By Foster Obi
As efforts to amend the act setting up National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) amendment bill by the national assembly gets underway, civil society organizations in the country have called for a more encompassing amendment that will empower the agency to detect and respond to oil spills, including tier 3 category without encumbrances.
In a webinar organized by the National Coalition on Gas flaring and Oil Spills in the Niger Delta (NACGOND) to sensitize Nigerians on the environmental challenges ahead and why NOSDRA must be wholly empowered to carry out this necessary but strategic assignment, speakers tried to educate participants on the urgency of the amendment and why the national assembly should see it as national assignment for public good.
NACGOND is a partnership of twenty member civil society groups that seek to address the lingering environmental degradation associated with oil spill, gas flare and illegal oil bunkering in the Niger Delta.
Dr Sam Kabari, one of the guest speakers highlighted the reason why President Muhammadu Buhari declined to sign the amendment passed by the 8th senate and called for a more robust and practical approach to get the presidential assent by addressing the concerns raised.
He highlighted the fact that NOSDRA must be empowered to detect and respond to spills to whatever degree without recourse to the oil companies to seek help, like the issue of logistics which indirectly whittles down whatever influence it wields.
Dr Kabari, also a researcher and consultant in environmental and development issues noted that the world is gradually shifting focus from fuel to renewable energy and so Nigeria needs to have in place an agency fully in control to take charge of spills which will definitely occur in future but which no oil major may be interested to address.
He also noted that all oil producing areas in Nigeria and major cities may become victims of oil spills in future if no agency is fully empowered to locate and respond to such environmental hazard.
Also, Dr Tubodenyefa Zibima, a lecturer at the Department of Political Science, Niger Delta University highlighted the need to address presidential concerns to get the bill passed.
Tubodenyefa, a former Team/Outcome Lead for Environment and Resource Governance for Stakeholder Democracy Network (SDN), said while the government takes seriously funds from petroleum concerns, there is need to look into areas like funds set aside for remediation which could be used to mobilize NOSDRA to make it efficient.
He however underlined the strategic nature of the agency and why stakeholders must think out of the box to come up with ideas for amendment that will take care of perceived impediments by the executive to ensure the bill is passed.
Stakeholders at the event agreed on the necessity for empowering NOSDRA and why it is important to use both internal and external support to make this a reality
In closing, former member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Emmanuel Deeya called for a shift from 2006 when NOSDRA was set up to something more dynamic in the present times. He called on civil society groups and the media on the need to impress it on Nigerians on why NOSDRA must be fully empowered to perform its assignment like its counterpart on other countries
NOSDRA was established in 2006 as an institutional framework to co-ordinate the implementation of the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan (NOSCP) for Nigeria in accordance with the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Cooperation (OPRC 90) to which Nigeria is a signatory.
The bill to amend the act to give it more powers was began by the 7th senate but passed by the 8th Senate. The bill was however declined assent by the president who cited funding pressures on oil companies and undermining of the powers of the minister of petroleum as reasons.