Nigeria to impose penalties for oil spills
Nigeria plans to impose penalties on oil companies operating in the country for oil spills as part of efforts to
improve environmental safety, a senior official said. Rilwanu Lukman, President Olusegun Obasanjo’s adviser on
petroleum and energy, told a conference on health, safety and environment in the capital, Abuja, the measure had
become necessary to check the laxity of oil companies in containing oil spills.
"This is in keeping with the demands of the times especially in the oil and gas industry," Lukman said. He said during the four decades of oil exploration and production in Nigeria, enforcement of health, safety and environment guidelines have been weak. "Consequently, operators seemed to have paid little or no attention to the environment," he added.
He said that part of the result was that the impact of spills that occurred more about 30 years ago were still
evident in parts of the country’s Niger Delta oil region. New spills that occurred in recent years have created
further concern, he added.
"The impacted sites of many years past and of current times must be cleaned up and remediated," Lukman stressed. Oil companies operating in Nigeria’s southern region have often been accused by the impoverished local communities in the region of environmental practices below internationally acceptable standards.
Allegations of pollution against oil companies have often been a source of friction between oil companies and
communities in the restive region. Lukman’s statement represents not only government confirmation of these
allegations, but also an indictment for the oil transnationals who produce more than 95 % of Nigeria’s
Currently oil companies are charged penalties only for flaring natural gas that occurs in the production of crude oil, a major source of green house emissions.