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The Minister of State for Environment, Mrs. Sharon Ikeazor, yesterday compared the devastation of the Niger Delta by oil and gas production and accidents to Hiroshima in Japan after World War II.

She described the situation as terrible, saying that the Federal Government was working to strengthen the legal regulations guiding responses to oil spills and pollution.

DCO Global News
Published on November 27, 2021
By Odoh Dominic Chukwuemeka

The minister spoke during the weekly ministerial briefing hosted by the Presidential Media Team at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.

Ikeazor, reacting to the recent oil spillage on an OML 29 wellhead in the Nembe area of Bayelsa State, said it has been brought under control.

According to her, a bill is in the works to amend the law establishing the National Oil Spillage Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) to build its capacity and give it “the needed teeth to bite.”

She said: “What I saw in terms of the pollution, either through oil refining, through illegal oil refining, and otherwise, the devastation of the Niger Delta is massive.

“What we are cleaning up is minute compared to the devastation going on. So, it’s something that government has to tackle head-on.

“There was a picture I saw, it was like Hiroshima sight. Do you remember Hiroshima in Japan? It was terrible.

“So, this is something we have to tackle head-on. We are beyond talking and having workshops.

“Then, on the issue of penalties and the review of NOSDRA Act, most of our acts were passed years ago, so you’ll find maybe N100,000 fine.

“Anyone can pay that and go back and re-pollute. So, we need to put stiffer penalties in place, build the capacity of NOSDRA, which is the regulatory agency in the oil sector, to have the teeth to be able to bite.

“Without enhancing their capacity and reaffirming the legal framework, getting it stronger, they can’t do much. These are areas we’re looking into, it has to stop.”On the Nembe spillage, she said the operating company of the OML29 has blamed the incident on sabotage by the locals.

Ikeazor stressed the need to put an end to polluting artisanal refineries.

She said something must be done about the ongoing gas flaring, noting that the country cannot be committed to zero net emission and be flaring gas at the same time.

“On the Santa Babara Aiteo oil spills, the Ministry of Environment issued a statement stating what happened and the action being taken.

“It’s a collective action between the Ministry Of Petroleum Resources, the Ministry of Environment and the oil company involved.

“It goes beyond the oil companies giving out palliatives; they must put measures in place to prevent such accidents from happening.”

The minister lamented that the rate of deaths from smoke-induced illnesses, especially among women in the country is the highest in the world.

The government, she said, plans to reintroduce clean cookstoves and the Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) to ameliorate the problem and protect biodiversity.

Ikeazor observed that Nigeria has sent a strong message to the world with the signing of the Climate Change Bill by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The measures taken so far, she said, affirm the country’s commitment to the Paris agreement on climate change.

On the Ogoni clean-up exercise, the minister noted that the work can not be completed in one or two years, stressing the need to end artisanal refining of crude oil.

By Odoh Dominic Chukwuemeka

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