By Patrick Andrew
The committee of the whole on monday chided the Committee on Environment for not being proactive in its recommendation on gas flaring.
Though the committee has recommended that guilty oil corporations be punished for flaring gas, delegates felt rather a paltry punitive recommendation, the committee should have criminalised gas flaring.
The delegates argued that criminalising gas flaring would compelled oil prospecting and producing companies to take serious measures to limit gas flaring and thus protect the environment. Accordingly, they faulted the recommendation in the sense that the committee failed to make gas flaring a crime in spite of its huge negative impact on the environment and humans.
Nonetheless, the conference agreed that penalty for gas flaring should be paid to the affected communities and not to the Federal Government as has been the practice.
Oil spillage was another area of environmental pollution examined by the committee with a report that to date, more than 5000 oil pipelines spill incidents have been reported in Nigeria with large areas of dry land, wetland and water bodies permanently impacted.
It cited a study carried out by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) stating that it would take a life-time for abandoned oil sites in Ogoni land to be cleaned up, a citation that was faulted by Ledum Mitee, who said the report put the time frame at between 25 to 30 years and not a lifetime as reported.
However, the Conference resolved that Federal Government should, as a matter of national urgency, start implementation of UNEP report on Ogoni environmental problems without further delay.
Delegates also decided that a special agency be established by the Federal Government for the clean-up of the Niger Delta, particularly areas identified by international environmental bodies as badly affected by oil spills.
It suggested that the Act establishing the Nigerian Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NASREA) should be amended to give it oversight over the entire environment including the oil and gas sector since, as presently operational, NASREA does not regulate the oil and gas sector.
In its recommendations, the committee stated that the vital need to preserve the integrity of the Nigerian environment and thus secure its sustainability for present and future generations requires clear and direct stipulations in the Nigerian Constitution.
“As a people living very closely to and depending for livelihoods on nature, we should enshrine the rights of nature to maintain its natural cycles without disruption in our constitution.”