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WHO Cleans Up The Niger Delta Mess?

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For two hours this morning, I entered into high level deliberation with a high profile official of the National Emergency Management Agency.

understandably, our focus was on the growing emergency situations in the terror-ravaged North East of Nigeria. We also delved into the reported malnutrition of hundred-of-thousands of internally displaced Nigerians especially Children which at the last count has led to over a few dozen deaths. A story even circulated that some desperately hungry internally displaced persons resorted to eating raw grasses to survive.

He showed me evidence that his office has so far spent virtually 85 percent of their resources just to feed the internally displaced persons in Maiduguri alone.

He shockingly admitted that NEMA only drops off the relief materials with the state administration but that thieving officials steal those vital foodstuffs.

He nevertheless expressed shock at the expanding emergencies in other section of the North East.

I then asked him if his office is getting ready to provide relief materials incase emergency situation emerges in the soon -to- be launched military 'operation crocodile smile'.

He smiled like the crocodile and stated emphatically that he has no answer.

The above enriching encounter brings me to the environmental impacts and destruction that have happened in the Niger Delta as a result of the bombing of Pipelines by a range of militant groups who claimed that they are seeking to draw President Muhammadu Buhari’s attention to the pathetic human and environmental rights' violations of the people of Niger Delta.

I ask this question because the Statutory agency for cleanup of the polluted Niger Delta environment known as the National oil spill detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) established by Act of the National Assembly of 2006 has become moribund and non-existent due to lack of creative enterprise and efficient organisational and managerial skills of the hierarchy charged with the responsibilities of running the place.

Again, the quantum of crude oil spill in that region that has for fifty years consistently given Nigeria her entire or at least largest percentage of externally generated revenue is mind- boggling.

The below are the time line of attacks of the oil facilities as captured by the media in the recent times.

On February 10, 2016: At about 1:30 am, the group claims to have attacked the Bonny Soku Gas Export Line. The line conveys natural gas to the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas plant and an independent power plant at Gbaran in the Niger Delta.

  • February 14: It claims attack on SPDC giant underwater Forcados 48-inch Export Pipeline at the Forcados Export Terminal.

*February 19: At about 3:30 a.m, blows up the Clough Creek Tebidaba Agip Pipeline Manifold in Bayelsa State.

  • May 4: Attacks the Chevron Valve Platform located at Abiteye. This platform is reportedly the most significant platform for Chevron as it serves as the main connecting point where all other platforms link up and it is a fulcrum to Chevron BOP and the Chevron Tank Farm.
  • May 5: Launches a coordinated attack on the Chevorn Well D25 in Abiteye and blew up major pipelines.

*May 13: Bombs a Chevron pipeline at two separate spots near a military location

  • May 20: It attacks the Escravos Gas Pipeline, a facility of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, in Delta State.
  • May 25: NDA strikes Chevron main electricity feed pipeline to the Escravos Tank Farm at Ciera creek in Warri South-West Local Government Area of Delta State.
  • May 27: Destroys the Nembe 1, 2 and 3 Brass to Bonny trunk lines belonging to Nigerian Agip Oil Company, NAOC and Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC in Bayelsa State at about 2.15am on Saturday
  • May 27: Blows up NNPC Gas and Crude trunk lines in Warri at 11.45 pm

*May 31: Blows up Chevron Oil Well RMP 23 and RMP 24 believed to the company’s highest swamp producing oil wells at about 3:44 am

  • June 1: It carries out twin-attacks on wells RMP 23 and RMP 24 owned by Chevron Nigeria Limited. Both wells are located at Dibi in Warri South West local government area of Delta State.
  • June 2: About 2.00 am, it bombs the Ogboinbiri to Tebidaba and Clough Creek to Tebidaba Crude O] oil pipelines in Bayelsa State.
  • June 3: At about 3:00 am, it blows up the SPDC Forcados 48″ Export line in Delta State because the company went ahead with repair works against its warning
  • June 3: 11. At about 3:30am, strike team blows up Brass to Tebidaba Crude oil line in Bayelsa State.

The above cases are only but a fraction of all the cases of bombing of Pipelines. Put these statistics together with the activities of oil bunkering gangs and other evil persons stealing crude oil from the Niger Delta, what will emerge is that it may take significant resource and expertise to clean up the mess. With the dwindling fortunes of the country under the current administration it is mystifying to say exactly where the resources will come especially since the bombing campaign of the militants in the Niger Delta is said to have crippled over 60 percent of crude oil exploration activities in the region.

Long before the coming of Niger Delta Avengers, there were attempts by the National Assembly to amend the relevant sections of the Act setting up NOSDRA to make it much more effective but the inefficient managers who still govern that sleeping agency did nothing to ensure successful passage.

Crude oil spills and gas flares by multinational companies actually precipitated the earlier agitation by Niger Delta environmental rights campaigners which over the past few years attracted considerable global attention with Shell and Chevron coming under intense scrutiny in some recent European courts' decided cases.

But with these series of attacks, it is now left to imagination how messy the Niger Delta is right now coupled with the existence of a Federal government funded agency that is inefficient.

We had submitted a position paper to the National Assembly Environment committee as follows: HUMAN Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), a registered civil society group with well over one thousand members drawn from all parts of the country hereby endorse the move by the senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and by extension the National Assembly, to amend the enabling Act setting up the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (Establishment Act) of 2006 to reflect the realities of our time and to empower the body to protect our environment.

Crude oil spill has consistently occupied the front burner as the most disturbing environmental problem in the oil rich but heavily neglected Niger Delta region of Nigeria.

Once we were informed of this proposed amendment, we spent the better part of last week asking some senior high school students if they are conversant with the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency [NOSDRA] and majority of our respondents said they have heard about the activities of this agency charged with the duty of policing oil spill in Nigeria but they also wondered why oil pollution has continued making it necessary for some fishermen from the crude oil producing community in Niger Delta to proceed to a Dutch Court room to challenge Shell Petroleum for damaging their environment and livelihood through oil spills.

Crude oil spill agency (NOSDRA) that is only interested in paying the management huge salaries and do nothing to effectively carry out their mandate has done more harm than good.

On December 18th 2012, the Platform I heads submitted a position paper on how to reorganize and reenergize NOSDRA and I think taking some peeps into that submission will help to call the attention of the National Assembly and the Nigerian State on the need to restructure NOSDRA.

This Government agency according to these respondents needs to more actively carry out advocacy activities on their key mandates because of the indisputable fact that crude oil spill is a major environmental issue afflicting most oil bearing communities.

The respondents supported the decision to amend the enabling Act to give more powers and functions to the agency.

Only recently, the Nobel laureate professor Wole Soyinka and the chairman of the National Human Rights Commission as he then was Professor Chidi Odinkalu lamented the lack of response by the federal government to effectively compel indicted multinational oil firms to commence clean up exercise around ogoniland in River state gravely affected by oil spill which even attracted the attention of the United Nations.

Remarkably President Muhammadu Buhari has commenced the process of cleaning up Ogoniland.

But on a much more worrying scale this writer recall that Pauline Tallen (Mrs.), the former minister of State for Environment is of the view that government cannot afford not to carry out the statutory obligation of ensuring that whenever there is a spill, the environment must be promptly cleaned up to save the inhabitants from the environmental hazards.

Her words: “Environmental issues have perhaps attracted more lively discussions than any scientific topics these recent years. This is because man suddenly realized that his dirty habits are wrecking a terrible havoc on his ecosystem-acid rain, ozone layer depletion, deforestation and desertification, oil spills, erosion, global warming, solid waste, toxic chemicals. These contaminants, pollutions and toxicants in forms of solid, liquids and gasses that are spewed daily by anthropogenic activities, are threatening the very fragile fabric and have exposed our very tenuous existence and this hitherto beautiful world”.

The Nigerian federal government in line with global best practices has established the National oil spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) under the National oil spill Detection and Response Agency (establishment) Act of 2006 to handle the critical environmental consequences of oil spill and to enforce relevant laws guiding against oil spillage in the oil producing communities. Government must therefore reform the leadership of that agency now.

This writer is of the considered position that the current administration is therefore expected to be in the vanguard of the advocacy for the adequate funding and comprehensive legal empowerment of NOSDRA so that these disturbing cases of oil spills in the oil producing communities are effectively tackled. First the right caliber of management team must be put in place to drive the process.

We have prior to the coming of the current inefficient managers now at the helms of affairs in NOSDRA, independently verified from different documented sources that since its establishment, the body has claimed to have discharged the fundamental mandates embodied in the enabling Act which are to;

  • Establish a viable national operational organization that ensures a safe, timely, effective and appropriate response to major or disastrous oil pollution;

  • Identify high-risk areas as well as priority areas for protection and clean up;

  • Establish the mechanism to monitor and assist or where expedient direct the response, including the capacity to mobilize the necessary resources to save lives, protect threatened environment, and clean up to the best practical extent of the impacted site;

  • Maximize the effective use of the available facilities and resources of corporate bodies, their international connections and oil spill co-operatives, that is Clean Nigeria Associates (CAN) in implementing appropriate spill response;

  • Ensure funding and appropriate and sufficient pre-positioned pollution combating equipment and materials, as well as functional communication network system required for effective response to major oil pollution;

  • Provide a programme of activation, training and drill exercise to ensure readiness to oil pollution preparedness and response and the management and operational personnel; and

  • Co-operate and provide advisory services, technical support and equipment for purposes of responding to major oil pollution incident in the West African sub-region upon request by any neighboring country, particularly where a part of the Nigerian territory may be threatened.

Government is statutorily obliged by section 20 of the constitution to protect the environment from oil spill. Section 20 of the Constitution provides that “The State SHALL protect and improve the environment and safeguard the water, air, and land, forest and wild life of Nigeria”.

Conversely, the international convention on civil liability for oil pollution Damage (1992) and the international oil pollution compensation funds convention (IOPC), [1992] are major global legal framework that specifically prescribes measures on how to ensure environment that is relatively free of oil spill.

Article one of the general provisions of the International Convention on oil pollution, preparedness, Response and co-operation of 1990 states that “parties undertake, individually or jointly, to take all appropriate measures in accordance with the provision of this convention and the Annex thereto to prepare for and respond to an oil pollution incident”.

Writing under the general theme of oil spill management in developing nations, Moller and Santer suggest that there is a widespread preoccupation with specialized equipment, it is often forgotten that successful oil spill response is primarily dependent on a realistic attitude and basic organization.

*Emmanuel Onwubiko is Head of Human rights Writers association of Nigeria and blogs @ www.emmanuelonwubiko.com

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