Nigerian Government Imposes New Pollution Penalty

The Nigerian Federal Government, in an effort halt pollution and enforce safe operations in the oil producing areas, is preparing new penalties to be imposed on companies whose operations may endanger the health and safety of the environment. Currently the government only imposes penalties on gas flaring by oil producing companies.

Speaking at an international Health, Safety and Environment conference about the oil and gas industry in Nigeria, the presidential adviser on Petroleum and Energy, Dr. Rilwanu Lukman, said the new penalty clauses would be included in existing provisions for the regulation, control and management of HSE issues. "This is in keeping with the demands of the times especially in the oil and gas industry. It is intended to make our regulations dynamic and enforceable," Lukman said.

Lukman said that the Federal Government will also update the baseline data gathered by the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), to be able to determine control criteria for HSE management. It was noted at the conference that there has been little enforcement of HSE guidelines in Nigeria. "Consequently, operators seemed to have paid little or no attention to the environment," he said, adding that as a result of the culture of work at that time, the evidence of oil spills of many years past still exist today. The absence of strict enforcement of HSE rules, Lukman added, allowed the oil spills of recent years to constitute concern in the oil producing areas, particularly, the Niger Delta.

"The impacted sites of many years past and of current times must be cleaned up and remediated... all stockpiled drill cuttings must be treated and disposed of appropriately" the Special Adviser warned, adding that the DPR had been directed to initiate action for full compliance.

The government will soon put in place an initiative called Response, Compensation and Liability for Environmental Damage in Nigeria (RECLED), which will facilitate a compensation process that will be seen to be just and equitable to both the environment and the people and also ensure that defaulters were held accountable.