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NIGERIA: IOCs Pick Holes in NOSDRA Amendment Bill

 Multinational oil companies operating  in Nigeria, Tuesday picked holes in a bill seeking to amend the National Oil Spill Detection and Response  Agency(NOSDRA) Act.

The bill  seeks to give additional responsibilities to NOSDRA and enhance its capacity to enforce the law on oil spill and punish culprits.

But the oil companies described the bill as unfair and an attempt to impose  excessive penalties on them even on incidents  beyond their  control as  operators in the oil and gas sector.

The Managing Director, Mobil Nigeria, Mr. Mark Ward, who made the position of the oil companies known at the  stakeholders session, said the bill did not take into consideration, a situation where oil firms could declare force majeur as a result of unforeseen business challenges.

Ward, who was represented by Mr. Jide Ayo Vaughn, an Executive Director with Mobil, argued that it  would  be unfair for NOSDRA  to compel an oil firm to pay for an  oil spill that was not caused by the operator or  owner of a  facility.

He also argued that it would be unfair for different quantities of spill to attract the same fine even though they may have varied  levels of  impact on the environment.

The oil firms also argued that the bill appeared to be a ploy to transfer the funding of  NOSDRA  from the federal government to the oil companies  through  the imposition of excessive  penalties  on the companies.

They proposed  an alternative system of  “fair and reasonable”  fines and penalties calculated  through a transparent  process with evidence of oil spills and not  based on guesswork.

The amendment bill, they further argued, would lead to overlapping and duplication of roles between NOSDRA and other agencies such as the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and the  Ministry of Environment on the issue of oil  spills.

However, the Director General of NOSDRA, Mr.  Peter Idabo, disclosed  that the penalties were  fair.

The  penalties, he noted, would serve  as a deterrent  to firms that have the practice of not reporting  spills in their operations.

The new legislation provide for fines and penalties of N5 million  per day in case of failure to report oil spill after 24 hours and N50 million  in case of failure to clean up spills.

The Chairman, House Committee on Environment, Hon. Uche Ekwunife, said the bill had become necessary because  communities  have had running battles on the issue of compensation whenever spills occurred and destroyed the environment.

She said the interaction was not meant to take sides with NOSDRA or muzzle any one but to come out with an amendment bill that would not only be acceptable to all and bring  benefit to the country.

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