The impact of oil extraction is severe on the environment and threatens sources of livelihoods, sustainable development activists have said.
At a gathering held last week in Port Harcourt, River State, at the instance of the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), participants declared that offshore oil exploration and exploitation in Nigeria is a major contributor to climate change.
They declared that the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) and other government actors responsible for monitoring and enforcing regulations in the oil and gas sectors have failed in the discharge of their statutory responsibilities.
The participants at the workshop, with the theme: “Environmental Training and Capacity Building for Civil Society Groups on Offshore Oil Drilling, its Impact on Lives and Livelihoods and Channels for Engagement,” observed that although the impacts of oil extraction are visible and happening in our backyards, oil companies continue to deny responsibility for the degradation of farmlands, pollution of rivers and streams which the people depend on.
“Absence of effective metering systems by the corporations in Nigeria has deepened confusion on the actual volume of oil produced in Nigeria. A direct result of this is that there is no accountability and transparency in the oil industry,” declared the participants that comprised environmentalists, representatives of communities, women groups, the academia, civil society organisations (CSOs), government agencies and the media.
They further observed that offshore oil exploration and exploitation now accounts for 40 percent of the nation’s oil and gas activities, but that it is also fraught with more dangers and devastating environmental and livelihood implications. They lamented that civil society groups are still largely in the dark and have poor capacity on issues relating to offshore oil monitoring.
Consequently they recommended that while oil companies should publish what they pump, no new licences for offshore oil exploration and exploitation activities be granted to local or international oil companies.
The forum also maintained that oil companies currently operating in Nigeria put in place real-time and modern metering system to avoid ongoing oil theft, which they claim robs the Nigerian people of billions of dollars in oil revenues.
In a communiqué endorsed by the ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Godwin Uyi Ojo, participants declared: “All existing laws on oil extraction should be reviewed and amended to reflect the sovereign ownership of the land and the natural resources by the Nigerian people while guaranteeing strong provisions on transparency and accountability.
“That civil society groups continue to build synergy with relevant stakeholders including community groups for the effective monitoring of offshore oil exploration and exploitation. In addition, civil society and key stakeholders should deepen interest in offshore livelihoods and environmental issues as well as campaign against increased deep water blocks.
“Civil society should vigorously engage in advocacy targeted at the communities on the impact of offshore oil exploration and exploitation.”
In a related development, ERA/FoEN the same week in the Garden City launched a new campaign titled “Publish What You Pump” which aims to fill the gap in the present Publish What You Pay of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) processes.
The group stated: “Although the NEITI processes have been ongoing for nearly 12 years, it has largely failed to sanitise the Nigerian petroleum sector or reduced the level of corruption as Nigeria loses nearly 500,000 barrels of crude oil per day, costing the nation nearly $8 billion dollars per year.”
The initiative, according to ERA, will require that institutions such as the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) TO set up appropriate guidelines for measuring oil and gas production as well as have the necessary tools to carry out their oversight functions.
Ojo said that the launch marks an important milestone in national and global advocacy to ensure good governance, transparency and accountability in the oil and gas sector.