President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, has called on the Federal Government through its relevant agencies to penalise indigenous oil companies responsible for the devastation of host communities where they operate.
Lawan made the call, yesterday, following a motion on “the extremely urgent need to stop the continuous crude oil and gas blow out spill at Santa Barbara well 1, OML 29 operated by AITEO Eastern Exploration and Production Company Limited in Opu Nembe, Bayelsa State.”
A statement signed by the Special Assistant (Press) to the Senate President, Ezrel Tabiowo, said the motion was sponsored by Senator Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo (Bayelsa East).
According to the statement, “The lawmaker, while coming under Order 42 and 52 of the Senate Rules, noted with concern the continuous gushing and spewing of oil and gas into the waterways and mangrove vegetation of Opu Nembe area of Bayelsa State, from a long sealed, non-producing Oil Well 1, Santa Barbara OML 29 belonging to AITEO Eastern Exploration and Production Company Limited.”
Biobarakuma said, “Worried that even though same oil well has witnessed several oil spills in previous years, the current incident borders on catastrophe due to a long period of accumulated oil and maximum pressure from piled up gas in the well. The magnitude of this incident is of an extremely high order, the first of its kind in this part of the world.
“Further worried that the entire mangrove forests and aquatic life have been adversely affected by this methane gas, as rainbow-like sheens are seen on the water body around the point of incident down to the shoreline.
“Disturbed that dead fishes are also seen floating within the impacted area and fishing activities totally crippled, with the direction of the wind blowing onshore towards the community from the point of the incident.
“Aware that during the just concluded global Climate Conference (COP26) held in Glasgow, Scotland, world leaders gathered to encourage nations to implement international best practices in cutting off such emissions into the entire ecosystem. The Nigerian Government well represented by our dear President in our contribution to global climate action.
“Notes that while the policy on divestments by IOCS in exploration and production of oil and gas is a welcome development as it creates space for indigenous companies to invest and grow in the industry, such opportunities should be accorded to indigenous companies with proven requisite technical and financial competence.
“Worried that attempts to stop the continuous oil and gas spill by the operators had failed repeatedly for over one month running, wasting an estimated over two million barrels of hydrocarbon and gas, shows a disappointing appearance of technical incompetence in handling the incident on the part of AITEO Eastern Exploration and Production Company Limited.
“Notes that such degree of incompetence is sufficient to attract sanctions such as revocation of their operational license by the regulatory authorities to instill sanity in the oil and gas sector in response to the increased global call for protection of the environment.
“Notes with deep concern the threat that this incident poses to the health of the people of the host communities as the air and water have been contaminated, and also the possibility of a fire outbreak from the oil well if this wanton release of oil and methane gas continues unstopped.”
Senator George Thompson Sekibo representing Rivers East called on the Federal Government to intervene by curbing the excesses of oil companies in their host communities.
This is as he lamented that many states in the Niger Delta are polluted with soot as a result of the flagrant negligence of such companies.
On his part, the Senate President said that the National Assembly would insist on companies carrying out their corporate-social responsibilities to host communities under the law.
According to him, doing so would also involve penalising any company that fails to adhere to operational standards set out by the Federal Government.
“I feel very sad, that an indigenous oil company for that matter, would be involved in this kind of incident and yet not able to show any capacity.
“As a country, we want to promote our local content – indigenous oil companies – to participate in this industry.
“But we are going to insist, whether it is an indigenous owned company any or an international one, that the companies must be responsible to the communities and to us as a nation.
“This is devastation of lives and ecosystems in that part of the country, and I believe that this particular case should be made to be an example of what government and its agencies can do, not only to force the alleged culprit to remedy the environment but also to penalise the oil company for devastating the lives of the people of that area (Nembe)”, Lawan said.
The statement said the Senate urged AITEO Eastern Exploration and Production Company Nigeria Limited to urgently seek, explore and deploy relevant highest level of expertise and technology to stop the spill and prevent continuous damage to the environment and restore the life support system of the people.
This is as the Senate condemned in totality the oil spillage by AITEO, and urge the relevant agencies to invoke the maximum penalties applicable under the laws for such infractions.
“The chamber urged the relevant agencies to undertake environmental impact assessment to determine the extent of the pollution with a view to undertake remediation in accordance with internationally accepted polluter pays principles within ninety days.
“The Senate further resolved that the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) should, as a matter of urgency, provide relief materials as this ugly incident has taken a negative toll on the health and wellbeing of the people of the host communities which can be declared as a disaster area,” the statement added.
Emefiele Fears Reps’ Arrest Threat, Appears Before House ….Says Banks ‘ll Accept Old Notes After Deadline
The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, has finally appeared before the House of Representatives which summoned him over the crisis caused by the redesign of some naira notes and the exchange of old naira notes with new ones.
Emefiele yesterday appeared before the ad hoc committee set up by the House to investigate the crisis, which is chaired by Majority Leader, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa.
He told the House of Representatives that commercial banks in the country would still accept old naira notes from customers after the February 10 deadline.
He did not, however, state how long the expired notes would be admitted by the banks.
The Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, had accused the CBN governor of breaching Section 20 of the CBN Act which, according to him, mandates commercial banks to accept old notes even after the deadline.
Emefiele, while addressing the ad hoc committee, said he agreed with the lawmakers on Section 20 of the CBN Act.
“Section 20 says even after the old currency has lost its legal tender status that we are mandated to collect that money. And I stand with the House of Reps on this,” he stated.
The CBN governor added that, “if you have your money that you have not been able to send to the bank, we will certainly give you the opportunity to bring them back into the CBN to redeem it. Either you pay it to your bank account or you want to do an exchange — we give you. You will not lose your money. This is the assurance I give to Nigerians”.
Emefiele apologised to the lawmakers for failing to answer the previous summons, which the chairman said was accepted.
He stated that the policy should have been introduced several years ago and that the CBN had only used the opportunity to make the economy more cashless. According to him, Nigerians would soon realise the benefits of the policy.
The chairman of the ad hoc committee, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, after the hearing that lasted over one hour, called for an executive (closed-door) session with members of the committee.
The Majority Leader and members later proceeded to the chamber where plenary was ongoing.
The report of the committee was laid, considered and adopted by the House.
Recall that the Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, was to issue a warrant for Emefiele’s arrest over his repeated failures to answer at least four summons from the House.
The House had shelved its plan to go on break for the presidential and National Assembly elections, which was to commence on Thursday, over the CBN governor’s failure to answer the last summons issued to him by the committee.
Gbajabiamila had threatened to mandate the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, to arrest and force Emefiele’s appearance before the panel, insisting that the deadline breached the provision of Section 20(3) of the CBN Act.
The Speaker partly said, “I have no choice now. On Tuesday (yesterday) when we resume, we will invoke the provisions of Section 89 of the Constitution…The President has been very clear. The President gave the approval based on what he knows and what he has been told.
“We also know the President to be a man of the people. He gave his approval based on what he had been told. But we are saying – what the motion is saying – is that after the President gave his approval, how does the money get to the people? The money is not getting to the people. That is what we sought to clarify and that is exactly what we are going to do.
“So, on Tuesday, this House will follow its procedure – the normal procedure – and invoke the provisions of Section 89 to compel the governor of the CBN and the directors.”
The Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase, had also urged the House to allow the leadership to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari and explain the controversial implementation of the policy to him, which the Speaker agreed to.
Though the CBN, on Sunday, extended the deadline on the expiration of the old N1,000, N500 and N200 notes by 10 days – from January 31 to February 10, with the Deposit Money Banks (commercial banks) allowed to accept the notes by seven days more, the House had insisted on Emefiele’s appearance.
Ado-Doguwa, in a statement titled ‘Old Naira Notes: House C’ttee Rejects CBN Extension, Says Position of Law Sacrosanct, Must Be Respected,’ insisted that the apex bank must comply with Sections 20(3), (4) and (5) of the CBN Act.
“Nigeria, as a developing economy and a nascent democracy, must respect the principles of the rule of law. And the House would go ahead to sign the arrest warrant to compel the CBN governor to appear before the ad hoc committee,” the Majority Leader stated.
Emefiele, however, led the leadership of the CBN to appear before the lawmakers yesterday.
Cumulatively, Emefiele has failed to answer summons from the House at least four times within two months.
The House had on December 22, 2022, grilled the Deputy Governor, Financial System Stability, Central Bank of Nigeria, Aisha Ahmad, over the latest policy by the apex bank which, among others, sets limits to cash withdrawals at the Deposit Money Banks and other financial institutions.
The House had summoned Emefiele but he failed to appear in the two previous appointments with the lawmakers. The CBN had informed the House that Emefiele would not appear before the House in person, rather Ahmad would lead the Committee of Governors before the lawmakers.
Emefiele had also failed to answer two summons from the House’ ad hoc committee to investigate the scarcity of the new naira at the Deposit Money Banks, also known as commercial banks, leading to tension over the January 31 deadline set by the CBN for the exchange of the old notes with the newly designed ones.
Wike Accuses PDP National Of Anti-Party Activities …Says He’ll Hit Back
Rivers State governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, says it is an act of anti-party on the part of the national leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to tell lawyers handling legal suits on behalf of the PDP in the State to dissociate themselves from the cases.
Governor Wike made the accusation against the national leadership of the party during the flag off of the Rivers State PDP campaign rally held at State School premises, Okehi 1, in Etche Local Government Area on Monday.
The PDP in Rivers State had taken some political parties in the State to court over non-compliance with the regulations and laws of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the conduct of their various primaries.
The governor said instead of the PDP national leadership to support the suits by the PDP in Rivers, it has asked lawyers handling the various legal matters to withdraw legal representations.
According to him, anti-party begets anti-party and since the PDP national has started the anti-party game, it will get anti-party in return.
“We have caught them. They are the ones engaged in anti-party. I told them anti-party begets anti party. You know we carried these small parties (APC, SDP) to court for failing to do what the law says.
“The people in Abuja that say they are national have gone to collude with them (opposition parties) to write our lawyers a letter that they should take their hands off, in order to kill the cases we filed. I have told our lawyers to withdraw from the matters. I will hit them back by tomorrow.
“Nobody hurts us without sustaining a scar. Anybody who dares to touch us in Rivers State, I will inflict many scars on him and we have started it. We are voting for our people here. Now you have told us you are doing anti-party. We will show you what anti party is. Already, we have caught them red-handed”, Wike said.
The governor emphasised that the forthcoming election is a battle that must be won, and urged Etche people to go home, get prepared by collecting remainder of their Permanent Voters Card with INEC and vote all PDP candidates in the State.
He described the PDP in the state as a formidable squad, fully prepared for the election, saying it has all that it takes to ensure that the election is peaceful, with winning votes secured for all its candidates.
Speaking further, Governor Wike thanked Etche people for their massive turn out at the rally, which demonstrates that they are fully in support of the PDP in the state.
He pointed out that by all ramifications, the PDP-controlled State government has kept every promise made to Etche people since 2015.
These, according to the governor, include delivery of over eight critical road infrastructure, establishment of a campus of Rivers State University in the area and appointment of their son as Vice Chancellor of Ignatius Ajuru University of Education.
Governor Wike urged Etche people to vote the governorship candidate of the PDP, Sir Siminialayi Fubara, as his successor to consolidate on the gains of his administration.
In his speech, Sir Fubara solicited bulk votes from Etche people to enable him and the entire consolidation team win the forthcoming general elections in the state.
He promised to sustain regular payment of workers’ salary as well as ensure that all assets owned by the State are never sold to cronies of those in power.
Fubara also assured that when elected, his adminisration would ensure that closure of courts in the State is never experienced again.
The PDP governorship candidate said he is sure of winning the March 11 election because of his competence and understanding of the new Rivers Vision of Governor Wike, which would serve as the foundation for his administration.
Rivers State Chairman of PDP, Ambassador Desmond Akawor, who presented party flags to the candidates contesting for the various positions, urged the people to vote for them.
Director General of the Rivers PDP Campaign Council, Brother Felix Obuah, said Etche people were better off under Governor Wike’s administration, and urged them to remain resolved to deliver votes in bulk for the PDP.
Former Etche council chairman, Nnamdi Okere, said the forthcoming election is about showing gratitude and love to ygovernor Wike, whose administration has benefited Etche land and people.
The PDP candidate for Rivers East Senatorial District, Chief Allwell Nyesoh, who spoke on behalf of the candidates, accepted the responsibility of flying the party’s flag and pledged that the candidates would provide quality representation, following in the foot steps of Governor Wike.
Earlier, Governor Wike had visited Ochie of Etche Land, Onye-Isi Etche, King Emmanuel N. B. Opurum, at his palace in Ndashi to acquaint the king of the flag off of PDP campaign in Etche Local Government Area.
Well’ll Win Elections Because Etche People Understand Our Vision -Fubara
The governorship candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Rivers State, Sir Siminialayi Fubara, has expressed confidence that he would win the March 11 governorship election in the state because Etche people understand the New Rivers Vision.
Sir Fubara stated this at the campaign rally of the PDP in Rivers State held at State School premises, Okehi 1, in Etche Local Government Area of Rivers State on Monday.
Addressing party faithful and supporters at the rally, the PDP governorship candidate asserted that Governor Nyesom Wike, has performed very well in Etche Local Government Area and promised to build on those achievements.
“A question was asked, what are we consolidating? We are consolidating on ensuring that our courts will not be closed again. We are consolidating on regular and prompt payment of salaries and pensions. We are consolidating on infrastructural revolution. We are consolidating on ensuring that state assets are not being sold by friends and business partners again. We are consolidating on good governance.
“Governor Nyesom Wike has laid a solid foundation for onward growth of every sector and every part of the state. Our own job is to continue, build, and improve on it. This is what we mean by consolidation and continuity.
“The testimonies of Etche people here are wonderful. A journey they spend hours on before due to bad road, they now spend less than 45 minutes because of Governor Wike’s magic on your roads. This is dividend of democracy and good governance, it is evidence of right leadership”, he said.
Fubara urged Etche people to utilise the extension of the deadline for collection of Permanent Voter Cards (PVC) by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
“Please ensure that this remaining few days that INEC has provided for us for collection of PVC are used to collect yours if you are yet to do so. Sensitise your people to do so because our PVC is our weapon, it is our instrument, and our power, without it, we are powerless.
“With our PVC, we will ensure that PDP wins the governorship election in Rivers State. I know I will win, I am not desperate but I know I will win because of my competence and Governor Wike’s performance.
“With our PVC, we will ensure that PDP wins all the senatorial seats, all the House of Representatives seats, and all the State House of Assembly seats in Rivers State.
“We have done very well in Etche Local Government Area because you understand the New Rivers Vision. When you understand a vision, it becomes easy for you to key into it. We expect you to support us again so that we will do more for you and bring more development to Etche”, Fubara added.
In his address, Governor Wike condemned the attempt by the national leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party to frustrate the suit filed by the Rivers State chapter of the party against opposition parties in the state.
The governor also boasted that he has fulfilled the electioneering promises he made to the people of Etche in 2015 and 2019, and urged them not to listen to politicians who have penchant for failing on their campaign promises.
“You must differentiate politicians who are known for not keeping their campaign promises from those who keep to their promises. When I came to you in 2014/2015, I made several promises to you, to the glory of God, I have fulfilled those promises made to you.
“I have constructed several roads in this local government area. I sited one of the campuses of Rivers State University here. In fact, Igwuruta-Chokocho Dual Carriageway was one of my first projects when I came on board.
“Our own is not to lie to you, when we tell you we will do something for you, we go ahead to do it. Do not vote those parties that will promise you and fail to fulfil it.
“Those of them in Abuja who are talking about anti-party have been caught red-handed in the act. They are the first to play anti-party that they accused us of.
“We challenged the illegal conduct of primaries by some opposition parties in Rivers State in court, and we were hoping on the court to do the right thing. We have just been told that the national chairman of the party has written to the party’s lawyer to hands off the case to frustrate our suit.
“No problem at all, let them frustrate the case. We will hit them back because anti-party begets anti-party, the governor stated.
Earlier in his opening remarks, the Director-General of the New Rivers Vision Consolidation Campaign Council, Bro Felix Obuah, said the best way the people of Etche Local Government Area will appreciate Governor Wike for what he has done in the area is to vote Sir Fubara for governor, and all other PDP candidates in the state on February 25 and March 11 elections.
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