By Obas Esiedesa
Stakeholders involved in the protection of the environment and petroleum host communities have urged President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) Bill, to increase the capacity of the agency to tackle oil pollution in the country.
The stakeholders said if assented to, the Bill increases the capacity of NOSDRA to protect the environment and respond to oil spills and control the disposal of oily waters in the Niger Delta region.
Speaking at a workshop in Abuja with the theme: “Reducing environmental degradation in the Niger Delta through improved oil spill response”, organized by the Environmental Centre for Oil Spills and Gas Flaring (NACGOND), the National Coordinator, Fr. Edward Obi said having both chambers of the National Assembly pass the amendment Bill was a major victory for the country.
Fr. Obi however noted that until it is assented to by the president, the job has not been completed.
He explained that the Bill amongst other things “increases funding for NOSDRA to respond to spills by third parties including individuals, serving companies, vandals and oil thieves.
“The Bill also enables NOSDRA to enforce increased fines that will encourage greater environmental accountability on the part of operators. There is also the capacity to inspect and monitor the decommissioning of oil facilities that are no longer operational”, he added.
In his remark, the Chairman House of Representatives Committee on Environment, Hon. Obinna Chidoka said it was critical that issues concerning the environment were taken seriously.
Chidoka noted that oil spills have gone on in the Niger Delta for too long and have led to huge impact on the environment leading to loss of livelihoods and portable water for the people.
While expressing the hope that the Bill will be signed into law by the president, he said the House was ready to address any issues raised by President Buhari as long as the issues do not impact on the core mandate of the Bill.
He however stated that the legislators were prepared to override the president if he fails to assent to the Bill.
But in his remark, the Senior Special Adviser to the President (Office of the Vice President), Mr. Edobor Iyamu assured that President Buhari is concerned about issues of the environment in the country.
He explained that Bill was being reviewed by the president and a position will be taken soon.
The workshop was attended by government officials, civil society organisations, communities’ representatives, and journalists.