Effective Regulatory Mechanism Is A Panacea To Oil Spills, Environmentally Disruptive Industries- Salako

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Effective environmental regulatory mechanism, especially in the petroleum industry is essential for sustainable resource management, climate change mitigation, economic efficiency and accountability, building public trust for operational social licensing as well as legal and international compliance. This was stated by Dr. Iziaq Adekunle Salako, the Minister of State for Environment at the maiden edition of the Oil Spill Response Environmental Award Ceremony for the Oil and Gas Industry in Nigeria held on Thursday , May 16, 2024 at Rockview Royale Hotel, Abuja. The event which was organised by the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) in collaboration with the Stakeholder Democracy Network (SDN) was to recognize and celebrate exemplary practices in environmental management within the Nigerian oil and gas industry and to reaffirm the sector’s commitment to a sustainable future.

Salako noted that Oil and gas is unarguably the world’s most vital but most environmentally disruptive industry. Thus, effective regulation of the sector to ensure that the benefits of oil and gas production are balanced against the need to protect the environment, maintaining public health and contributing to national development on a sustainable manner is highly essential. He said the collaboration between government as represented by NOSDRA, and a non-profit making NGO, SDN to reward private sector profit making oil sector players clearly demonstrated the governance approach of the administration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu GCFR to promote inclusivity, excellence and robust private sector participation for the socio-economic development of Nigeria.

He acknowledged the vital role being played by NOSDRA, as the custodian of Nigeria’s environmental integrity within the petroleum industry. The Agency was established with the mandate to detect and respond to all oil spills, and has since evolved, championing rigorous enforcement of environmental regulations and proactive ecosystem management to ensure that the natural wealth of the Nation is preserved for future generations.

“Prior to the establishment of NOSDRA in October, 2006, 50 years after commercial oil exploration started in our country, Nigeria faced significant challenges and limitations in managing and responding to oil spills resulting in consequential land degradation. The situation was characterized by a lack of cohesive policy, inefficient coordination among stakeholders, and inadequate resources to effectively address oil spill incidents, particularly in the Niger Delta region, our major oil-producing area. Nigeria was faced with a fragmented regulatory framework, inadequate preparedness and response, limited community engagement, negative environmental and health impacts, adverse economic consequences, as well as well as poor international environmental protection reputation.

“Since its establishment, NOSDRA’s has been working in the areas of spill preparedness, response, cleanup and remediation. In addition to the implementation of the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan (NOSCP), the Agency has put in place several frameworks and guidelines, such as the Oil Spill Response and Cleanup Guidelines, Environmental Sensitivity Index (ESI) Mapping, community engagement, capacity building, regular drills and simulations to improve its effectiveness. These measures has helped to minimize the environmental impact of oil spills, ensure the resilience of affected ecosystems and communities and also situated Nigeria in the comity of environmentally responsible nations

“NOSDRA over the years has remained unwavering in delivering on its mandate, responding to thousands of major and minor oil spills, ensuring that impacted communities are adequately compensated and remediated while non-complying oil operators are taken to court to enforce compliance. I have examined the records of performance of NOSDRA in this regard and I must confess that the organization has justified its establishment. Congratulations NOSDRA, keep up the good work”, the Minister added.

While commending the efforts made towards ensuring environmental sustainability in the petroleum sector, Salako charged the stakeholders not to rest on their oars as work is still in progress .

he said, “We need to continue improving regulatory frameworks, encouraging the use of cleaner technologies, promoting collaboration and educating people. As we move forward, let us learn from the past and embrace challenges and opportunities with a renewed commitment to sustainability, equity, and resilience. We must ensure that as the petroleum industry remains a pillar of Nigeria’s economy, its without harming the environment.”

He said the Environmental Award for the oil and gas industry in Nigeria serves as a multi-faceted tool aimed at driving change, promoting sustainability, and acknowledging those who lead by example.

“The award recognizes environmental stewardship, encourages compliance, promotes corporate responsibility and transparency, addresses historical environmental impacts, aligns with global environmental goals, enhances community relations, boosts innovation, and offers reputational benefits and investment. Today’s award ceremony celebrates the nominees who have set benchmarks in environmental management, exemplifying that commitment to environmental best practices is not only necessary but also profitable and sustainable. I extend my sincere and heartfelt congratulations to all winners and urge you to redouble your efforts in your environmental sustainability business approach.”

The Minister appealed to the host communities especially the youths where oil exploration business is being carried out to avoid taking laws into their hands.

“From the records of NOSDRA provided to me, sabotage is the highest cause of oil spill incidents in our country accounting for about 68.5%. Such sabotage incidents not only adversely affect our national economy, they contribute hugely to the environmental degradation being witnessed in oil producing communities and poses significant threat to the health of the people. Ironically, when spills occurs consequent on sabotage, those affected can not enjoy any formal compensation even as their means of livelihood is disrupted thus facing a double jeopardy.”

He said the Federal Ministry of Environment through NOSDRA in collaboration with sister agencies is closely monitoring outstanding onshore environmental liabilities in respect of assets being divested by some international oil companies.

“We are determined to ensure that all health, safety, environmental and community related liabilities are met or properly inherited by succeeding companies so that the people are not left with the short end of the stick. I call on all stakeholders in the petroleum industry to continue working together, innovating, and leading by example to achieve a balance between economic growth and environmental preservation”, Salako concluded

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