In a bid to protect the nation’s environment, the Ministry of Environment has commenced moves to make oil spillage a criminal offence, the Minister, Mrs Hadiza Mailafia, has said. Mailafia said in Abuja that the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), a parastatal agency under the ministry, has presented the bill to the National Assembly that would make oil spillage a criminal offence.
“We are working on the proposed bill presented by NOSDRA to the National Assembly; when it comes up, there will be more stringent measures on those oil companies that pollute the environment. Remember, this is transformation agenda in action; before now, these things were happening unattended to, but now, we are determined to transform the environment sector.’’
On measures to mitigate effect of flooding, she said that the federal government has started dredging some major rivers to allow free flow of water across the country.
She further said that the ministry has stepped up sensitisation on the need to keep the environment clean to avoid a recurrence of the 2012 flooding. The 2012 floods affected over seven million people, including 2.3 million displaced people and 363 people who died.
The flood also destroyed or damaged about 597,476 houses valued at nearly N2.6 trillion. Mailafia further said that the ministry was working with the Federal Ministry of Water Resources to install early warning systems in some dams across the country. “We also expanded the community flood early warning systems; greatest of all, we are working with NEMA to mitigate the impact of flooding. I have the privilege of also attending a regional conference that involved all West African countries because when the environment is affected; it is not only in Nigeria, it is a regional problem. So, we had a regional network in place working to promote effective management of water resources in the region and I am glad to inform you that because of the effort of the Nigerian government, we have achieved a lot.’’
In addition, she said that the ministry has embarked on tree planting campaign to safeguard the environment, adding that tree planting was being transformed in the manna that it had never been done before. “It is no longer the symbolic tree planting where heads of government or governors or ministers will go and plant a tree that you will never see two months after. What we are doing is to get people to own trees that they plant; when you plant it, it is your own and it is part of nature,’’ she added.