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Erring Oil Firms Must Be Penalised For Negligence, Senate Warns

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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.

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Nigeria, US Sign Pact To Reduce Illicit Trafficking Of Ancient Arts

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The Federal Government and the United States, yesterday, signed the Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA) Agreement.
According to the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, the CPIA would reduce the pillage of Nigeria’s ancient arts which are mostly smuggled to Europe, the US and other places for the benefit of art collectors.
Mohammed said the signing of the MoU became necessary because, despite all efforts by the Ministry of Information and Culture and the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, with the assistance of law enforcement agencies, to prevent illicit export of the nation’s archaeological and ethnological materials, widespread looting and illicit excavation of these materials still continue.
He said this when he signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the CPIA with the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, in the presence of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, in Abuja.
Special Assistant to the President on Media, Office of the Minister of Information and Culture, Segun Adeyemi, disclosed this in a statement titled, ‘Nigeria, US Sign Pact To Reduce Illicit Trafficking of Ancient Arts.’
Mohammed was quoted as saying, “This legislation was enacted by the United States to restrict the importation into the US of archaeological materials ranging in date from 1500 B.C. to A.D. 1770 as well as ethnological materials, including those associated with royal activity, religious activity, etc from nations that have entered into the kind of bilateral initiative that we are signing here with the United States today.”
The minister said on the basis of the agreement, Nigerian antiquities being imported into the US without the requisite export permit will be seized at the border of the US and returned to Nigeria without the arduous and costly task of going through the labyrinth of judicial and diplomatic processes.
“We are optimistic that this agreement will reduce the pillage of our irreplaceable archaeological and ethnological materials, as the market for these materials is being shut in the United States against illicit traffickers.
“The agreement will last for an initial period of five years. If it works well, as we anticipate it will, it shall be renewed for a longer term. We implore other friendly nations to take a cue from the United States of America and join us in finding means to prevent the illegal importation of our antiquities into their countries,” he said.
The minister, who thanked the US Government, in particular the US Embassy in Nigeria, for making the MoU possible, said the Nigerian Government looks forward to a diligent implementation of the landmark agreement, so it can become a game-changer in the nation’s efforts to prevent the looting of its priceless ancient works of art.
In her remarks, the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Beth Leonard, said the agreement was aimed at preserving, restoring and protecting Nigeria’s cultural heritage.
“In Nigeria, over the past decade, the US Mission has partnered with the Nigerian government and state institutions to preserve cultural landmarks and sites through projects worth over one million dollars and funded by the US Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation.
“Just last November, I signed a grant award to digitally survey the Busanyin Shrine located within the Osun Osogbo Sacred Grove. That $125,000 grant will help document a series of shrines within the Grove and provide training to local professionals in digital tools and cultural heritage management,” she said.
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Three Out Of 10 Nigerians Are Mentally Sick -Reps

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The House of Representatives has said that three out of every 10 Nigerians have one form of mental illness or another.
Quoting the World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics, the House added that over 20,000,000 Nigerians were currently suffering from various degrees of mental illness or disorder without psychiatric health care.
To this end, the House mandated its Committees on Health Institutions and Healthcare Services to liaise with the Federal Ministry of Health towards improving mental health facilities around the country and further carry out serious sensitization of Nigerians on this issue.
It also asked the Committee on Health Institution to explore the modalities of liaising with stakeholders in the health sector to promote, educate and sensitise Nigerians on mental health.
The resolution, however, followed a motion titled “Need to Address the Rising Cases of Mental Health in Nigeria” presented by Hon. Uchechuku Nnam-Obi from Rivers State and considered by the House at yesterday’s plenary.
Presenting his motion, Nnam-Obi noted that the World Health Organisation (WHO) considers mental health as a state of well-being in which the individual can cope with the stress of life, work productively and contribute to the community.
According to him, mental illness manifests in mood disorder, anxiety disorder, trauma-related disorder, personality disorder, old age-related disorder, substance abuse disorder or mental pattern that causes significant distress or impairment of personal functioning.
He said: “According to the World Health Organisation statistics, over twenty million Nigerians are currently suffering from various degrees of mental illness or disorder without psychiatric health care.
“Three out of 10 Nigerians have one form of mental illness or the other, presently there is no mental health legislation in Nigeria. However, the Nigerian mental health policy is the only framework that has access to mental healthcare, dealing with mental and neurological disorders in Nigeria, discouraging stigmatisation against persons with mental disorders and has institutionalised standards for Psychiatric practice.
“The increase in cases of depression is traceable to multifactorial inter and intrapersonal issues which leads to suicidal death in the country and this requires urgent attention.
“Nigeria has only 130 Psychiatrists with over 20million citizens suffering from mental disorders.
“With the few functional Mental Health Facilities and inadequate mental health practitioners in the country, mental health cases are left for traditional practitioners, hence the upsurge in mental health in Nigeria.
“The statistics are troubling and the continued lack of a legal framework on mental health in the country will simply cause the situation to degenerate”
Adopting the motion, the House gave six weeks to the committees within which to carry out the assignment and report back to it for further legislative action.

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Wike, PDP Govs Commiserate With Tambuwal Over Brother’s Death

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Representatives of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Governors’ Forum, yesterday, paid a condolence visit to the Sokoto State Governor, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal over the death of his elder brother, Alhaji Muhammed Bello.
Bello, who is also the Waziri of Tambuwal, passed on in Sokoto, last Tuesday night at the age 87.
He was the head of the Tambuwal family.
On the PDP governors’ delegation were, Governors Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State; Nyesom Wike (Rivers); Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu); Oluseyi Makinde (Oyo); and Ahmadu Fintiri of Adamawa State.
The Vice Chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, who led the delegation, said they were in Sokoto to commiserate with Tambuwal and his entire family over the sudden death of his elder brother.
“We feel your pain, and we understand that a great vacuum has been created, not only within the caliphate, but across Nigeria and other places where Daddy had sphere of influence. We believe that God Almighty will grant you the fortitude to bear this great loss.
“We are, however, consoled by the fact that Daddy left legacies that will remain indelible; one of them is your very good self and your impact and contributions to our dear country.”
The governors urged the Tambuwal family, particularly the Sokoto State governor, to remain strong, steadfast and uphold those virtues which the late Waziri of Tambuwal, cherished so much.
In his response, Sokoto StateGovernor, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, who is the PDP Governors’ Forum chairman, said the entire Tambuwal family was gladdened by the condolence visit.
According to him, his late elder brother, who lived his life in the service of community, held the family title, Waziri of Tambuwal for 37 years after the demise of their father.
“We are, indeed, very highly consoled not only by your presence, but your words of consolation. For you to have left behind whatever you are doing in your respective states to come all the way to Sokoto this afternoon, shows clearly how you sympathise with us and how close you are to us. I assure you that we appreciate this.”

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