Abuja — The Federal Government has announced the institution of a restoration project that will manage hydrocarbon pollution in oil communities in Nigeria, seeing as oil companies operating in the country lacked respect for the environment.
The move is the first official response by government following the release of the environment report on the pollution of Ogoni land by the United Nations Environmental Programme, UNEP, in August last year.
The Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alision Madueke, disclosed this yesterday in Abuja, while delivering a keynote at the opening of the 15th Biennial Conference on Health Safety and Environemnt, HSE, organised by the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, the regulator of the nation's petroleum industry.
She said: "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 exploration and production operations."
The minister said that sequel to the UNEP Report on the Environmental Assessment of Ogoni land, her ministry has set up a Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project, HYPREP that would restore all communities impacted by hydrocarbon contamination in the country.
According to her, the project would also implement the actionable recommendations of the UNEP report, and design as well as provide a robust, independent coordinated guidance for the surveillance and monitoring of all petroleum infrastructure in Nigeria.
"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," she added.
The minister however, gave the assurance that the government and the industry operators would continue to collaborate, to advance the cause of HSE and its associated programmes, to prevent environmental disasters.
She further said that due to the uncommon complex natural attributes of the oil rich Niger Delta region, the Federal Government is also fine-tuning a special policy thrust that will ensure rapid development in the region.
Alision Madueke, also noted that with the region's large wet land encompassing the largest mangrove forest spread that holds the third largest drainage basin in Africa, the ecosystem needs to be jealously guarded and protected.
She noted that the region contained one of the highest concentrations of biodiversities in its contiguous coastal and near offshore region on the planet, adding that there were peculiar challenges that required solutions based on global principles.
The Director, Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, Mr. Osten Olorunshola, said the conference was in response to a heightened environmental consciousness as well as global need for sustainable development.
He said the DPR is running a continues battle to ensure that all oil firms operating in the country, both upstream and downstream complied with the HSE standards, warning that it would not hesitate to shut down or withdraw licenses of any operator that flouts the standard.