22 November 2008

Some serious problems with the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Act

"The National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (Establishment) Act" is deeply flawed and provides little to no protection for environmental protection for degradation caused by the oil and gas sector. Last time we checked, the Niger Delta is still part of the Nigerian Federal Republic. If that is still the case, why then are the most pressing environmental issues facing the region completely ignored in the Federal legislation meant to protect people and the environment? We are not dealing with some corrupt politicians looking the other way while oil and gas companies pollute the region, with both making off like bandits. Instead we are talking about official, national legislation that gives these companies the right to ignore any and all standards of decency and environmental protection. This type of shoddy legislation continues the government's pattern of abuse and neglect for the Niger Delta region and only enforces the bitterness felt by so many in the creeks.

Lets take a more in depth look at the Act, which specifically exempts the oil and gas sector from nearly all provisions, allowing it to operate essentially outside of the law and any regulation. The Agency is:

- Exempted from complying with standards for hazardous materials {7(g)}
- Exempted from compliance monitoring {7(h)}
- Exempted from environmental control measures (registration, licensing and permitting) {7(j)}
- Exempted from public education on environmental issues {7(l)}

With relation to the oil and gas sector, the newly established environmental regulation agency will NOT have the power to:

- Conduct public investigations on pollution and the degradation of natural resources {8 (g)}
- Develop environmental monitoring networks at national and international levels {8 (l)}
- Research causes, effects, extent, prevention, reduction and elimination of pollution {8 (m)}
- Share information with agencies or organizations regarding the effects on the environment {8 (n)}

In the Financial Provisions section (V), the Agency, with relation to the oil and gas sector, is specifically barred from:

- Making regulations on effluent limitations, on existing and new point sources, for the protection of human, animal, marine and plant life {24 (3)}
- Co-operating with Government agencies for the removal of any pollutants discharged into the Nigerian environment {29}

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