By Sunny Nwachukwu
Control measures are the procedural pathways that the obtainable results and observed effects that are going off tangent from the expected or the normal parameters are constantly and continuously recalled to a normal alignment, through a process of adjustment. This action, in most cases, is taken under a structured and programmed set of rules and regulations, ordered and enforced as policy by a higher authority; and these laid down policies being followed and adhered to is the regulatory framework in governance. Where governance is lacking, it always amounts to disorderliness and eventually, chaos sets in. Bodies and institutions that are set up to perform such functions, are referred to as regulatory agencies, established by act under the law of the land. In the context of this discourse (environmental protection and control for sustainability in the nation’s oil industry), examples are the likes of the Federal Environmental Protection Agency, FEPA; and National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency, NESREA.
The environment being discussed is among the three components (i.e. environment, economic and social) used in categorizing the key issues that impact sustainability. These components which are generally referred to as the Triple Bottom Line, TBL; are also used to assess industry’s performance in three dimensions of sustainable development (environmental, financial and social); and they are known as the 3Ps vis-a-viz Planet/Place, Profit and People, as well. Environmental sustainability therefore, holistically and optimally engages the other dimensions in all human activities going on, in such a manner that they will never be interrupted into the future, in the course of the on-going oil business and all its operations within the host communities.
The environmental sustainability can only be achieved through strategies and methods applied to control or cope with the risks and dangers of the environmental impact posed by the oil and gas exploration and drilling activities of the oil companies in the Niger Delta region. These dangers include all forms of emissions, like the greenhouse gas produced through gas flaring while drilling operations are going on; and other forms of pollutants that are being released into the atmosphere within the host environment; which cause health challenges and global warming/temperature increase in the host communities, among other problems experienced in that natural habitat.
However, this identified environmental devastation constantly calls for responsive environmental protection measures using the governance structural controlling agencies for the oversight functions of checks & control on some kind or certain irresponsible activities by companies operating in that region, as experienced in the past hence, the extant laws, to regulate operations in line with global best practices of doing oil business; at all levels (starting from the upstream, midstream down to the downstream operations).
It is therefore, on this note that the prevailing international benchmarked regulatory frameworks and extant policies, laws, regulations, institutional regulatory frameworks and practices of the nation, the oil and gas companies operating, which could hinder environmental sustainability instead of promoting a sustained environmental future, by boosting good oilfield standards and practices in the nation’s oil and gas industry.
The regulatory federal agencies like the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) earlier mentioned, are deployed to the field for action and control of any form of hazardous human induced climate change. The functions and services of this environmental protection agency include, ensuring a cleaner and healthier environment, especially for the communities that host these oil and gas exploration and drilling activities that involve gas flaring that usually increases the greenhouse gas emissions in the ecosystem.
NESREA has a regulatory framework for curbing the menace of pollutions that are associated with oil and gas extractive operations in the industry. Before the creation of this federal agency in 2007, the oil rich Niger Delta region was already devastated by all kinds and forms of unchecked drilling activities that led to protests by some indigenous activists in that region; the likes of late Ken Saro-wiwa in Ogoni land of Bayelsa state (who was executed among others by the Abacha government in 1995). These environmental devastations and the harm already done to these communities in that region are yet to be adjusted to normalcy or at least, a near natural habitat state; where human life (health) and other economic activities like farming and fishing in their aquatic habitat could restart. Although the protection measures and policies that have been put in place to mitigate further damages are visible, in addition to costs that have been legally awarded in favour of the host communities for the colossal damages being suffered by the humans existing in that clime, the clearing of the polluted environment by oil spillage or its recovery back to the old natural habitat for the existence of the aquatic life, arable farm land, fresh air for human life’s existence, remains a far cry from truth.