17 March 2015, Abuja – International and indigenous that firms that spill oil in the country will soon face criminal charges, the Federal Government has warned.
Similarly, a two-day bilateral exercise between Nigeria and Cameroon aimed at testing communication between both countries to effectively monitor and manage trans-boundary oil spills commenced on Monday.
Officials from various government parastatals, including the Nigerian Army, Customs, Navy and the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency as well as their counterparts from Cameroon and representatives of international oil companies gathered in Abuja to discuss how to manage the menace under the aegis of the Global Initiative for West, Central and Southern Africa.
The Director-General/Chief Executive, NOSDRA, Mr. Peter Idabor, said although there were no clearly stated financial penalties against companies that spilled oil, such firms would be forced to face criminal charges soon.
Asked to state if there was any monetary penalty against errant oil firms, Idabor said, “There is none. This is because it depends on the magnitude and the level of violation by the particular oil company.
“You know we cannot just come out with such. But the most important things are our laws and regulatory framework. How effective are they? And what we are doing now is to make sure that we pass amendments to the NOSDRA Act, and these amendments will give us more powers to criminalise offences committed by errant oil firms.”
On what was holding the passage of the amendments to the Act, Idabor said, “It is not in our domain anymore but in the National Assembly, and we hope they will act on it very soon.”
On the bilateral response exercise between Nigeria and Cameroon, he explained that it would benefit both countries and would be expanded to include other African nations.
Idabor said, “Following the appointment of Nigeria as the host country for the Emergency Response on Marine Pollution by the GIWACAF countries, we agreed that this is the right time to start interacting with our neighbouring countries on how to manage trans-boundary oil spills. These are spills that move from our country down to other countries through the Atlantic Ocean.
“Representatives of oil companies that are located in the affected areas of the different countries are here and we are trying to create scenarios by asking questions like, what do we do if it happens? The Army, Navy, Customs, Immigration and other stakeholders are here on this issue.
“Starting with Cameroon is just the beginning. Another arrangement will be made between Gabon and her neighbours. This is just the starting point and it is very important to us because Nigeria needs to be ready to handle any trans-boundary spill when it occurs.
“We are starting with Cameroon because she is our neighbour and we have Total, Addax and some other oil companies operating around our borders with Cameroon.”