Reps panel tackles NOSDRA over quality of work on Ogoni clean-up
The National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) has been tackled by a house of representatives committee over the quality of work in the ongoing Ogoni clean-up exercise in Rivers state.
The lawmakers tackled the federal agency at an interactive session organised by the house committee on safety standards and regulations on Thursday, in Abuja.
According to the lawmakers, residents have not been able to resume fishing and farming activities in the area.
Owing to oil pollution in Ogoni, Nigeria commissioned the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to conduct an environmental assessment.
The report, which was released in 2011, shows that about 67 sites covering an area of 943 hectares, (about 14,145 plots of land) including swamps and mangrove forests — which are people’s farmlands, fish ponds and other such sources of livelihood — have been ravaged by oil spills.
Meanwhile, checks in October 2020 after remediation activities started in 2018 revealed that unpaid salaries and communal conflicts are slowing down the clean-up exercise.
At the session on Thursday, Benjamin Kalu, a member of the panel, questioned Idris Musa, director-general of NOSDRA, saying the Nigerians are not satisfied with the pace of work done so far.
“DG, you were there before we brought the UN. With the work that is being done there, are you satisfied because I was there myself with my team; I’m on the climate change committee, I was there and the community were complaining about the remediation programme going on now. And I’m saying, as the regulator are you satisfied?” he said.
In his response, Musa who was represented by Victor Obarewa, director of assets safety and mitigation, admitted that the clean-up exercise is slow.
“Definitely the entire process is slow, let me use that word. Because of UNEP recommendation, it should have taken us five years to do the remediation and another 25 years for nature to handle the rest, to restore the environment and UNEP submitted the report in 2011, of course, due to some other issues, this actual clean-up did not start until 2017/2018, so we lost how many years, bickering on which ministry should handle this clean-up,” Obarewa said.
“But good enough the project is presently moving and we do hope that very soon we are going to have almost 100% coverage of the entire impacted area. I mean if they award 100% of the area.”
However, Kalu said he is bothered about the quality of the project, adding that the livelihood of the people has been affected.
“DG, my issue is not about the award, it is about the quality of work done on remediation. You mentioned that you agree with me that the speed is not what it suppose to be. I am asking you as a regulator, are you satisfied with the quality of work done there so far,” he said.
“Do you know the consequences of this job not being done properly? The livelihood of the people in those communities is affected, our interest as a parliament is mainly about the people because it’s the people’s parliament and as long as we keep receiving concerns, cries and expressions, we will always raise our voices to them.
“I was there myself and I saw the work that was done and I’m saying the communities complained and I myself complained. As a regulator are you saying you are satisfied with the quality of the clean-up going on and for the sake of the Nigerian people living there because we will hold you responsible since you are regulating them, if at the end of the job and you approve them and the lives of our people are at risk. You need to answer Nigerians.”
Obarewa said the agency will review the exercise to “look at why are they not happy”.
He added that “if you look at the 21 sites we are satisfied. If you take the PTH of those sites, they are within the acceptable limit so to that extent I think we are satisfied”.
Not satisfied with the response, Kalu said: “If we are spending money for the clean-up exercise, and the people cannot drink from their water and cannot farm on their land, they cannot fish from their waters, what is the essence of the clean-up? And I asked you can people now fish in their water, you are not able to answer that question.
“Do we say you are regulating well in that instance or there is still something that is not done because the villagers don’t want to hear about that your scientific analysis, they want to go back to their farms, they want to fish whether raining season or dry season.
“For an exercise that is going on for a number of years, we cannot confidently say, that by now our people can go back to the farm. I’m from Niger Delta, if my people cannot go to the farm, they cannot fish and drink their water, and they are still falling sick, then there is something wrong, so the regulator, are you regulating well?”
The committee ruled that the agency tender to the panel documents on safety regulations and compensation paid to affected communities.
The post Reps panel tackles NOSDRA over quality of work on Ogoni clean-up appeared first on NEWS.