen in Eket.
He stressed that the overlapping functions of National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) and the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) were unhealthy for the oil industry.
Bassey noted that the NOSDRA Act of 2006 empowered the agency to handle oil spill matters in the country.
“However, it is unfortunate that in the recent oil spill at Mobil’s oil field, NOSDRA and DPR were both claiming to have rights to approve the use of chemical dispersal. From all indications, it is clear that the DPR is still reluctant to steer clear of oil spill matters and allow the oil spill agency to handle that aspect; the government should step in and clear the air on the issue. NOSDRA has shown the will to sanitise the oil industry, it has so far sanctioned some oil firms for poor response to oil spill incidents; their capacity should be strengthened. A situation where they depend on oil firms to take them to oil spill sites is not good enough because they will be at the mercy of the operators, but if they have their own means of transportation they can visit the spill sites faster,” he said.
Bassey stressed that for NOSDRA to play its surveillance role in the oil sector efficiently, it should have its own transportation facilities to respond swiftly to emergencies.
He said that the DPR should focus on other aspects of the industry that needed attention instead of dissipating its energy on jobs assigned to another government agency.
“It is unacceptable that the DPR would be the one endorsing and approving the chemicals used as dispersal when spills of this nature occur. The DPR is part and parcel of the oil sector and so it cannot regulate oil spills that occur as a result of its operations. The DPR should rather focus its attention to issues like installing meters at oil and gas wells so that the nation will be able to how much oil and gas is pumped from the wells. NOSDRA should be empowered to become a strong regulatory agency so that whenever the international oil companies or the NNPC run afoul of the rules, they can truly be held accountable,” Bassey said.
It will be recalled that the Director-General of NOSDRA, Dr Peter Idabor, said that the agency did not give approval for the use of dispersal agents for the Nov. 9 oil spill at the Qua Iboe oil fields operated by Mobil.
However, a statement from Mr Paul Arinze, Mobil’s General Manager (Public Affairs), disclosed that the approval to use the dispersal agents was given by the DPR.