OrderPaperToday- The Senate on Wednesday, urged the Federal Government to introduce pollution tax on those involved in economic sabotage by engaging in illegal refining of crude products in oil-producing areas of the country.
They also called on the federal government to sanction any security agencies culpable of vandalising pipeline installations and facilities thereby sabotaging the nation’s interest.
The Senate ruled on the motion sponsored by Senator George Thompson Sekibo (Rivers East), and co-sponsored by seven other lawmakers titled ‘Curbing Soot’s Particulate Droppings, Health Hazards Concerns and Economic Sabotage by Illegal Refining of Crude Products in Rivers State.’
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Sekibo, in his presentation, noted that droppings of unidentifiable sooty particulates in Rivers State, suspected to be after-effects of incomplete crude refining process has now taken a more dangerous dimension.
According to the lawmaker, an environmental audit due to the degradation of the environment has never been carried out since the commencement of the exploration and exploitation activities in the area which lasted for over 60 years.
He lamented that the attendant effect has left the contaminated environment “without hope of remediation.”
Sekibo expressed worry that “the sooty particulate substances dropping in the State is becoming too visible that one cannot stay outdoors without receiving drops of them on his body.
“It has become more worrisome that they are seen on bedspreads in bedrooms, worktops in kitchens, chairs and other materials in houses, meaning that they are entering through every available crevice into inner spaces of buildings as the wind carries them.”
The lawmaker stated further that “residents in Rivers State have noticed lots of these sooty particulates settling in their nasal tracts which have occasioned cleaning of their nostril several times in the day.”
“Concerned further that the amount of these particulates being inhaled daily by Nigerians resident in the State cannot be estimated just as the after-effects of their inhalation have not been determined.
“Disturbed that the sooty particulates are dropping on water bodies, farmlands and whatever is left open under the sky, which is detrimental to human health, as residents in the area are exposed to consumption of harvests from, both the seas and the lands as well as drinking rainwater and water from streams and rivers,” he said.
Sekibo observed that the recent outbreak of difficulty in breathing caused by congestion of nasal tracts of many residents in Rivers State could be linked to the epidemic.
He added that “this may be the cause of the recent cases of deaths without noticeable ailments in many towns of the state.”
The lawmaker warned that the situation had the potential to snowball into a national emergency if not nipped in the bud.
He raised the alarm that “some security agents posted to secure these national assets have turned themselves to partners in this dastardly acts, thus giving the criminals impetus to openly commit this national economic crimes.”
He, however, commended the Rivers State Government for taking the bold step to fish out those involved in the criminal act for prosecution.
He observed further that the issue of a clean environment is one of the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy of the Nigerian State as provided in Section 20 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
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He noted that the Constitution, within the context of its Social Order in Section 17(2)(d) admonished that exploitation of natural resources to the detriment of the citizens shall be prevented.
Sekibo recalled that in a bid to forestall an emergency from hazardous pollution that may arise due to Oil and Gas exploitation activities, the Federal Government set up the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) in 2006.
He listed the objectives of the agency to include:
- Implementing the National Spill Contingency Plan for Nigeria
- Responding to major or disastrous oil pollution; Identifying high-risk areas for protection and clean up
- Establishing the mechanism to monitor and assist or where expedient direct the response
- Direct the capability to mobilize the necessary resources to save lives, protect threatened environment
- Clean up to the best practical extent of the impacted site.
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He added that Section 6 of the NOSDRA Act saddles the agency with the responsibility of carrying out surveillance, coordinating issues on oil spillage and associated pollution as well as implementing such plans as may be issued by the Federal Government.
He lamented the failure of NOSDRA to live up to its mandate, saying the agency has “not informed the nation of this occurring national epidemics.”
Accordingly, the Senate in a six-point resolution, urged the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to note that there is an impending environmental danger that is occurring in Rivers State and its environs orchestrated by miscreants who are engaged in illegal refining as well as looting national crude oil assets.
It urged the President to audit security agencies saddled with the responsibility of securing these assets but are involved in this national sabotage and for them to be sanctioned appropriately by the laws of the country.
The chamber further urged the President to use his constitutional power to support the Government of Rivers State in combating these criminal activities and fishing out national economic saboteurs.
It mandated the Senate Committees on the Navy, Police Force, Interior, and Army to carry out a holistic investigation of these illegal activities with a view to ascertaining those involved in these dastardly acts and report within four weeks.
The Senate further directed its Committees on Environment, Petroleum Upstream, and Primary Health to visit Rivers State and carry out observatory assessment of the level of damage these activities have caused the environment and the health concern the activities have occasioned as well as suggest solutions and report within four weeks.
It also urged the Federal Government to institute a pollution tax that can be scientifically measured and the proceeds therefrom to part-finance the cleaning of the environment and provide medical care to the affected communities.