By Kunle Akogun in Abuja
The Senate has condemned last weekend’s gas explosion on a Total Exploration and Production Nigeria Limited (TEPNL) platform in Rivers State, stressing that the time has come to develop a legal framework to put a stop to the flagrant abuse, pollution and degradation of the environment by all manner of commercial activities.
Reacting to the explosion, which has devastated several communities in Ogba/Egbema/ Ndoni Local Government Area in Rivers State, Chairman of the committee, Senator Bukola Saraki, told journalists that his committee “will no longer tolerate a situation where our collective environment is flagrantly abused, polluted and degraded by all manner of commercial activities.”
He said the complaints so far received by the committee on this incidence suggested that the latest gas explosion had devastated farmlands, forests, wetlands and other vital economic and environmental resources of the communities in the area and called on all government agencies charged with the responsibility of protecting the environment to immediately swing into action to address this ugly situation and restore the livelihood of the impacted communities.
Saraki also called on Total Exploration and Production Nigeria Limited, to “take adequate and necessary steps to contain the situation, decontaminate the impacted area and ameliorate the hardship the incident might have posed to these communities.”
He disclosed that the committee would soon invite the errant oil company “to explain to us what lead to this incidence and its plan of action and implementation strategy to restore back the environment and compensate those whose livelihoods have been impacted as a result of this latest incidence.”
He said his Committee has the mandate “to ensure that environmental governance in this country is adequate and respected in order to give our people a livable environment and that those whose actions and conducts impact or degrade the environment take full responsibility for their actions.”
In this regard, he disclosed that the committee will be liaising with relevant agencies of government to ensure that the impacted areas and their communities’ environments are restored back to status quo ante.
Saraki said: This latest incident brings once again to the fore, the issue of inadequate regulatory mechanism to ensure environmental safety and control of the activities of oil and gas exploration companies in Nigeria.
“This Committee will no longer tolerate a situation where our collective environment is flagrantly abused, polluted and degraded by all manner of commercial activities. We are working with our colleagues in the National Assembly and relevant stakeholders to develop further the legal, regulatory and institutional framework necessary to deal with these issues holistically and in a way that will make it uneconomical for those whose activities impact on the environment to wantonly degrade it.
“It is time to begin to firmly deal with this situation in a way that shows that we mean business in this country. It will no longer be more economical to blatantly abuse the environment.”
He then appealed to the “relevant government agencies to respond immediately to the hazard”, saying: “We expect a thorough assessment of the incident, both in terms of damage, impact on environment, community livelihood and the level of responsibility established.”
NHRC: Nigerians Should Respect Rights’ of Others
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) yesterday said every Nigerian should have respect for the human rights of one another irrespective of cultural, social and political differences.
Executive Secretary of NHRC, Prof. Bem Angwe, made the call while receiving members of the Human Rights Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Abuja branch.
According to Angwe, human rights promotion and protection is the responsibility of all as it is the cornerstone of Nigeria democracy. “Once people respect the rights of one another, there will be less friction and conflict and consequently, there will be peace and development,” he said.
He noted that the NBA has a very important role to play in the propagation of human rights, adding that the first calling of a lawyer was to rise and defend the oppressed.
Angwe pledge the readiness of the NHRC to partner with the NBA to improve the rights of all Nigerians. Responding, Chair-man, Human Rights Committee of the NBA, Mr. Elachi Agada, called for a formation of a joint human rights technical committee between NBA and NHRC to address peculiar human rights issues in Nigeria.
Agada pointed out the issue of forced eviction in Abuja, an action he said posed untold hardship on victims apart from its inhuman and degrading nature.
The NBA chairman also called for a synergy between the NBA and the NHRC to organise a programme known as the festival of human rights aimed at creating public awareness on human rights.
He commended the effort of the NHRC and challenged the commission to take advantage of the amendment of its law to advance the course of human rights in Nigeria.
Uba Advocates Better Funding for Police
Following the recent attack on a police station in Nnewi North in Anambra State, which further exposed the vulnerability of the security agencies, the Federal Govern-ment has been urged to increase the funding of the force to achieve better result.
Speaking after paying a visit to the police station and the site of the attack, the senator representing Anambra South senatorial zone, Senator Andy Uba, said: “This attack is not only unfortunate but barbaric. How can people just be so lawless and threaten the security of not only law enforcement agencies, but the peace loving people of the state?”
Uba described the level of destruction as very devastating and incredible.
According to him, “I am shocked by the level of destruction to the police station as well as the loss of life of the police officers who were carrying out their duty of maintaining peace. It is so sad that they had to die in the line of duty of keeping peace. May their souls rest in peace and may God console and take care of the families they left behind.”
Uba further said: “Apart from being sorry, I also call on the federal government to increase the funding of the Nigerian police force. I was appalled by the deplorable state of the station. I am amazed at how the police are able to sustain themselves with poor facilities and poor welfare. I therefore call on the Federal Government to increase funding for the police to make them more effective. I have invited the Inspector General of Police (IG), Mr. Mohammed Abubakar, to assess the level of the damage so that renovation can be carried out as soon as possible.”
He further appealed for support from the government for Abubakar in order to make his job of security lives and property more effective.
“With his track records as an operation officer, the IG deserves the support of all and sundry to succeed in this huge task of providing security for all. If he gets the needed backing, then the security of lives and properties can be guaranteed,” he said.
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