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POLITICS OF OIL SPILL CONTINGENCY PLAN (1)

By NBF News

Call it political amnesia or the usual business-as-usual rehash of public speeches by political office holders or you may as well choose to call it a politically calculated and motivated policy 'faux pas' and somersault.

These descriptions were the exact reactions that came to my mind early this week when the profoundly beautiful and in fact Nigeria's first ever female minister of Petroleum Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke addressed participants at a recent safety workshop on offshore drilling organized by the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) in Abuja which was widely published by the nation's dailies.

The minister was quoted to have charged stakeholders in the oil and gas industry to come up with recommendations on the most effective and efficient regulatory framework to deal with catastrophic oil spills in the country. The media reported that Alison-Madueke assured the stakeholders that the government's efforts to establish National Oil Spill Contingency Plan were being vigorously pursued.

'Your recommendations at the end of this forum may invigorate the process of establishing the body. Nature has been very kind to us in this part of the world but we should not overlook the necessity of putting adequate plans in place to overcome any natural challenge that might arise at any point in time,' she said.

'Given the peculiarities and the very low threshold of the sensibilities of the citizenry and the fragile nature of our environment, which is the major economic resource base for the nation, it is necessary to step back and take a cursory look at what we are doing, how we are doing and compare the regulatory and operational practices with other regions especially given the global nature of oil and gas exploration and production,' she said. This, according to her, is the concept of 'thinking globally and acting locally', adding that the country cannot afford to lag behind or compromise safe operations.

Last year November, the same minister was reported in the media to have disclosed that the Federal Government is seeking proposals from oil companies operating in Nigeria on improved ways of conducting Exploration and Production, E&P, activities to avoid frequent occurrence of oil spills.

Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, stated this in Abuja at the opening of the 14th international conference on Health, Safety and Environment, HSE, organised by the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR. The minister stated that industry operators were expected to use the lessons they had learnt from the recent Gulf of Mexico oil spill to provide guidelines in conducting oil and gas operations to preclude such incidents. She said the Gulf of Mexico spill would not be discussed at the HSE conference because she had approved a separate and special seminar for all stakeholders to be convened to discuss this recent disaster.

'The regulatory regimes on environmental management have evolved from a period of indiscriminate environmental pollution through the period of controlled pollution and now to zero tolerance. It is delightful indeed to note that the regulatory paradigm in our industry has shifted significantly to include the stakeholders in regulating their own activities,' she said.

The wrong impressions being conveyed by the minister is that the nation lacks a national oil spill contingency plan for Nigeria.The minister is dead wrong on this because as far back as April 16th 2003, the Federal Executive Council approved a national oil spill contingency plan for the country which was prepared by the Federal ministry of Environment.

To be continued
•Onwubiko heads Human Rights Writers' Association of Nigeria.


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