Sharon Ikeazor, minister of environment, says oil spillage in the Niger Delta region caused “massive” devastation to the communities, describing it as a Hiroshima site.
Hiroshima is a city in Japan’s Honshu Island destroyed by an atomic bomb during World War II.
Ikeazor said this at the weekly ministerial press briefing organised by the presidential media team at the presidential villa, Abuja, on Thursday.
Three weeks ago, a pipeline explosion in Nembe, Bayelsa state, led to oil spillage across 45 communities — spewing oil into the water bodies for many days.
The Santa Barbara South field is jointly owned by Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Company (AEEPCO) and Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
The minister said clean-up has started but small compared to the level of devastation the oil spill caused the communities.
“I got briefings through the director of NOSDRA, and what I saw in terms of the pollution either through oil refining or illegal oil refining and otherwise — the devastation of the Niger Delta is massive. As we are cleaning up, what we are cleaning up is minute compared to the devastation going on,” she said.
“So, it is something that government needs to tackle headlong. I hope they would have put the picture on, it was like a Hiroshima site. So, this is something we must tackle headlong. We are beyond talking and having a workshop.”
Ikeazor also said Santa Barbara spillage had been brought under control with necessary personnel and equipment deployed to begin recovery and remediation efforts.
“On the Santa Babara ITO oil spills, you remember the ministry of environment issued a statement stating what happened and the action being taken. It’s a collection action between the ministry of petroleum resources, the ministry of environment, and the oil company involved,” she added.
“It goes beyond the oil companies giving out palliatives, they must put measures in place to prevent such accidents from happening. They are also claiming that the spill was due to sabotage by the local communities.
“We are going to have a targeted approach to illegal bunkering, tampering with oil installation, and artisanal mining in the Niger Delta to get an alternative livelihood for the young people of the Niger Delta so that they would desist from this because it is further polluting the environment.
“The situation has been brought under control. I got a brief from the DG of NOSDRA who was out on the field. So, now, work has to start on the proper clean-up.”
According to her, the ministry is engaging other relevant government agencies to institute stiffer punishments for companies involved in oil spillage in the country.
Ikeazor explained that there is a bill amending the law establishing the National Oil Spillage Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) to build its capacity and give it “the needed teeth to bite.”