For the first time in many years, one of my published articles titled “Policing Oil Spills in Nigeria” attracted the single largest reactions from a cross segment of readers to surpass any of my previously ran newspaper pieces.
The simple explanation for this is that the activities of the multi-national crude oil companies in the oil producing states in the Niger Delta has adversely impacted on the daily lives of millions of Nigerians even as the unfortunate plight of the environment of these oil rich but criminally neglected Niger Delta communities has attracted global-wide interest.
Chinenye Lebechi, a teenager who aspires to gain admission at either the university of Port Harcourt or Imo state university has an uncommon fascination about the need for humanity to clean up the environment and to allow for the proper functioning of the ecosystem. The 19-year old girl was among the over two dozen persons that called me to add flesh to that piece I did which was published last week titled “Policing oil spills in Nigeria.”
Chinenye Lebechi like many others followed up her call to me with an extensive email detailing what she believed are the modest achievements of some environmentally friendly institutions and non-governmental bodies. She was particularly impressed with what she termed as the heroic achievements of “friends of the Earth”, a non-governmental organization at the forefront of campaigning for a global greener environment and the Nigeria's National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) which was established in 2006.
She also advocated the aggressive teaching of environmental sciences at the secondary school level in Nigeria so as to enlighten Nigerian young stars to embrace those habits that will help clean up the environment and also work towards achieving comprehensive greener environment.
Chinenye wrote thus; “Sir, I read your very articulate article titled “policing oil spills in Nigeria” and I hereby commend you for this great effort. But, sir, I do not subscribe to your earlier statement in that article that not many youth are aware of the activities of the National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency [NOSDRA]”.
She continued; “Sir, it is my pleasure to inform you that myself and most of my friends here in Port Harcourt in River State have taken pains to understudy the activities of that government Agency and we can attest to the patriotic zeal of the staff of that organization to discharge their duties”.
She said that from her investigation from sources she termed as good authority she learnt that; NOSDRA has carried out Joint Investigation Visits (JIVs) to impacted sites in concert with relevant stakeholders, including state ministry of environment, Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), oil companies and affected communities. JIVs enable NOSDRA determine causes of oil spills, inspect remediated sites for certification and participate in major re-entry programmes, as well as respond to public complaints;
§ The Agency has identified many impacted sites (269 sites) of various oil companies for clean-up and remediation, as well as certification after being duly restored to their natural state;
§ NOSDRA is currently a major stakeholder in the proposed clean-up and mitigation of oil devastated Ogoniland, which is being spearheaded by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), under the auspices of the Federal Government;
§ NOSDRA has undertaken an investorisation of the existing oil spill containment pits abandoned by oil companies in the Niger Delta in order to convert them to arable land for viable economic ventures, such as farming and fishing. Some of the sites have already been selected as pilot projects based on some support from the Millennium Development Goals(MDGs);
§ To curb pollution of land and water through the activities of oil and gas companies, NOSDRA, in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme(UNDP), has reviewed and updated the following existing environmental regulations for the petroleum sector to make the players conform to the laws, guidelines and standards in the sector:
(a)National Environmental Regulations and Guidelines for the Management of Oil and Oily Waste and National Environmental Guidelines and Standards for Oil Recovery, Clean-up Remediation and Damage Assessment;
(b)Blueprint on Development and Gazetting of Environmental Guidelines and Regulations in the Oil Industry; and also
§ To guide and endure appropriate response mechanism required for different environmentally sensitive areas in Nigeria in the event of oil spillage, NOSDRA has produced the Environmental Sensitivity Index (ESI) map of the country's coastlines, from Badagry to Calabar, stretching 50km inland. The map has become a reliable working instrument for oil companies and other relevant stakeholders to handle different environmentally sensitive areas when oil spill occur.
Impressed by this rich analysis by a teenager, I decided to carry out discreet investigation of all these claims from some knowledgeable sources and my findings correspond with Chinenye's beautiful presentation. Readers please follow the example of this teenager by writing in to share your views on our pieces.
* Emmanuel Onwubiko, Head, HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS' ASSOCIAITON OF NIGERIA, writes from www.huriwa.blogspot.com