How time flies! On April 1, 2019, Idris O. Musa mounted the saddle as the Director-General/Chief Executive Officer (DG/CEO) of National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency(NOSDRA) after his appointment to that effect by the Federal Government. Prior to that promising development, Musa was in faraway Port Harcourt, Rivers State, where he was seconded, on a national duty, before his retirement from NOSDRA as a director in 2017, to head the Operations Department of Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project(HYPREP),which was mandated with the tasking responsibility of clean-up of the oil-despoiled parts of Ogoniland based on the official report of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), at the instance of the Nigerian government.
There is no modicum of doubt that Musa’s appointment as the DG/CEO of NOSDRA was a career elevation well-deserved. This is considering his impressive accomplishments as a techno-bureaucrat with vast knowledge and experience in the arcane field of articulating and implementing policies and programmes aimed at institutionalising the lofty culture of environmental sustainability in Nigeria’s critical petroleum industry. No wonder, Musa’s appointment to be at the helm in NOSDRA has ultimately generated a groundswell of commendations and expectations from a constellation of the agency’s staff, oil spill response stakeholders and the general public.
Going down memory lane, the present DG/CEO of NOSDRA cut his professional teeth with the Oil and Gas section of the Department of Environmental Assessment (EA) of Federal Ministry of Environment (FMEnv). Following the establishment of the agency in October 2006 as an institutional framework for implementation of National Oil Spill Contingency Plan (NOSCP) in Nigeria, he was among the officials of the ministry with skills, experience and commitment who were deployed to nurture its development. Musa was assigned to superintend the affairs of the defunct Oil Spill Detection and Response Department (OSDR), now Oil Field Assessment (OFA) Department, which, somehow, is at the core of NOSDRA’s key functions of oil spill monitoring/surveillance and coordination of response activities directed at clean-up, remediation and restoration of impacted sites based on global best practice. His cerebral and invaluable input into oil spill matters in Nigeria not only contributed greatly to the formulation of a number of policies and programmes of the agency – including the innovative Oil Spill Monitor – it also made him to be NOSDRA’s focal person in the Steering Committee set up by the Federal Government to understudy the implementation of UNEP’s report on the clean-up of Ogoniland. Due to Musa’s active role in that committee, he was eventually drafted to HYPREP to spearhead the execution of the all-important project until he assumed the mantle of leadership in NOSDRA in April 2019.
That the fortunes of the oil spill management agency have been decidedly on the upturn since his appointment to head it is not a matter of contention. It is crystal clear that Musa’s policies and programmes geared towards institutional and capacity building in NOSDRA are laden with high expectations. One of such are the partnership drives his visionary, pragmatic and dynamic leadership is undertaking with relevant stakeholders with a view to achieving the set goal and objectives of the agency, as elucidated in its statutory mandate. Besides the joint investigation visits(JIVs) aimed at determining the cause of oil spill, participating in major re-entry programmes and responding to public complaints, the DG/CEO of NOSDRA has been up and doing in cementing healthy relationships with different stakeholders in oil spill response at both national and international levels. To this end, he has had fruitful consultations and brainstorming sessions with relevant bodies and associations. These include oil industry operators, host oil communities (HOCs), Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation(NNPC), Oil Producers’ Trade Section(OPTS), Pipelines and Products Marketing Company(PPMC), Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency(NIMASA), Nigerian Navy, the Senate and House committees on Environment, Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria(MOMAN), Depots and Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria(DAPMAN), Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria(IPMAN), the mass media (including Nigerian Television Authority, NTA) and National Orientation Agency(NOA). Others are National Agency for the Great Green Wall(NAGGW), security and law enforcement agencies (including Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Police Force, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps and Federal Road Safety Corps).
This is not to gloss over the networking of Musa-led NOSDRA with a number of catalytic civil society organisations(CSOs), including non-governmental organisations (NGOs) like Open Society Initiative for West Africa(OSIWA), Facility for Oil Sector Transparency and Reform(FOSTER), Stakeholder Democracy Network (SDN), New Nigeria Foundation(NNF), National Coalition on Gas Flaring and Oil Spills in the Niger Delta(NACGOND), National Economic Summit Group(NESG) and Nigerian Economic Society(NES). Under his tenureship, the agency has also broadened the horizon of oil spill response collaboration with notable international bodies. These include International Police (INTERPOL)’s National Central Bureau, Japan International Cooperation Agency(JICA) and Kofi Annan International Peace-keeping and Training Centre(KAIPTC).
Already, some of the aforementioned multi-stakeholders’ partnership efforts the DG/CEO of NOSDRA has generated, in the interest of ensuring effective and unfettered oil spill response in Nigeria, have started to bear dividends. Not long ago, specifically on April 17, 2019, the SDN handed over upgraded tools for stemming environmental pollution in the country’s oil industry to the agency, namely Nigerian Oil Spill Monitor and National Gas Flare Tracker, which are key tools in the agency’s arsenal used effectively for real-time monitoring of oil spills and measuring gas flares across the Niger-Delta. To Musa’s credit, these are the initiatives he nurtured and developed in 2013 when he was the Director of OFA Department and first launched in 2014. Instructively, the Oil Spill Monitor facilitates public access to current official data on oil spill generated by NOSDRA, which is displayed in an online platform. The essence of this is to make oil spill data more open and transparent by showing not only which oil companies are engaged with the stipulations of the regulatory bodies, but also fulfilling their expected responsibility in checking industrial spills. The Nigerian Oil Spill Monitor is equally directed at highlighting the scale of crude oil theft and illegal refining activities happening in the Niger Delta region and the ominous implications. As regards the National Gas Flare Tracker, which uses satellite data calculated by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS), it is targeted at tracking the quantum of gas burned directly into the atmosphere, which has adverse effects on human health and the ecosystem.
Besides, during a courtesy visit to the DG/CEO of NOSDRA in February 2020, a team from KAIPTC, led by Colonel Albert Ulrich, while commending the agency for its invaluable contribution to exchange of vital information necessary for tracking oil Industry crimes in Nigeria like pipeline vandalism, crude oil theft and illegal refining, had pledged that the centre will assist in strengthening the capacity of its staff through a training programme on the thematic areas of peace support operations ,conflict management and security studies. Interestingly, a staff of NOSDRA was selected by the centre for a rewarding training programme on maritime security and trans-national crimes. On this, Musa had acknowledged that one of the key issues arising from such programmes was the impelling need for inter-agency synergy in the fight against crude oil theft and allied crimes. Exactly, it manifested in the multi-stakeholders’ collaborative effort against such crimes in Rivers and Delta states in October 2019, tagged “Operation 30 Days at Sea Exercise”, which involved NOSDRA, NIMASA, Nigerian Navy, the marine wing of the Nigerian Police Force, INTERPOL and other security and law enforcement agencies.
Despite paucity of funds, it is notable that the current DG/CEO of NOSDRA is implacably committed and determined to sharpening the skill and dexterity of the staff of the agency through catalytic outlets like training, workshop and seminar. Apart from such galvanising opportunities, which include face-to-face and virtual meetings for technical officers, more than 300 of them have benefited from capacity building partnerships with critical stakeholders like Clean Nigeria Associates (CNA).
Increasingly worried by the worsening threats of oil industry criminal enterprises like pipeline vandalism, crude oil theft and illegal refining in Nigeria, the DG/CEO of NOSDRA has been in the vanguard of those proffering a workable solution to such crimes that are evidently detrimental to the environment, economy and internal security in the country. In this regard, during a felicitous “Advocacy Against Crude Oil Theft – Stakeholders’ Engagement Seminar”, organised in Abuja on July 9, 2019, under the auspices of New Nigerian Foundation(NNF), an NGO, the DG/CEO of NOSDRA had pinpointed some of the causative factors of crude oil theft. Chiefly among them are high number of unemployed youths and armed ethnic militias in the Niger Delta region, ineffective and corrupt law enforcement, low conviction rates for offenders, ease of threatening or corrupting oil industry staff to assist in illegal oil bunkering, connivance of sacked or retrenched oil workers with considerable knowledge of pipeline operation, inadequate surveillance of oil pipelines and other facilities, international syndicate groups (including West African linkages) that facilitate market access and financial transactions for stolen crude, inadequate economic measures to prevent trade in stolen petroleum products and poor environmental awareness on the dangers of crude oil theft and related criminal activities.
Given the monthly average of 1,656,281 barrels of stolen crude oil in Nigeria and the precipitate dire environmental, economic and security implications, it has been the enlightened opinion of the DG/CEO of NOSDRA that something urgent and drastic must be done about the crisis before it would spiral out of control. Thus, part of his articulated measures against crude oil theft are expediting litigation and prosecution against the perpetrators by government, prescribing stiffer punishments for the crime to stem the tide, empowering security and law enforcement agencies entrusted with maintaining surveillance on oil facilities like Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Police Force and NSCDC, alignment of such agencies to coordinate all activities relating to preventing and combating crude oil theft and procurement and use of vision monitoring (or an end-to-end visual display) to safeguard pipelines from the serpentine plot of vandals.
Other feasible measures being advocated by the DG/CEO of NOSDRA against crude oil theft are involvement of people at the grassroots (i.e. host oil communities) in different sub-committees on crude oil theft in order to ascertain their hopes and aspirations with a view to winning their support in the war against oil industry crimes, periodic sensitisation campaign on the harmful environmental, economic and social effects of crude oil theft and promotion of multi-stakeholders’ collaboration in constraining and constricting such nefarious activities. Besides, Musa has emphasised the real need for periodic transfer of security operatives guarding oil facilities to make them not to be influenced by oil thieves, replacement of aging oil pipelines and other facilities, proper decommissioning of unproductive oil facilities before abandonment, sustenance of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) to discourage people from returning to their previous illegal activities, effective use of the recently passed Anti-Piracy Bill for timely prosecution of arrested oil thieves and vandals and public exposure of their illegal supply networks. The DG/CEO of NOSDRA has coupled such suggestions with punishing the patrons of stolen oil, greater levels of transparency in the oil industry on oil theft-related matters, involvement of host communities of petroleum pipelines in monitoring and surveillance of the facilities and making details of pipeline surveillance contracts to be public. These are apart from discouraging encroachment on pipeline Right of Ways (ROWs), establishment of national database of oil fingerprints that will be linked with such an application internationally (such as Eurocrude System) and marking Nigerian crude oil with covert molecular markers so as not only to make it virtually impossible for thieves to detect but also to enable regulators to determine if fuel sold at dispensing stations are from illegal sources (as successfully being applied in Ghana).
It is impossible not to mention that under the tenureship of Musa in review, his leadership has placed premium on five identifiable priority areas for Assets Safety and Mitigation (ASM) Department of NOSDRA. These are: (1) Improving the administration of Oil Spill Contingency Plan (OSCP)/ Spill Prevention Control and Counter-measure Plan (SPCCP). (2) Strengthening Facility Inspection Programme. (3) Sustaining focus on National Oil Spill Contingency Plan (NOSCP) review, activation and stakeholders’ commitment. (4) Addressing capacity and capability building gaps. And (5), improving the pre-positioning of response equipment and materials at strategic locations. It is pertinent to note that the current leadership in NOSDRA has blazed the trails in the aforementioned priority areas. For example, on strengthening facility inspection programme, the zonal/field offices of the agency, on the prompting of Musa, have been as keen as mustard in inspection of facilities of the oil industry operations through activities like routine equipment check, minor drill and walk-through and facility house-keeping inspections. Due to about 165 of such facility inspection and compliance monitoring visits, a remarkable improvement has been recorded in compliance and implementation feedback of NOSDRA’s visiting teams to the facilities.
Arising from such laudable contributions channelled towards arresting such criminal enterprises in the petroleum industry, especially crude oil theft, the DG/CEO of NOSDRA was not surprisingly chosen to represent Nigeria as one of the 10 elected members of INTERPOL’s Global Pollution Crime Working Group. Interestingly, that no mean feat was to the greater glory and benefits of our dear fatherland, thus adding to its credibility, respectability and prestige as an indispensable international player.
In synch with the functions of being responsible for oil spill surveillance and ensuring compliance with all existing environmental legislation in the petroleum sector, NOSDRA, under Musa, broke a new ground last year by flagging off the monitoring of the mid-stream and down-stream sectors of the industry – including tank farms and storage systems of filling stations, construction firms and others. This is in order to detect oil spillage and stem underground water pollution. NOSDRA’s monitoring of the mid-stream and down-stream sectors of the petroleum industry is coming on the heels of its considerable feats at the upstream level, including enforcement of environmental standards and guidelines in the sector. On the basis of the new assignment, staff of the agency will be paying regular visits to petrol stations, construction companies and others to ensure they observe standard practices in their storage systems in order to check underground water pollution that had hitherto gone unnoticed.
Another spectacular feat recorded by Musa within his two years of being in charge in NOSDRA was the completion of the agency’s abandoned Zonal Office Building in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, which was commissioned by the Honourable Minister of State for Environment, Sharon O. Ikeazor (Esq.), on January 10, 2020. This was along with the appendaged NOSDRA Reference Laboratory (NRL) complex, which is meant for receipt and analysis of samples from oil spill sites. Alongside this facility are the agency’s new toxicological unit at NRL and a standard warehouse, which will serve as its oil spill response equipment stockpile centre.
In coordinating and implementing the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan (NOSCP), in conformity with the International Convention on Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response Cooperation (OPRC’90), which Nigeria is a signatory, the Musa-led NOSDRA has not been found wanting. Being a bi-annual event aimed at ensuring readiness and pro-activeness in strategy to combat major oil spill through containment, recovery and remediation/restoration in impacted site in Nigeria and 200 nautical miles within her coterminous waters, in order to prevent loss of lives, assets and natural resources, the agency, despite the disruptive influence of the COVID-19 pandemic, which though was subsiding in Nigeria by the end of 2020, was able, with a strong sense of institutional resilience and commitment, to organise the first ever virtual NOSCP activation exercise at its headquarters in Abuja on December 22 of the year. The all-important exercise was conducted in line with the mandatory requirements of the new normal of the pandemic era, as marked by strict observance of the anti-virus protocols, including mask-wearing, physical distancing and scrupulous personal hygiene of hand-washing. Besides, a handful of participants was allowed in the venue for the activation, while other critical stakeholders like Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), the United Kingdom (UK)-based Oil Spill Response Ltd (OSRL), Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Federal Ministry of Health, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and others participated online.
Notably, the simulated incident of the NOSCP activation exercise was a massive oil spill, measuring 30,000 barrels of Bonny light crude oil, which occurred at SPDC’s facility in Bonny (in Rivers State), 25km off the island into the sea. According to an official of the oil giant who briefed the DG/CEO of NOSDRA on the incident during the exercise, the wind direction of the oil spill was north-westerly, while the temperature was 37 degree Celsius. Regarding the length of the oil sleek, it was estimated to be nine (9) km, and given that nature, recovery of the spill was deemed possible. In the course of the containment operation by NOSDRA and other stakeholders, the agency had to issue a press release in which the affected host communities were assured that efforts were afoot to put the oil spill under control with necessary deployment of men and materials with an eye to safeguarding threatened natural resources, economic assets and lives. In all, the outcome of that NOSCP’s activation exercise was successful. For one, during the exercise, stakeholders made vital and enriching input and contributions that were considered by the technical review committee for inclusion in the oil spill management blueprint of 2020 after the ones of 2015 (which was a trans-border exercise with Cameroon) and 2013. For another, the virtual NOSCP review exercise afforded NOSDRA a rare opportunity to learn and gain experience in managing oil spill emergencies and related matters in an unprecedented crisis scenario like the COVID-19 pandemic.
Happily enough, the ICT/GIS Department in NOSDRA has been rejuvenated for stellar performance under Musa. Hence the Department has been impressed to successfully set up a virtual ICT theatre of operations to overcome the operational challenges presented by the lockdown guidelines and restrictions of the pandemic era. Incidentally, the Assets Safety and Mitigation (ASM) Department of NOSDRA reaped from the fountain of such IT support to facilitate the first and innovative virtual activation of NOSCP on December 22, 2020. This is apart from holding of novel virtual management meeting, as well as the one with staff, in the thick of COVID-19 lockdown between late March and July 2020. Additionally, through the wholehearted support of the current DG/CEO of NOSDRA, the ICT/GIS Department has been made to overhaul and re-design the agency’s website, thereby leading to its noticeable recognition in the 2019/2020 website score-card rating in Nigeria. Indeed, NOSDRA ranked 57 among 169 Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) that were assessed, tieing with the National Universities Commission (NUC) at 57. Following such incredible feats, plans are apace to launch a new and improved website in the agency for untrammelled engagement with its stakeholders. Last but not least, under Musa, the ICT/GIS Department has not only developed bespoke IT policies, but has also demonstrated an optimal utilisation strategy of the operational assets of NOSDRA, such as GFT data, for enhanced intra/inter-institutional partnership drives in oil spill response.
While NOSDRA has coordinated and supervised the clean-up of past and present oil spill impacted sites in Nigeria – numbering over 1000 and with some of them certified as being restored to their natural state – the agency is playing a major role in the ongoing clean-up and remediation of oil-polluted sites in Ogoniland. Notably, its critical role in the project being handled by HYPREP is multi-dimensional. This, as gathering pace under the tenureship of Musa, includes investigation and evaluation of hydrocarbon polluted sites in collaboration with the project handlers, approval of all remediation action plans (RAPs), compliance monitoring, collection of samples (water and soil) from remediated sites and transporting same to the agency’s reference laboratory in Port Harcourt. So far, under the able leadership of the DG/CEO and oversight functions of NOSDRA, HYPREP contractors have completed the remediation of 14 Lots and presented them to the agency for close-out and certification. Besides, over 1000 soil and water samples have been collected and analysed by its laboratory. While several land use, concentration and compliance maps have been generated by its GIS Unit for evaluation, the desk for the HYPREP project handlers has been established as a collation centre in the Oil Field Assessment (OFA) Department of the agency for documentation and processing of close-out and certification of remediated sites in Ogoniland.
Acutely aware that pipeline vandalism is one of the contributing factors in oil pollution in Nigeria, the stint of Musa in NOSDRA has also witnessed an increased development of the community-based Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) plan/programme of the agency. Instructively, the key objective of the laudable initiative, which since 2014 has been held in states like Bayelsa, Rivers, Ondo, Akwa Ibom, Abia and Delta, is to integrate and mainstream active community engagement in oil spill management in the country. This is apart from reducing incidents of pipeline vandalism in communities. Interestingly, Musa is working assiduously to widen the DRR partnership in order to increase the coverage of the plan/programme.
Admittedly, with the conscientious, no-nonsense and strong-willed attitudes of the DG/CEO of NOSDRA who really means business, those international oil companies (IOCs) that are formerly disdainful of the agency, by violating its principle of zero-tolerance for oil spills, are now having a dramatic change of heart. This is not to mention such companies that seek to circumscribe its mandate with intention of dictating its modus operandi. Without question, NOSDRA, under the keen watch of Musa, has indicated that it will no longer show any vacillation, lethargy and complacency in meteing out necessary penalties for any industrial spill offenders. This is considering that a kind of a new sheriff is in town, or the proverbial Daniel has come to judgement, with regard to enforcing the environmental legislation in Nigeria’s petroleum industry without fear or favour.
Under Musa, NOSDRA is, more than ever before, striving to deepen cooperation and collaboration with key stakeholders in oil spill response in the marine environment. These include NIMASA (specifically in the implementation of NOSCP) and international organisations, such as International Maritime Organisation (IMO), International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association (IPIECA) and Global Initiative for West, Central and Southern Africa (GI-WACAF). Owing to the significant feats from such partnerships, NOSDRA, with support of the Federal Government, had hosted the bi-annual conference of GI-WACAF on a number of occasions. What is more, because of the prominent role of the agency in oil spill management nationally and in the sub-Saharan region, Nigeria has been assigned as the “Designated National Authority” of the aforementioned international body on the basis of the Abidjan Convention.
Apart from other remarkable achievements, it is delightful that with the appointment of Musa as the DG/CEO of NOSDRA, the coast has appeared clear for the agency to take a quantum leap in terms of transformation and consolidation. This is especially mindful of his reputable track records as a finely honed professional of great acclaim in the ever challenging field of oil spill detection and response. Already, Musa has rolled up his sleeves for the Herculean task of taking NOSDRA to the next level. Thus, despite several factors militating against its sustainable development and progress, such as the weak and effete nature of the Act establishing it (which the National Assembly is currently looking at it for possible amendment), inadequate funding and deficiency in cooperation by certain recalcitrant stakeholders in oil spill matters, it is abundantly clear that the agency, especially under its current leadership, is assuredly in a tryst with destiny in achieving its mandate. Again, with Musa’s hopeful comeback to NOSDRA, he has returned with new fire in his belly to catapult the growth and development of the agency to the enviable heights. In fact, his notable accomplishments in the agency, where he retired as Director, and HYPREP, where he was the second in command, have made many oil spill response stakeholders and the general public to be ablaze with hope and optimism that he would leverage on his wealth of experience as a renowned environmental expert to address the vexed issue of somewhat recurrent oil spillage in Nigeria. This is particularly in the petroleum crude-bearing Niger Delta region where the incidence has had negative impacts on the environment/ecosystem, human health, means of livelihood (specifically those of farmers and fishermen) and social peace (by instigating militancy and armed struggle by radical elements in different ethnic nationalities and cultures in that region).
What a new dawn for NOSDRA! Hopefully, Musa’s appointment to be in the saddle in the agency would stand out as its defining moment – a positive one of dynamism, proactiveness, innovative approach, credibility and respectability. In view of this, the entire staff of NOSDRA and stakeholders in oil spill response are besought to exude greater willingness and commitment to give their all in support of him in order to enable him sustain the momentum of his transformative agenda in the promising agency.
Considering that the Buhari administration has commendably read the riot act to oil companies polluting the environment in Nigeria, a direct appeal is being made to the administration to re-visit the unresolved issue of not signing the all-important NOSDRA’s Amendment Bill, which the 8th National Assembly, in its wisdom, passed to Mr. President for assent in 2018. It is arguable that certain provisions of the Act establishing the agency are fundamentally flawed, as they are deficient in giving it strong legal teeth to bite in terms of sanctioning oil firms that are habitual in spilling oil in the environment with ease and impunity. No doubt, such a legislative lacuna that has made NOSDRA to appear as a toothless bull dog can be reversed if its re-presented Amendment Bill before the 9th National Assembly – which, remarkably, the agency has addressed the concerns raised by Mr. President for not appending his signature on it – is graciously reconsidered and signed into law anytime it is ready. For one, such a bold move would empower it to enforce necessary environmental standards and regulations in the petroleum industry in Nigeria without any let or hindrance. For another, the Bill would be a boon to the host communities in terms of securing them reasonable compensation when oil companies pollute their environment, as well as to companies, by exculpating them from spills resulting from third party interference or sabotage like pipeline vandalism and illegal bunkering. Additionally, if NOSDRA’s Amendment Bill is passed and signed into law, it would be bankable to the Federal Government by generating for it massive revenue through fines or penalties from companies that despoil or degrade the environment with oil. Thus, the Bill could be described as a win-win situation for all stakeholders in oil spill response in Nigeria – mindful that it is a sure-fire approach for effectively rolling back the frontiers of oil spillage that could find vent in disastrous consequences of Chernobyl proportions in the country if not anticipated and prevented.
- Ronald Emeh is with the Public Affairs Unit (PAU) of National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA).