On Monday 18th September 2017 a coalition made up of community representatives, CSO members, media professionals and the SDN team embarked on a two day trip to Abuja for the NOSDRA Amendment Bill Public Hearing at the National Assembly.
The coalition arrived the National Assembly, venue for the Public Hearing on Tuesday 19th September, 2017 at 9:30.
The public hearing, which was meant to commence by 10am, started by 12:15Pm due to the late arrival of the representative of the Speaker House of Representatives, Deputy Minority Leader, Rt. Hon Chukwuma Onyema
Chairman House Committee on Environment and Habitat, Hon. Chidoka Obinna, gave the welcome address, while Senator Kunkuyi, Deputy Chairman Senate Committee on Environment and Ecology, gave the keynote address on behalf of the Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Environment and Ecology. He said, ‘’…we need to lay aside competition among agencies to ensure development and implementation of sound environmental policies”
Rt. Hon Chukwuma Onyema declared the Public Hearing open with the following remark; ‘’It is my expectation and that of the House of Representative that this exercise will kick start the critical intervention needed to address the various environmental issues in Nigeria.” Committee Member, Hon. Aisha Dakku gave the vote of thanks, during her speech she said, ‘’There is a need for a Bill for the amendment of our attitude, the way forward to improve the quality of environment is to get everyone involved.”
The Hearing Begins
Chairman House Committee on Environment and Habitat, Hon. Chidoka Obinna, was in charge of proceedings and he laid the foundation for discussion. It was a full of house, House Committee Members, NOSDRA, NESREA, DPR, CSOs, and media professionals were all in attendance, as well as other families of Environment were present for the public hearing.
Every member of the House of Representative present introduced themselves, after which discussions proper begun. Three Bills were up for consideration namely;
- A Bill for an Act to Amend the National Environmental Standard and Regulations Enforcement Agency NESREA (Establishment) Act, CAP 164, Laws of the federation of Nigeria to provide for and adopt clean air policies and for related matters, 2017 (HB.992)
- A Bill for an Act to Regulate disposal of waste by industries and companies: Prohibit Environmental Pollution: Prescribe Penalties against offenders; And For Other Related Matters 2016 (HB:346)
- A Bill for an Act to Amend the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, (Establishment, etc.) Act, 2006 and for related matters (HB.964)
- Some important stakeholders were absent from the proceedings including; NESREA Board members, Federal Ministry of Health and also the Minister of Environment due to the 72nd United Nations General Assembly.
- There was a request for the removal of statements duplicated in the NOSDRA Act.
- On the issuance of Fines: NESREA Act to set the maximum amount rather than the Ministry of Environment. Fines to be amended to allow for stiffer penalties.
- Director General of NESREA, Dr Lawrence Anukam, expressed the agency’s view on the duplication of its existing regulations.
- Director General of NOSDRA, Peter Idabor, in his presentation highlighted how a lot of social dislocations have occurred stating that the NOSDRA Amendment is meant to remove ambiguity as to what constitutes on oil spill. He also dispersed claims about the agency’s lack of capacity, highlighting the fact that capacity can be built if the right equipment is provided. The DG highlighted the need to have preventive and integrity testing authorities.
- Mr Idabor further lamented the abysmal disregard for the agency’s authority by defaulting oil companies and urged the committee to strengthen NOSDRA’s Laws. “This bill is to help the environment and not to compete with anyone…” he added.
Other Key Deductions from the Discussion
- It was clear that there was Interagency bickering and jousting. DPR and its cronies (NNPC and operators) are vehemently against the bill as they like the status quo and would fight to keep it that way.
- Peter Idabor requested for more funding to improve effectiveness. He highlighted the challenge of duplication of roles with DPR; noncompliance to fines by operators, and other issues.
- NNPC rep asked for clear delineation of roles between DPR and NOSDRA as the current overlap is dysfunctional. He also asked for the creation of a Tier 3 Oil Spill agency (NOSDRA doesn’t have capacity to do so currently).
- Director General of DPR was totally against the amendment bill.
- The Chairman of the House Committee sponsored the bill, and so there is a desire/will for it to be passed.
- There will be a closed session to deliberate on the bill, and only key stakeholders will be invited.
Key Quotes from the Hearing
“Administrative penalties are necessary to strengthen our enforcement activities” — Dr Lawrence Anukam
“The agency needs power to act in emergencies to stop environmental hazards while processing a court order” — Dr Lawrence Anukam
“Judges should be able to determine fines based on gravity of offence.” — Dr Lawrence Anukam
‘’As a Nation we pay lip service to issues of Environment, let’s do something drastic to keep our Environment safe.’’-Prof Osibanjo
‘’NOSDRA has poor infrastructure, we don’t have an incident command center, we also don’t have adequately furnished labs’’- Peter Idabor, DG NOSDRA
‘’24 years ago Shell left Ogoni in a hurry without the decommissioning of Oil Walls and taking proper inventories.’’- Peter Idabor, DG NOSDRA
‘’DPR has far too much in it’s plat.’’-Rev. Father Obi
“There is a need for consideration from the Ecological Fund to provide infrastructure for enforcement.” — Dr Lawrence Anukam
“Our health and welfare is tied to the environment…” — Dr Lawrence Anukam
“An amended NOSDRA Act would enhance the agency’s statutory authority to better manage oil spill response in Nigeria” — Dr Lawrence Anukam
“Anything related to policy is the responsibility of our parent Ministry…” — Dr Lawrence Anukam
“NESREA should not be a toothless bulldog, they should bite…” — Prof. Bassey Ubong, Environmental Science, University of Abuja.
Stakeholders were also given the opportunity to present and give their submissions
Kofi Bartels, an On Air Personnel with 92.3 Nigeria Info FM Port Harcourt was also part of the coalition from Port Harcourt to Abuja, and he brought to light the issue of the Black Soot also known as Black Carbon which the people of Rivers State have been suffering from, he said; “For over a year now the people of Rivers State have had to endure health an environmental disaster because of Black Carbon far beyond acceptable environmental standards and nothing has been done about it except for the lip service from all authority concerned.” He continued by saying, “We tried to gather NESREA and NOSDRA officials in that part of the country, they are here they can bear witness…” referring to the #StopTheSoot Live Radio Town Hall event SDN organized in collaboration with Nigeria Info FM. Kofi pleaded with the House to do something about the soot, asking a very vital question at the hearing, “Which agency has the power to respond to such situation as Black Soot?”
Olumide Oyebamiji, Assistant Programs Manager, Stakeholder Democracy Network (SDN), during his submission and recommendation to the House said, “Why don’t we follow international best practice by strengthening NOSDRA to regulate, to execute and strengthen the capacity of NESREA to manage the sector effectively. There is need for clarity of roles between NOSDRA and DPR, so we recommend that regulatory powers on oil spills currently held by DPR should be placed within the Federal Ministry of Environment, whilst NOSDRA should be the regulator responsible for collecting data on spills , responding and cleaning up the spills.” Olumide continued, “We also recommend that the oversight functions of EGASPIN be transferred to the Federal Ministry of Environment under an expanded NOSDRA focused fully on regulating pollution related oil production activities…”
His Royal Highness King Suanu Baridam, a representative from affected communities said; ‘’…those of us from the communities and Civil Society want to say that we stand by the Bill of NOSDRA, I said this because we are the ones that knows what is going on in the communities, it is very easy for someone who doesn’t live in the community where there is oil to say whatever, because what we see in Nigeria is, we deal with policy that only help the issue of profit without considering their citizens, and it is very unfortunate when we are in this kind of situation, so we want to stand by NOSDRA Bill. We must encourage the global practice in dealing with issue of oil, the global practice favoured separation of enforcement or regulatory functions from revenue generations responsibilities to avoid conflicts and corruption. We recommend transfer of oversight function EGASPIN to the Federal Ministry of Environment”.
After the coalition finished their presentation at the National Assembly, they all proceeded for a Press Conference at African Center for Leadership Strategy and Development, №4 Suite 27–28, Franca Afegbua Crescent, Tolse Plaza, Apo, Abuja.
African Independent Television (AIT), Silverbird Television (STV) Punch Newspaper, Leadership Newspaper, Tribune Newspaper, Newsday Online and New Telegraph were present at the press conference.
Dr Sam Kabari addressed members of the press on behalf of the coalition. The joint press statement had the following points;
- There’s need for Nigeria to operate with global best practice, by domiciling the laws , regulations , and guidelines on environmental issues ,at the federal ministry of environment.
- Dr Kabari also pointed out the need to strengthen the mandate of the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) to take up absolute regulatory and managing functions of oil spillage in the Niger Delta and other oil producing areas.
- Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), which was saddled with the responsibility of regulating the environment in addition to collection of royalties, had failed in its mandate of regulating the environment in a holistic manner.
- Currently there’s duplication of regulatory functions by NOSDRA and the DPR, and this was not only inimical to the progress of the sector, but had created room for avoidable wastage of resources and time.