The Senate has taken the second reading of a bill to amend the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency Act, providing stiffer penalties for oil companies involved in both onshore and offshore spills.
When the bill becomes law, oil spillers will pay as high as N15bn as removal cost for spills occurring at any onshore facility, while those occurring offshore will attract a removal cost not less than N5bn. The bill also stipulates the cost per barrel of oil spilled, depending on the vessels, facilities and places where the spills occur.
A tank vessel will attract not more than N50,000 penalty per barrel of oil spilled; the fine for a vessel that is less than 3,000 gross tonnes will be N100,000 per barrel; 3,000 gross tonne vessel, N150,000 per barrel; and any other vessel, N250,000 per barrel.
The penalties are contained in four new sections (8, 9, 10 and 11) inserted as amendments in the principal Act. In addition, Section 8(9) states, “Notwithstanding the limitations established in section 8(1), all removal costs incurred by the Federal Government of Nigeria or any state, local government, person or agency in connection with a spill or substantial threat of a discharge of oil or gas from any facility or vessel carrying oil or gas cargo from such a facility shall be borne by the owner or operator of such facility or vessel.”
The sponsor of the bill, Senator Abubakar Saraki, who is also the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment, said the amendment of the NOSDRA Act of 2006 would strengthen the institution and regulatory capacity of the agency to proactively manage oil spill in a much more robust and effective manner.