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Senate moves against foreign companies involved in oil spill, environmental degradation

Senate moves against foreign companies involved in oil spill, environmental degradation

The Senate has commenced moves to end what it described as the “illegal” activities of oil companies engaged in exploration resulting in oil spills and environmental degradation of host communities in Nigeria.

The Senate on Wednesday mandated its Committee on Petroleum (Upstream) to comprehensively review relevant laws governing abandonment, decommissioning and remediation with a view to establishing the level of compliance by oil companies operating in Nigeria.

The upper chamber also charged its committee to urge all oil companies operating in Nigeria to give a comprehensive account of budgeted allocations in their annual budgets for mandatory abandonment and decommissioning, running into billions of dollars unaccounted for.

It further called for further investigations as to how budgeted allocations for this purpose were applied or expended over the years.

These formed part of resolutions reached by the upper chamber sequel to the consideration of a motion on “the need to investigate the degree of enforcement of Abandonment and Decommissioning Obligations in Oil and Gas Exploration Contracts.”

Senator Gershom Bassey (APC, Cross River South), who sponsored the motion, drew the attention of the upper chamber to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas Art 60(3), the Geneva Convention Article 5(5), the Oslo and Paris Convention for the Protection of Marine Environment, the 1967 Territorial Water Act and 1969 Petroleum Act.

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According to the lawmaker, such laws make sufficient provisions for mandatory abandonment and decommissioning for oil companies.

Senator Bassey bemoaned the conduct of oil companies in Nigeria for “failing to restore exploited sites after the expiration of their lease as witnessed in the Niger Delta.”

He added that at the point of transfer of interest by one company to another, “there is lack of clarity in many instances with regards to financial liability for abandonment and decommissioning thereby causing untold hardship to the host community.”

Contributing, Senator Stella Oduah (PDP, Anambra North), a co-sponsor of the motion, described same as “critical”, given how degradation affects host communities under oil exploration.

Oduah noted that the incidence of spills were preventable, if only funds set aside for the purpose of clean-ups are duly utilized.

In a related development, the Senate on Wednesday also mandated its Committee on ICT and Cybercrime to engage stakeholders with a view to coming up with a broad-based approach to address Nigeria’s digital and cyber security crises.

The upper chamber while calling for engagements with Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government to identify cyber security constraints and remedial measures, urged the Federal Government to improve on budgetary provisions for digital technology and cyber-dependence safety.

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