09 November 2013, Abuja – Senator Bukola Saraki, chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Ecology, says his committee is at the final stages of convening a forum, where it would be working together with industry experts and stakeholders to develop a more robust oil spill investigation and verification standards and process that will stop the practice of information manipulation and regulatory indiscretion.
He stated this in a press release in reaction to the recent Amnesty International report on oil spill in the Niger Delta.
THE PRESS RELEASE
The attention of the Senate Committee on Environment and Ecology has been drawn to the latest report by Amnesty International on the state of oil spills in Nigeria. The report suggests there is a scheme by oil companies to take advantage of the weak institutional, legal and regulatory and framework on environmental issues relating to oil spills in the country. This undermined the independence of the regulatory bodies charged with oil spill management and diminished the reliability and integrity of the Joint Investigation Visit JIV report a key indicator and determinant of cause and liability in oil spills investigations.
It was in recognition of this state of affairs that in 2012 that the Senate Committee on Environment and Ecology developed and introduced legislation that will help restructure the regulatory mechanism for dealing with oil spills especially providing for the first time economic penalties for oil spills and removal costs, better empowerment of regulatory agencies, compensation measures and the incorporation of international best practice as a minimum standards in the response, investigation and treatment of oil spills in the country.
While acknowledging that there has been an escalation of third party interferences on oil pipelines leading to spills, this challenge still pales into insignificance compared to the problem posed by spills resulting from corroding and aging pipelines. Indeed our committee agrees with the position of the report that too many oil spills in the country has been as a result of corroding pipelines. Indeed our committee had at our last meeting with Shell made it clear to Shell that it must as a matter of urgent importance come up with and present to the committee it’s roadmap for the immediate replacement of it’s aging pipelines.
We have also noted following expert advice that using today’s hi-tech pipelines buried deep and out of sight can significantly reduce the incidences of third party interferences and bring to the barest minimum the incidences of oil spills in the country both third party and infrastructure failure lead spills.
The committee observed that the amount spent so far on securing without success these pipelines and the value lost to oil theft in recent times put together could have been enough to finance the pipeline replacement investment if concerted effort was put together to pursue pipeline replacement as a key solution to the overarching problem of oil spills and oil theft.
We have noted that the failure of regulation and weak institutional integrity is a key primer for the poor oil spill management regime we have had. This is why the NOSDRA amendment bill which has already passed through committee action and is now facing senate consideration for passage is a key legislation that will help reverse the trend of environmental impunity in the industry and bring so sanity to oil spill management in the country.
While the committee is working with the Senate to pass this bill, we are convinced that the condition of the pipelines is a significant ace in tackling the twin problems of oil thefts and vandalism on the one hand and incessant oil spills on the other. It is in this regards that the committee will in due course be meeting again with Shell and other oil companies operating pipelines and vulnerable facilities to forge a clear direction toward replacement of pipeline and pipeline integrity assurance scheme for the oil industry.
As a country we cannot continue to tolerate this environmental destruction and this committee has made this point clear to oil companies operating in the country. The senate committee will no longer accept a situation where surface pipelines of over 40-60years criss-cross the length and breadth of the country continuing to be used to transport such an environmentally sensitive product as crude in the country.
Furthermore, the committee is now at the final stages of convening a forum, where it will be working together with industry experts and stakeholders to develop a more robust oil spill investigation and verification standards and process that will stop the practice of information manipulation and regulatory indiscretion.