That companies are doing business in Nigeria does not mean they should kill our people By CHIMA NWAFO

Posted by News Express | 20 March 2020 | 2,278 times

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•Chima Nwafo

The Theatre Commander of “Operation Delta Safe”, Air Vice-Marshal A. Akirinade, recently accused international oil corporations (IOCs) in the country of sabotaging efforts to checkmate oil theft. But that is no news to watchers of the high-level politics that drive socio-economic activities in the oil-rich Niger Delta. Could it be that the Air chief has just realised that, after nearly four years of operation?

The Theatre Commander, who made the submission to an investigative hearing organised by the House of Representatives Ad Hoc Committee on Oil Theft, in Abuja, named the non-cooperating companies as NAOC, Chevron, Exxon-Mobil and Total. While berating them as the major culprits why oil theft is still subsisting in the region, the military officer not only exempted Shell, but commended the Royal Dutch oil czar.    

He also called on the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to compel the non-cooperating corporations “to improve the governance structure of their pipelines.”

Recall that Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), on Monday September16, 2019, announced acquisition and deployment of “state-of-the-art high definition cameras “for quick detection of and response to crude oil spills from its facilities. The cameras will also help in tracking vandalism of SPDC joint venture assets,” SPDC’s General Manager, Public Affairs, Igo Weli had boasted.

In addition, Weli said SPDC had implemented anti-theft protection mechanisms on key infrastructure, such as wellheads and manifolds to “stem constant attacks from vandals and thereby prevent and minimise sabotage-related spills,” adding: “The daily loss of over 11,000 barrels of oil per day in 2018 and the threat to the integrity of the joint venture assets necessitated the multi-pronged approach to protecting critical national assets.”

From the technical, Weli moved to the socio-political: “We collaborate with community leaders, traditional rulers, civil societies and state governments in the Niger Delta to implement several initiatives and partnerships to raise awareness on the negative impact of crude oil theft and illegal oil refining. Such public enlightenment programmes on the negative impacts to people and the environment help to build greater trust in spill response and clean-up processes.”

Barely seven months after the foregoing chest-thumbing achievements, Shell is still complaining.

Precisely on March 13, News Express had this headline: “Shell Reports 41% Rise In Onshore Nigeria Oil Spills Due To Sabotage.” The intro to the Reuters-sourced report

States: “Royal Dutch Shell’s onshore Nigeria subsidiary saw a 41 per cent rise in the number of crude oil spills due to theft or pipeline sabotage in 2019, the group said in its annual report. Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) also recorded a rise in the volume of oil spilt in the Niger Delta, as a result of illegal activity to 2,000 tonnes in 2019 from 1,600 tonnes a year earlier….”

Both Shell and their joint-venture master, the Federal Government of Nigeria represented by the uncaring NNPC, should consider the Igbo proverb which counsels: When an old woman trips twice, she should stop and recount the contents of her basket. The Shell story also shows that Operation Delta Safe commander may not be totally accurate in his sabotage charge against some IOCs. The Reps, like their Senate counterparts, are not blame-free in the oil theft/illegal bunkering mess in the Delta. What has the National Assembly done to bring sanity or, in reality, equity to the region since 2006 when the Petroleum Industry Bill was first introduced?

Before citing a few of the several laws by the United States government to protect the people and physical environment of oil-producing areas, the NNPC, international oil corporations and other big companies in Nigeria, should do well to ponder over the following statement by two American professors from two different Colleges of Business Administration.

“An oranisation may consider itself socially responsible because it spends money on social programs. If, however, such efforts do not conform to individuals perception of social performance, then in the minds of those individuals a firm is not socially responsible,” Robert D Hay of University of Arkansas and Edmund R Gray from Louisiana State University. Discussing the topic Social Performance, in Business and Society: Cases and Texts, the duo queried: “Who knows best whether an individual’s (communities) objectives are being satisfied if not the individuals (host communities)? Both the NNPC and its joint-venture partners, without exception, should ask themselves: Have we been truly socially responsible to our oil-producing communities? If after 50 years the people and communities of the Niger Delta are not happy with you, something must be really wrong with your social performance. And please note the words of Hay and Gray, you cannot be the judge or arbiter in your own case.

This point is also driven home by the Ogun State Commissioner for Environment, Abiodun Abudu-Balogun, from where the headline was adapted. Unimpressed with the same nonchalance of companies towards environmental wellbeing, he threatened to sanction companies and industries in the state that failed to put basic anti-pollution schemes in place. According to media reports, Abudu-Balogun regretted the high level of infractions being committed by the companies, saying government could no longer condone their acts of indiscipline.

He said that government had continually engaged most of these companies, but they failed to comply with the rules and regulations guiding pollution. “The fact that they’re doing business in Ogun does not mean they should come here and kill our people.’’

A notable example of NNPC’s commitment to the environmental health of oil-producing communities is the nine-year-old UNEP-ordered clean-up of Ogoni land.

“Ogoni clean-up is going on, but the pace of work is slow, and it is not as a result of non availability of funds. Money has been provided, so the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) should increase the pace of work. The House of Representatives Committee on Environment has expressed dissatisfaction over the slow pace of work on the cleaning of oil spill-impacted sites in Ogoni land”, Johnson Ogbuma, the committee’s chairman, made the expression on Tuesday, March 10, in Alode, Eleme, during a three-day inspection tour of remediation sites in Eleme and Gokana local government areas of Rivers State.

President Muhammadu Buhari launched the clean-up project in 2016 and so far, “a total of $360 million has been released for the implementation of the $1 billion project.” Ogbuma pointed out that early completion of the remediation project was important so that attention could be given to other polluted areas in the Niger Delta.

As a functional society, environmental and related issues in the United States have been under the supervision of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Again, as a liberal democracy, the individual citizen has a right guaranteed in the highly respected US Constitution, which is not subject to political or geographical manipulation as Nigeria’s.

As a result, everyone appreciates that the petroleum industry poses environmental hazards, especially the US Congress men and women who are wholly committed to the well-being of their respective constituencies.

They realise that petroleum has many uses, and the environmental impact of the petroleum industry is also “correspondingly extensive and expansive.” For example, “climate warming, ocean acidification, and sea level rise are global changes enhanced by the industry's emissions of greenhouse gases like methane and micro-particulate aerosols like black carbon.”

This compelled the passage of the following laws: Oil & Gas Regulation; The Clean Air Act (CAA) section 112(d) to control hazardous air pollutants (HAP) emissions at major sources; Clean Air Act; the Clean Water Act; the Safe Drinking Water Act; CERCLA (Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act); Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know (EPCRA); TSCA (Toxic Substances Control Act); Oil Pollution Act and Spill Prevention Control and Counter-measure Plans and  Soil pollution hazards.

“The Oil Pollution Act (OPA) of 1990 streamlined and strengthened EPA's ability to prevent and respond to catastrophic oil spills. A trust fund financed by a tax on oil is available to clean up spills when the responsible party is incapable or unwilling to do so. The OPA requires oil storage facilities and vessels to submit to the Federal Government plans detailing how they will respond to large discharges.”

And, according to sources, it was in response to the Exxon Valdez oil spill, that the United States Congress passed the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA). “The OPA extensively amended the Federal Water Pollution Control Act. The OPA addressed issues associated with preventing, responding to, and paying for oil pollution.”

Here, in Nigeria, all we have is extirpation of expert agencies and creation of ministries which allows for increased overheads and delayed responses. We had a Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA). It was killed for a bigger outfit: The National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA), a parastatal of the Federal Ministry of Environment set up in 2007. We are told that “the vision of the agency is to ensure a cleaner and healthier environment for Nigerians.”                                                                            The Federal Ministry of Environment was established in June 1999 “to ensure effective coordination of all environmental matters, which hitherto were fragmented and resident in different line ministries. The creation was intended to ensure that environmental matters are adequately mainstreamed into all developmental activities; advise the Federal Government on national environmental policies and priorities, the conservation of natural resources and sustainable development and scientific and technological activities affecting the environment and natural resources.”

All good wishes and intensions expertly and meticulously penned but questionably implemented. The state of Niger Delta environment which spins the nation’s wealth confirms this. Perhaps, the former Director-General, National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), Mr Peter Idabor, gave an honest and credible summation when he said: “At the moment, what we have is just a civil offence, so oil companies know it’s just a civil offence and they pollute the environment with impunity.”



•Nwafo, Consulting Editor, News Express/ Environmental Analyst, can be reached on:; +2348029334754.


Source: News Express

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