By Samuel Ohwovoriole
The Federal Ministry of Environment, is seeking for total regulatory powers in the environment sector. Minister of state for environment, Mrs. Sharon Ikeazor, who made this known at a stakeholders workshop held in Abuja over the weekend, also called for an amendment to the proposed Petroleum Industry Bill-2020, which is an executive bill before the national assembly, saying it will lead to duplication of environmental regulations in the country.
in a keynote address read on her behalf by the Director of Reforms Mrs. Ajai Bolanle, Mrs. Ikeazor said that environmental issues are the statutory responsibilities of her ministry and its agency, the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) as expressed by an Act of parliament. She therefore wonders why the PIB seeks to create a Commission or Authority to regulate the same oil industry that NOSDRA has already been empowered by law to perform?
“The failure to address the issues of overlap of functions relating to environmental regulation in the petroleum industry has lingered for too long, and it is for this reason that the matter has come up again in the PIB 2020. The Ministry of environment is very concerned about certain provisions in the PIB especially with regards to the functions of the proposed Nigerian Upstream Regulatory Commission and the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulation Authority.
“These proposed organs, which are principally supposed to regulate and monitor technical and commercial operations of the upstream, midstream and downstream sectors of the industry, have been accorded powers in the bill to make and enforce environmental regulations as well as the regulation of the environmental impact assessment processes in the petroleum industry contrary to extant laws and regulations governing environmental regulation in Nigeri,” she said.
Ikeazor noted that NOSDRA is statutorily responsible for the regulation of the petroleum industry in the country.
“NOSDRA, through its establishment by an Act is statutorily responsible for the environmental regulation of the petroleum industry in Nigeria, as well as ensuring sustainable practices in the exploration, production, storage, distribution and dispensing of crude oil and petroleum products across the country.”
According to her, “the ministry was a creation of departments and units from six different federal ministries in 1999 by the Olusegun Obasanjo government. The federal government created the federal ministry of environment by transferring departments and units from six federal ministries.”
while expressing similar views, Director General, NOSDRA, Idris Musa, said the creation of more than one regulatory body will lead to weak regulation as operators will go to the one that is less strict with them. “The federal government established the federal ministry of environment and all environmental matter are within the purview of the ministry. The ministry has at least seven agencies that are charged with sectorial responsibilities as it relates to the economy and the environment. Creating another pocket of environmental managers under any other ministry or agency is a duplication of functions and it creates room for operators especially in the oil industry to hide.
“If you situate it in one, you know that if they don’t do what you say by rule of law and operations; they have nowhere to run to. But when you create double regulatory bodies, you allow the operators to escape. And we should not do that. ” he advised.
The Senior Project Officer, Environment, Stakeholder Democracy Network (SDN), Jesse-Martin Manufor, said they are using this workshop to create awareness for major stakeholders so that they will know what to do during the public hearings that will by organized by the national assembly. He said they couldn’t make inputs earlier on because the bill is an executive bill.
“We are looking at the PIB as it affects the environment. Our main purpose of today’s event is to ex-ray two sections of the PIB that are in contraventions of already established laws by the federal government. The PIB came as an executive bill and went straight to the national assembly; we will engage the national assembly through public hearing or any other form and see that those grey areas are expunged,” he stated.
In his presentation, the Senior Technical Adviser to Director General of NOSDRA, John Lahu, highlighted the areas that the creation of a Commission and Authority to regulate oil impacts on the environment; some of which includes: “Sub-section 6(i) ensure strict implementation of environmental policies, laws and regulations for upstream petroleum operations. Compliance enforcement of environmental laws and policies in the petroleum sector is the responsibility of the Federal Ministry of Environment and the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA).
“This provision should be expunged from the proposed Act as it is purely a responsibility vested in the Federal Ministry of Environment/NOSDRA, he said.
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