By Christiana Ekpa
The House of Representatives on Tuesday commenced its investigative hearing on oil spill clean up in the Niger Delta region of the country.
Declaring open the hearing at the national assembly, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila noted that there is evidence that environmental degradation has had and continues to have a devastating effect on the health of fellow citizens in the Niger Delta.
Gbajabiamila who was represented by the House leader, Alhassan Doguwa said no plan to fix the problems of the Niger Delta can succeed until the damage done by years of oil spills in the region is first addressed.
According to him, the Federal Government of Nigeria has committed to solving this problem. However, we have not begun to see action equal to the resources allocated or the high expectations we rightly hold. This is not acceptable as long as millions of our people continue to live in an environment that threatens their wellbeing, that takes away their ability to live full lives and deprives them of their God-given right to reap of the land and the waters.
The Speaker further explained that the investigative hearing is one of the tools the House intend to deploy in service of that mandate.
“We will do whatever else is required of us, so that we can in the shortest possible time ensure that we have achieved the restoration of flora and fauna in the Niger Delta for the people whose lives and livelihoods depend on them”, he assured.
In his remarks, chairman of the House ad-hoc committee on oil spill clean up in the Niger Delta, Mr Aliru Tukur said the ad-hoc committee’s objective in the course of the investigation is to understand the level of clean-ups in the last ﬁve (5) years and the extent of compliance with the Environmental Guidelines and Standards in the Petroleum Industry.
“It is our ﬁrm belief that at the end of this exercise, this Ad-hoc Committee will come up with recommendations that will further strengthen the existing institutional frameworks, and ultimately bring succor to the people of the Niger Delta region”, said Tukur.
The House while deliberating on the motion on May the 10th which led to the set up of the ad-hoc committee had recalled, also with concern, the Annual Report of the Department of Petroleum
Resources (DPR) which indicated that 5,669 incidents of oil spills were recorded with 9,718.22 barrels spilled, and only 800.55 barrels were recovered, which means that thousands of barrels of oil were lost to the environment.
At the interactive session of the hearing, stakeholders like National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) whose Managing director were absent were asked to leave while the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) was allowed to participate having provided a letter of request from the agency’s managing director that he be represented.
Fielding answers to the ad-hoc committee, DPR Representative, Mrs. Ufondu said the agency have no company’s record of any oil spillage in the Niger Delta rather damages are only paid to communities by companies involved.