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Bayelsa govt sets regulatory, legal enforcement measures for oil firms


OILFOLLOWING the unresolved and consistent oil-related environmental degradation in Bayelsa State, the state Commissioner for Environment, Mr. Iniruo Wills, yesterday said the state government has set out certain administrative, regulatory and legal enforcement regulations to compel environment best practice by oil firms and other operators in the state.

In a chat with The Guardian in Yenagoa yesterday, Wills, who lamented the incessant cases of oil-spill in Bayelsa communities, said what necessitated the recent action by the state government was a test case of oil-spill in January and February 2015 from Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) Seibou Deep Facility and Agip’s Ogboinbiri/Tebidaba pipeline and other communities in Southern Ijaw Local Council of the state.

According to the him: “On January 23, 2015, crude oil was noticed spreading to Keme-Ebiama and other communities along or around the Ogboinbiri River in Southern Ijaw Local Council and that from reports available to the ministry, the crude oil spill was from Shell’s Seibou facility and may have occurred several weeks earlier but an attempt was made to contain it by deploying a boom across the canal where much of the oil had flowed into. The boom failed and the oil spread into the River and is affecting the environment, health and social-economic life of the communities in the area.”

Wills, who told The Guardian that the recent pollution disasters bring back into focus the grave plight that has become daily cliche of communities in Bayelsa State, said in both cases of the recorded spill, the response of these operators has been grossly unsatisfactory, reflecting a settled culture of corporate impunity that must be checked.

His words: “The priority placed on pollution prevention and diligent post spill management by the oil industry is abysmally low, and we shall henceforth insist on environmental excellence from operators who are in or whose operations affect our state. We will need the support of all stakeholders, and in particular the media, in doing this.

“While we are intent on exploring all courteous means of getting oil industry operators to comply with Nigeria’s environmental laws and globally acceptable standards of oil field practice, it is obvious to the Bayelsa State Ministry of Environment that a considerable dose of regulatory shock therapy is needed to cure the errant practices of these corporate giants; lest our ecological heritage continues to perish, public health is further imperiled and local economies are irretrievably destroyed.”

He said the ministry in collaboration with the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) will require the registration, regulatory accreditation and/or pre-qualification of contractors and consultants before they are engaged for clean up and remediation operations.

“We shall also confirm and certify satisfactory completion of work before the close out of such remedial operations. This is in light of our observation that most clean up jobs are shoddily done, sometimes involving the hazard of burning forests and vegetation either as a deliberate “clean up” measure or as an accidental but easily foreseeable consequence of unprofessional and poorly monitored execution. Our position is also informed by the rampant failure of the clamps put in place to contain previous spills, thus leading to fresh spillages”, he said.

The ministry, according the commissioner, will also work with other stakeholders to instigate two associated initiatives: namely a credible integrity and life-span audit of the network of pipelines crisscrossing Bayelsa State, and an industry-wide overhaul of pipeline surveillance systems.

While expressing the hope that the Federal Government institutions such as the Federal Ministry of Environment, the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources, NOSDRA, the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and the Niger Delta Development Commission on one hand and the oil producers/pipeline operators on the other hand, along with key international bodies will work in concert to quickly commission a global comparative survey by the most reputable experts/firms and recommend best available technologies and practices in pipeline quality standards and monitoring systems, Wills said the state government would also pursue the prescription of a mandatory strict liability pollution insurance by petroleum industry operators to protect innocent communities that bear the brunt of the frequent pollution disasters emanating from either the companies’ direct operational failure or from alleged interferences.

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