The Federal Government has announced plans to institute stiffer punishments against companies involved in oil spillage in the country.
Minister of State for Environment, Mrs. Sharon Ikeazor, who disclosed this at the weekly ministerial press briefing Thursday organised by the Presidential Media Team at the Presidential Villa, Abuja said the level of devastation in the Niger Delta was massive, adding that her office was planning to meet stakeholders in Ogoniland on the ongoing clean-up exercise to get their own assessment on how far government had gone.
She described the situation as terrible, hinting that the Federal Government is working on strengthening legal regulations guiding responses to oil spills and similar accidents.
Nigeria has recorded no fewer than 4,919 oil spills in the last six years.
Fielding question on the recent oil spillage on an OML 29 wellhead in Nembe area of Bayelsa State, which has reportedly devastated the environment, Mrs. Ikeazor said her ministry was working on effecting a legislative review of some of the laws guiding functions within the sector.
According to her, a bill is being worked out to amend the law establishing the National Oil Spillage Detection and Response Agency, NOSDRA, to build its capacity and give it “the needed teeth to bite.”
She said: “What you’ve just described I got the briefing from the DG of NOSDRA and what I saw in terms of the pollution, either through oil refining, through 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. So, it’s something that government has to tackle head on. I wish we had put the picture, there was a picture I saw, it was like Hiroshima sight. You remember Hiroshima in Japan? It was terrible. So, this is something we have to tackle head on. We are beyond talking and having workshops.
“Then on the issue of penalties, that’s why I mentioned earlier, the review of NOSDRA Act, if you know, most of our Acts were passed years ago, so you’ll find maybe they’ll give N100,000 fine. Anyone can pay that and go back and re-pollute. So, we need to put stiffer penalties in place, build the capacity of NOSDRA, which is the regulatory agency in the oil sector, to have the teeth to be able to bite.
“Without enhancing their capacity and reaffirming the legal framework, getting it stronger, they can’t do much. These are areas we’re looking into, it has to stop.
On the Santa Barbara Aiteo oil spills, you remember the Ministry of Environment issued a statement stating what happened and the action being taken. It is a collective action between the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, the Ministry of Environment and the oil company involved.
“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 installations and artisanal mining in the Niger Delta to get alternative means of 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 DG of NOSDRA, who was out on the field. So, now, work has to start on the proper clean up.
“Government is working on alternative mean of livelihood for the communities, so that we can move them away from illegal activities and further polluting of the environment,.’’
On improving the livelihoods of youths of the Niger-Delta region, she said: “Government is working on creating alternative mean of livelihood for them so we can move them away from illegal refining and further polluting the environment.
“For now, we have been able to train about 400 women in agri-business and entrepreneurial skills and also we have got them to form themselves into 20 cooperatives, through which they can be gainfully employed into project sites.
“We have created about 735 direct jobs and as the clean-up project continues at the complex sites, we will be able to employ a lot more of the youths.’’
The minister decried the rate of deaths from smoke-induced illnesses, especially among women in the country, saying it was the highest in the world.
She said government planned to reintroduce clean cook stove and the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) cook stove initiative to ameliorate the problem and protect the nation’s biodiversity.
On the achievements of the ministry, Ikeazor observed that Nigeria has sent a strong message to the world with the signing of the climate change bill into an act by President Muhammadu Buhari.
On measures taken so far, she affirmed the country’s commitment to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
She said: “I will like to state that Nigeria has delivered the loudest statement after COP26. By the President signing the climate change bill into an Act, we have shown a very strong commitment.
“So, the next step now under the Ministry of Environment is the implementation of all these commitments and strategies as well as the national plans we have in place.”
Despite FG’s Plea, Electricity Workers Cripple Power Supply in Abuja, Environs
Despite a federal government statement pleading with the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) not to embark on an industrial action, the workers yesterday made good their threat, crippling power supply in parts of Abuja and environs.
The affected areas under the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) franchise included Abuja, Nasarawa, Kogi, parts of Edo, Niger and Kaduna states.
Specifically, the protesters attached to the AEDC said they were embarked on the industrial action over the non-payment of their entitlements for over 20 months.
The federal government at the weekend through the ministry of power had cautioned workers against the action, as a consequence of the impact of the ownership tussle in the Distribution Company (Disco).
Minister of State, Power, Mr Goddy Jedy-Agba, had urged members of the labour union to follow due process in airing their grievances, stressing that going contrary to established rules will run against extant laws which may have unintended consequences.
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The minister had advised the union members to be, “cautious and responsible to avoid endangering the fragile state of our electricity infrastructure which the present government is working hard to strengthen.”
But in defiance, members of staff of the company who are demanding the payment of their 2020 bonus and other entitlements and remittance of pensions allegedly deducted by the company to their pension fund administrators, shut down some the of facilities belonging to the AEDC.
“Enough is Enough! Pay us our outstanding pension remittances, thrift/corporative deductions, 2020 productivity bonus, bulk rent and union check off bonus,” some of the banners in a number of the AEDC’s offices in Abuja read.
In its reaction, management of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) informed that though it had available bulk power for delivery to the distribution load centres of the AEDC to offtake for its customers, power evacuation from injection substations across the franchise area had been disrupted.
“TCN regrets this disruption and assures Nigerians that normal bulk power delivery to AEDC will be restored as soon as the injection substations are opened for onward electricity supply to consumers,” a statement by TCN’s General Manager, Public Affairs, Ndidi Mbah, stated.
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Also, a statement from the AEDC signed by its Public Affairs Manager, Oyebode Fadipe urged the distribution company’s customers to be calm as all the pending issues were being resolved.
“Following the industrial action embarked upon by the National Union of Electricity Employees, power supply to some of our areas of operation, especially those on the 11kV network, may be affected.
“We would like to assure all our customers that all hands are on deck to resolve the issues that prompted this action. We would also like to apologise to our customers for the inconvenience and disruption,” the Disco stated.
How to halt N1t electricity subsidy, CBN’s N1.5t interventions
Electricity stakeholders in the country, yesterday, insisted that removal of subsidy in the power sector was feasible if the Federal Government and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) could streamline interventions in the sector to mitigate the negative impact on the masses.
Last week, the Federal Government alerted that the gap between the Cost Reflective Tariff (CRT), and Allowable Tariff (AT) peaking at N28 per unit of electricity supplied to consumers, this year stands at about N1t.
Coming at a time that it is also considering subsidy removal on Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), the Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Infrastructure, Ahmad Zakari, had disclosed at the 12th edition of PwC Nigeria’s Annual Power and Utilities Roundtable, that the nation needs to optimise the potential in the power sector through a cost-reflective tariff regime.
Since the sector was privatised in 2013, perpetual interventions through the CBN have served as lifelines to the sector. They include Power and Aviation Intervention Fund (PAIF), hovering at about N300b, Nigerian Electricity Market Stabilisation Facility (NEMSF), which is about N213b, an N140b Solar Connection Intervention Facility, an over N600b tariff shortfall intervention, as well as a recent N120b intervention designed for mass metering among others.
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In March 2017, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved an N701b CBN facility as Power Assurance Guarantee, just as the Federal Government, in 2019, also signed the release of another N600b to bridge the shortfall in the payment of monthly invoices by key stakeholders in the sector.
Fueled by tariff shortfall, receivable collection, technical, commercial and collection losses, financial liquidity in the power sector hovers around N4t as the apex bank, alongside the Federal Government has continued to initiate a series of interventions to douse tension and avert a collapse of the 2013 electricity privatisation exercise.
In about eight years, the CBN would have spent over N1.5t to keep the nation’s power sector afloat although the sector was privatised to survive by itself.
Although most stakeholders insisted that the interventions remained critical, especially in easing the liquidity crisis and attracting further interventions, they maintained that tweaking the interventions in manners that would ease further the masses’ burden and halt arbitrary billing of consumers was very important.
Renowned energy expert, Prof. Wunmi Iledare, noted that interventions by the CBN as a payable loan was understandable, even if it is a forgivable loan.
He insisted that the current structure of the electricity market in the country could mar the interventions, stressing that there must be a decentralised energy planning system.
According to him, while it is good that banks are targeting spending, subsidy may be a political expediency instrument, not economic efficiency hence “it should be disavowed. By the way, estimated billing now termed electronic billing is fraudulent! A quick way to bring subsidy to an end is metering and decentralisation of power management and services. Nearly everything centralised in the fashion of militarism has failed woefully, education, health, energy services road infrastructure, name it,” Iledare said.
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An energy expert, Eseosa Lloyd Onaghinon, stated that the energy sector must be rid of inefficiencies, which is usually passed on to consumers, adding that there are about 40 per cent inefficient losses between transmission and distribution.
“If we do not address such losses that occur, we might as well get into a trap where it’s an unending discussion of ‘subsidy’ even though it is continuous inefficiencies covered up as subsidies,” Onaghinon stated.
For energy lawyer, Osagie Agbonlahor, most of the woes experienced in the sector were responsible for the poor electricity situation in the country, adding that the development should be blamed on electricity operators, revenue collectors and the powers that be.
“How many army, police, air force, navy barracks in the country that their residents pay electricity bills at all? How many government ministries, army, air force, navy offices pay for the electricity that they consume? Who has ever dared to drive to the barracks and disconnect their source of public power supply the way they do to ordinary Nigerians? For how long has this been going on in this country? If you take away these huge leakages, you will see that the ordinary Nigerians have been sustaining and subsidising the electricity consumption of these people.
Agbonlahor said that the government broached the idea of deducting the huge outstanding electricity bill consumed in barracks and government offices under President Olusegun Obasanjo.
He noted that “until we start to do the right things, we are just going to be beating about the bush.”
He asked the government to do a forensic audit of the N1t subsidy to check where the so-called subsidy is coming from.
The Guardian had earlier reported that the failure of federal and state governments, as well as their ministries and agencies to pay over N100b outstanding electricity bills is currently worsening the liquidity crisis in the sector.
The situation has also reportedly led to distribution companies hounding private electricity consumers who pay more through estimated bills and higher tariffs, rather than recover outstanding debts from government agencies.
Range Rover shines as Velar wins 2021 Nigeria luxury SUV
The 2021 will go down as a year of glory for Range Rover brand as its new model, the Velar, has won multiple awards. The latest is the Luxury SUV of the Year 2021 at the annual Nigeria Auto Journalists Association (NAJA) Awards just in Lagos.
The Velar, which is currently on sale in Nigeria via Coscharis Motors, had earlier won the 2021 Business Motoring Award for the Best Large SUV.
A statement by Coscharis Motors said the awards were a follow up to the 2018 World Car Awards for the design of the year.
The auto firm noted that the new Range Rover Velar fought off stiff competition from other brands nominated for the same category.
The editorial team considered the entrants based on a combination of factors such as technology, design and style, adding that the Velar excelled on all fronts.
The Range Rover Velar was said to have been chosen as the outright winner in the luxury car of the year category due to its class-leading technology, exhibiting novel features such as Pivi and Pivi Pro, providing the latest in-car artificial intelligence such as self-learning navigation system for a fully connected journey; the deployable door handles which could retract when not in use, the split armrest and crafted materials throughout.
The organisers praised Land Rover’s cutting-edge lineage, said to be instantly recognisable in the Velar, given its beautifully balanced stance with optimised proportions from the formal, powerful front end, through a flowing, continuous waistline, culminating in a taut and elegantly tapered rear.
The Velar was also commended for its Meridian’s Trifield 3D technology, found to create a truly unique ‘live’ sound experience.
Group General Manager, Marketing and Communications, Abiona Babarinde, who received the award on behalf of the auto firm, said, “For combining the off-road capabilities of a Range Rover and leading technology with the desirability of an electric vehicle, the Range Rover Velar just had to win it for us.”
He also said the NAJA award meant a lot to Coscharis Motors and “it is fantastic for the Velar to win the Luxury SUV of the Year as that is what the vehicle truly represents.
“I am really happy to pick it up on behalf of Coscharis Motors and most especially the Land Rover team who put so much hard work into the design and engineering – it is great to be recognised for leading edge and innovative technology wrapped in such a fantastic design.”
According to the statement, every Land Rover vehicle sold by Coscharis Motors comes with a complementary five-year/100,000km service plan and five-year/150,000km warranty.
L-R: Dr Boboye Oyeyemi, Corps Marshal, Federal Road Safety Corps, giving award of Luxury SUV of the year to Mr Abiona Babarinde, GM, Marketing Corporate Communications, Coscharis Group; Mr Felix Mahan, Brand Manager, Coscharis Motors; and Mr Mike Ochonma, Chairman, Nigeria Auto Journalists Association, during the 2021 edition of the association’s award night held in Eko Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos.
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