Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State, yesterday decried the failure of oil multinationals operating in developing countries to effectively address issues of environmental degradation, particularly oil spills and pollution, compared to what the BP was forced to pay for cleaning up a recent spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Fashola, who spoke at the opening session of a two-day Arbitration Regional Conference of the Energy, Environment, Natural Resources and Infrastructure Law, SEERIL, a section of the International Bar Association, IBA, in Lagos, wondered why the price of crude oil is internationally regulated, while efforts at checking environmental problems arising from pollution is not.
His words: "As a coastal state in the Gulf of Guinea, we are following with keen interest the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Of concern to us is the effect of the spill on the ecosystem, threatening hundreds of species of fish, birds and other wildlife along the Gulf Coast as well as several generations of marine-related businesses; small and big.
"The eventual resolution of issues relating to the spill will unavoidably involve the enforcement of rights and obligations between parties and remediation of grievances of which I believe the services of members of this audience would be required.
International regulation for oil spills
"We are concerned about the environmental issues playing out in the Gulf of Mexico. We have seen with this case that the safety measures put in place have failed to protect the environment. If there are international regulation and common practice to determine the price of oil, we should also have a common international practice in fighting oil spills and pollution. Also, the standard we have in protecting communities from oil spills and pollution in the West, should also apply in poor and developing countries."
On the theme of the conference, he said: "Energy and infrastructure, clearly, are critical success factors to the socio-economic development of any society. These sub-sectors of the economy rest on a legal framework, significantly, the allocation of obligations in contracts and other legal documents.
"Naturally, in the performance of these sectors in any economy, disputes will arise. The best way of resolving such disputes, I believe, is in part the reason for this conference."
Attorney-General of the Federation, Ibrahim Adoke, SAN, who was represented by Mr Tunde Busari, commended the issues to be discussed at the conference, adding that Bills to harmonise and reform Alternative Dispute Resolution, ADR, laws in the country would soon be sent to the National Assembly for passage into laws.
Chief Bajo Ojo, SAN, former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, and a co-chair of SEERIL, said: "While it is no longer in doubt that disputes which are always inevitable in business venture dissipate energy, time and money, having a good mechanism to resolve such disputes when they do arise goes a long way to guarantee economic prosperity, which was what informed the holding of this conference in Nigeria."