The Minister of State for Environment, Sharon Ikeazor, says the level of devastation being caused by oil spill in the Niger Delta region is “massive”.
The minister said this Thursday while speaking at the Special Weekly Briefing coordinated by the Presidential Communication Team at the State House, Abuja.
She said this while reacting to a question that sought to know what the Federal Government was doing to minimize the damage in Nembe, Bayelsa State, due to oil spillage from OML29 Wellhead.
Ikeazor, who likened the scenes of the spill to a site in Hiroshima, Japan, where an atomic bomb was dropped, stressed the need to strengthen the legal framework by amending National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) Act.
She said the law must be reviewed to enhance the capacity of NOSDRA to deal with oil companies found complicit in the spill.
She said: “On the Santa Babara ITO oil spills, you remember the ministry of environment issued a statement stating what happened and the action being taken. it’s a collection 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 pace to prevent such accidents from happening.
“They are also claiming that the spill was due to sabotage by the local communities. We are going to have a targeted approach to illegal bunkering, tampering with oil installation and artisanal mining in the Niger Delta to get alternative livelihood for the young people of the Niger Delta, so that they would desist from this because it is further polluting the environment.
“The situation has been brought under control. I got a brief from DG of NOSDRA who was out on the field. So, now, work has to start on the proper clean up.
“I got briefings through the director of NOSDRA, and what I saw in term of the pollution either through oil refining or illegal oil refining and otherwise- the devastation of the Niger Delta is massive. As we are cleaning up, what we are cleaning up is minute compared to the devastation going on.
“So, it is something that government needs to tackle headlong. I hope they would have put the picture on, it was like a Hiroshima site. So, is this something we must tackle headlong. We are beyond talking and having workshop. On the issue of penalties, I mentioned earlier the review of NOSDRA bill. You know most of Acts we have passed years ago. You will see that they will give maybe N100 fine, anyone can pay that and go back and re-pollute.
“We need to put stiffer penalties, build the capacity of NOSDRA which is the regulatory agency in the oil sector to be able to have the teeth to bite. Without enhancing their capacity and reaffirming the legal framework, getting it stronger, they can’t do much. These are areas we are looking in to, it has to stop.
“Government is working on alternative livelihood for the communities so that we can move them away from illegal activities and further polluting of the environment.”
The minister, who underscored the importance of the quick stove initiative to prevent a reversal of the gains of Great Green Wall programme due to massive tree felling due to increase in prices of cooking gas, said Nigeria has highest number of deaths from smoke induced illnesses with women as the major victims.