A non-governmental agency (NGO), the Centre for Peace and Environmental Justice (CEPEJ) has demanded for the relocation of the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) to the Niger Delta area in order to improve and strengthen its statutory functions for effective spills monitoring, detection and intervention.
The National Coordinator and Chief Executive Officer of the Centre, Comrade Sheriff Mulade, on Monday in a public address at its headquarters, CEPEJ Office, Wuse Zone 2, said the Niger Delta Region has suffered many environmental degradation through pollution, human errors and abuses by oil companies.
He added that the location of the agency charged with restoring and preserving the environment and other challenges that attends exploration activities in the area in far away Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, not only denies the people of their rights to redress, but also encourages manipulation by oil companies, who connive with officials of the agency to shortchange the residents.
Mulade, in his speech titled; “The imperative to relocate NOSDRA headquarters to oil producing states for effective spills monitoring,“ told his audience that the agency’s activities can only benefit the areas who are part of its purview if it’s located in the areas where these environmental infractions are committed by the oil companies.
His words; “The Niger Delta and oil producing communities have suffered and continued to suffer from environmental degradation, pollution and environmental rights abuses.
“The major cause of these environmental challenges remains spillages from the careless handling of products from extraction by the oil companies operating in the Niger Delta.
“The Federal Government in a move to address the problem established the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) by an Act of the National Assembly in 2006, with her headquarters in Abuja. NOSDRA was established in 2006 as an institutional framework to co-ordinate the implementation of the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan (NOSCP) for Nigeria with a mission to restore and preserve our environment by ensuring best oil field, storage and transmission practices in exploration, production and use of oil in the quest to achieve sustainable development in Nigeria and envisioning to create, nurture and sustain a zero tolerance for oil spill incident in the Nigerian environment.”
Mulade also wondered why an agency saddled with responsibilities of monitoring activities in the Niger Delta is located in Abuja.
He also disclosed that the agency has failed in the discharge of its duties and roles it was established to undertake, adding that it only functions in theories, but not physically alive to its responsibilities.
“It is on paper that NOSDRA should function to; identify high risk areas as well as priority areas for protection and clean up and to also ensure a programme of activation, training and drill exercises to ensure readiness for oil pollution preparedness. If oil spills occur majorly in the Niger Delta, one wonders why an Agency whose core job is in the Niger Delta would be operating from Abuja.
“It is on paper that NOSDRA has the responsibility for; Preparedness, detection and response to oil spillage in Nigeria. However, with happenings in the past and lately, you will agree with me that NOSDRA is too far from discharging these mandates and have failed to protect the Nigerian Marine Environment. NOSDRA is only an agency “on paper”, not proactive and have failed woefully to monitor and manage spills anywhere in the Niger Delta or Nigeria.
“NOSDRA has failed in her responsibility for the inventorization of oil spill incidents, review of community/public complaints, evaluation of and review of scientific laboratory analysis of samples, monitoring of clean-up and remediation activities, certification of remediated oil impacted sites et al.
“This failure is as a result of their skeletal services for operations at the zonal office. The Zonal Director and officers have limited powers and often resort to the headquarters at Abuja at great bureaucratic risks and encumbrances.
“We equally observed that the multi-nationals have become complacent, careless and heartless in their handling of oil spills, pollution or the degradation of the environment as they easily lobby NOSDRA officials in Abuja who have become willing tools to the continuous degradation of the environment in the Niger Delta.
“It is a fact that NOSDRA depends on logistics from the multi-national oil companies for Joint Investigation visits to spill sites which increases and encourages third party interference. Therefore, both NOSDRA and the Multi-National Oil Companies use the communities for “Zero-Sum” game, where they benefit and the communities lose while the oil companies become egoistic.
“Communities rarely find or get justice when their rights are infringed upon, whereas environmental rights abusers and offenders are never punished.”
CEPEJ, noting that the agency has fallen short of its mandate, therefore called for its immediate relocation to the Niger Delta area, while also demanding for greater efficiency by the Federal Ministry of Environment, to secure a quality conducive eco-system for the well-being of the people of the area.
“We note that the Abuja office is far from the people and scenes of oil spill incidents and so;
“We demand and call for the urgent relocation of the NOSDRA headquarters from Abuja to any of the oil bearing states in the Niger Delta.
“That NOSDRA should be closer to the people as communities cannot go to Abuja to seek for palliatives especially, to seek for justice when their rights are trampled upon.
“That the Federal Ministry of Environment should ensure to secure a quality environment conducive for eco-system, health and well-being of the people as their core functions.”