The Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, Monday said International Oil Companies (IOCs) and other players in the Nigerian oil and gas sector are guilty of disregard for sustainable environmental practices in their Exploration and Production (E&P) operations.
Alison-Madueke stated in her remarks at the 15th international biennial conference on Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) in Nigeria's oil and gas industry that IOCs and other players had exploited hydrocarbon resources from the Niger Delta for years without due consideration for the environment.
She explained at the conference in Abuja that such lack lustre attitude towards the environment by all players in the country's hydrocarbon industry had got to stop going forward as the Federal Government can no longer afford any more environmental disaster coming from activities of oil and gas operators.
"In Nigeria, there are peculiar challenges that require special solutions, which whilst having the features of global principles need to be, specifically, adapted to suit our circumstances. For example, the Niger Delta, which is the traditional oil bearing region in our country, had been identified, even before the advent of our industry, as a region that needed a special policy thrust for development due to its uncommon complex natural attributes.
"Its large wet land encompasses the largest mangrove forest spread, holds the third largest drainage basin in Africa which serves as the lone watershed for Nigeria and contains one of the highest concentrations of biodiversities on the planet. This is no doubt an ecosystem to be jealously guarded and protected. The contiguous coastal and near offshore regions, are similarly rich in biodiversity.
"Our industry has exploited oil from this region for over half of a century. And it is clear that the industry has not always respected sustainable development in the conduct of its E&P operations," she said.
The minister noted that outcomes from such disregard for the environment had pushed the Federal Government to inaugurate the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) to carry out an environmental assessment of Ogoniland; the studies which report had been submitted to the government, covered aspects of contaminated land, groundwater, surface water, sediment, vegetation, air pollution, public health, industry practices and institutional issues.
According to her, the Federal Government has also reacted to the report by setting up the Hydro-carbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP) in July to amongst other objectives, restore all communities impacted by hydro-carbon contamination in Nigeria, implement the actionable recommendations of the UNEP report on Ogoniland and design and provide a robust, independent coordinated guidance for the surveillance and monitoring of all petroleum infrastructure in Nigeria.
Alison-Madueke however added that HYPREP had so far implemented all recommended objectives in the transition phase of the UNEP report. She stated that industry operators would have to complement Federal Government's efforts in this regard if it must gain public trust.
She said: "For the industry to regain the trust of the society, it must move from the 'trust me' world to 'show me' world. It must reach out for significant changes in its business management strategies such that it can be perceived as sincere and transparent, ready to engage the stakeholders and ready to identify with social responsibility in the society in which it operates.
Government and the industry will continue to collaborate, to advance the cause of HSE and its associated programmes, as we can ill-afford any more environmental disasters.
"We will therefore continue to promote the strategy of industry participation and collaboration to ensure that regulatory tools are employed optimally, and to ensure that operations are conducted in a manner that protects both people and the environment.
"How far and well we advance will be dependent on the enshrinement of the appropriate culture and value systems of both the private sector and the policies of government," the minister added.
Meanwhile, Alison-Madueke, has called on the leaders and people of Okrika community in Rivers State to see oil facilities in their domain, especially the Okrika Jetty and the pipelines that lead to it, as their own and protect them from nefarious activities of vandals.
The minister made the appeal during the inauguration of the Okrika Jetty B, stating that the economic benefits of the jetty to the Okrika community and the entire nation are immense as it guarantees the evacuation of 50 per cent of the products from the Port Harcourt Refinery.
She said the jetty, which is very strategic as regards evacuation of products from Port Harcourt Refinery Company (PHRC), was completely reconstructed by an indigenous Nigerian company, Lee Engineering, in furtherance of the Federal Government's Nigerian Content Initiative.
The minister informed the people that the jetty can take up to 35, 000 tonnes ship weight of products and exports products such as Automated Gas Oil (AGO), fuel oil, Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and even Dual Purpose Kerosene (DPK) from the Port Harcourt Refinery.
She said the President Goodluck Jonathan administration was embarking on an aggressive refineries rehabilitation project to reduce products importation, and that without complementary facilities like the Okrika jetty, it would not be possible for the refineries to produce at optimal capacity as they would have evacuation challenges.
The minister said she was particularly excited about the Okrika jetty project because it reinforces the administration's belief in the local content, adding that the entire rehabilitation and upgrade of the jetty was handled by a local company.
The jetty which was originally built to load products from the Port Harcourt refinery has been reconfigured to receive imported products and pump same to the South- Eastern zone depots in Aba and Enugu up to Minna and Gombe through the System 2E and 2EX Pipeline network.
The commissioning ceremony was attended by the NNPC GMD, Engr Andy Yakubu, members of the NNPC Top Management as well as other top government functionaries.
It would be recalled that in 2006, a fire caused by pipeline vandals who were scooping fuel from a vandalized point on one of the pipelines gutted the pipeline up to the jetty completely destroying the control systems and several loading arms.