The Nigerian Federal Government has accused oil companies operating in the country of engaging
in acts that destroy the environment and pose health risks to their employees.
Minister of State for Energy (Petroleum), Mr Odein Ajumogobia was speaking at the opening ceremony of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR)'s 13th Health Safety and Environment (HSE) conference of the oil and gas industry when he made this allegation .
Ajumogobia stated the oil firms are not following the rules and regulations and guidelines, which had been prepared and circulated by the DPR other agencies who are engaged in ensuring and enforcing best practices.
"Oil industry operations from time to time have been characterised by unfortunate but avoidable accidents. Tragically, some of such accidents have resulted in fatalities and debilitating injuries to people who are working in the industry, through the exposure to risks, which should have been mitigated," he said.
"Recent complaints of labour organisations - NUPENG in particular, on behalf of oil workers, have highlighted some of these lapses in the areas of health and safety of oil workers. Complaints range from unsafe structure, arising from poor and ineffective design or substandard construction, to the integrity of some of the oil facilities, which have not been maintained over the years, sometimes since they were installed, due to non-adherence to rules, regulations and guidelines," he added.
"Companies and operators are quick to show concern and response to physical injuries which are visible and debilitating, especially if the injuries stop the employees from carrying out the tasks that are assigned to them," Ajumogobia said.
The minister feels the companies have taken the issue of health of their employees for granted.
"This is not the forum to point at or to review the HSE practices or performance of individual operators. It is however an opportunity for all of us in the industry to re-commit ourselves to taking steps to address the lapses in this area," he said.
Nor do oil companies pay adherence to environmental and safety issues.
"Although in HSE discourse, emphasis tends to be focused on environmental concern, I will like to challenge this seminar during the next few days to adopt more holistic and integrated approach with detailed consideration of the issues pertaining to all the elements in HSE or HSSE - health, safety, security and environment," he said.
"Health, the physical and mental well being, which I think is the definition of health, is often taken for granted and left to the devises of individual employees rather than being the responsibility of the employer. Sometimes, physical challenges which exist in the value-chain in the petroleum industry needs to be taken into account in devising best practices," he said.
We can achieve greater heights in HSE performance despite the complexities and the security challenges of going business in the Niger Delta at this time," he added..
Acting Director of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Alhaji Aliyu Sabonbirni claimed that due to the difficult terrain of operation and the required sophisticated technology associated with oil and gas business in the country, the industry needs adequate security to performing its money-spinning role in the economy.
Sabonbirni urged oil industry operators to cooperate with the agency to evaluate the industry practices over the years and explore horizons that would proffer recommendations and road maps to best practices in the sector.