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Lawan: Erring oil companies must be penalized for negligence

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Senate President Ahmad Lawan
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President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, has called on the federal government through its relevant agencies to penalize indigenous oil companies responsible for the devastation of host communities where they operate.

Lawan made the call in his concluding remarks after the Senate considered a motion on “the extremely urgent need to stop the continuous crude oil and gas blow out spill at Santa Barbara well 1, OML 29 operated by AITEO Eastern Exploration and Production Company Limited in Opu Nembe, Bayelsa State.”

The motion was sponsored by Senator Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo (Bayelsa East).

The lawmaker, while coming under order 42 and 52 of the Senate Rules, noted with concern the continuous gushing and spewing of oil and gas into the waterways and mangrove vegetation of Opu Nembe area of Bayelsa state, from a long sealed, non producing oil well 1, Santa Barbara OML 29 belonging to AITEO Eastern Exploration and Production Company Limited.

“Worried that even though same oil well has witnessed several oil spills in previous years, the current incident borders on catastrophe due to a long period of accumulated oil and maximum pressure from piled up gas in the well. The magnitude of this incident is of an extremely high order, the first of its kind in this part of the world;

“Further worried that the entire mangrove forests and aquatic life have been adversely affected by this methane gas, as rainbow-like sheens are seen on the water body around the point of incident down to the shoreline;

“Disturbed that dead fishes are also seen floating within the impacted area and fishing activities totally crippled, with the direction of the wind blowing onshore towards the community from the point of the incident;

“Aware that during the just concluded global Climate Conference (COP26) held in Glasgow, Scotland, world leaders gathered to encourage nations to implement international best practices in cutting off such emissions into the entire ecosystem. The Nigerian Government well represented by our dear President in our contribution to global climate action;

“Notes that while the policy on divestments by IOCS in exploration and production of oil and gas is a welcome development as it creates space for indigenous companies to invest and grow in the industry, such opportunities should be accorded to indigenous companies with proven requisite technical and financial competence;

“Worried that attempts to stop the continuous oil and gas spill by the operators had failed repeatedly for over one month running, wasting an estimated over 2 million barrels of hydrocarbon and gas, shows a disappointing appearance of technical incompetence in handling the incident on the part of AITEO Eastern Exploration and Production Company Limited;

“Notes that such degree of incompetence is sufficient to attract sanctions such as revocation of their operational license by the regulatory authorities to instill sanity in the oil and gas sector in response to the increased global call for protection of the environment;

“Notes with deep concern the threat that this incident poses to the health of the people of the host communities as the air and water have been contaminated, and also the possibility of a fire outbreak from the oil well if this wanton release of oil and methane gas continues unstopped”, Biobarakuma said.

Contributing, Senator George Thompson Sekibo (Rivers East), lamented that many states in the Niger Delta are polluted with soot as a result of the flagrant negligence of oil companies.

He, therefore, called on the federal government to intervene by curbing the excesses of such companies operating in the area.

The Senate President, on his part, said that the National Assembly would insist on companies carrying out their corporate-social responsibilities to host communities under the law.

According to him, doing so would also involve penalizing any company that fails to adhere to operational standards set out by the federal government.

“I feel very sad, that an indigenous oil company for that matter, would be involved in this kind of incident and yet not able to show any capacity.

“As a country, we want to promote our local content – indigenous oil companies – to participate in this industry.

“But we are going to insist, whether it is an indigenous owned company any or an international one, that the companies must be responsible to the communities and to us as a nation.

“This is devastation of lives and ecosystems in that part of the country, and I believe that this particular case should be made to be an example of what government and its agencies can do, not only to force the alleged culprit to remedy the environment but also to penalize the oil company for devastating the lives of the people of that area (Nembe)”, Lawan said.

The Senate, accordingly,  urged AITEO Eastern Exploration and Production Company Nigeria Limited to urgently seek, explore and deploy relevant highest level of expertise and technology to stop the spill and prevent the continuous damage to the environment and restore the life support system of the people.

It also condemned in totality the oil spillage by AITEO and urge the relevant agencies to invoke the maximum penalties applicable under the laws for such infractions.

The chamber urged the relevant agencies to undertake environmental impact assessment to determine the extent of the pollution with a view to undertake remediation in accordance with internationally accepted polluter pays principles within ninety days.

The Senate further resolved that the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) should, as a matter of urgency, provide relief materials as this ugly incident has taken a negative toll on the health and wellbeing of the people of the host communities which can be declared as a disaster area.

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5000 LAGOSIANS GET FREE HEALTH INSURANCE ON SANWO-OLU’S BIRTHDAY

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Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu
Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu
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No fewer than 5000 Lagosians are to be enrolled in the Ilera Eko Social Health Plan – courtesy of the Lagos State Executive Council.

The gesture is to celebrate Governor Sanwo-Olu’s 57th birthday on June 25 and in the spirit of his compassion for the indigent and vulnerable.

Beneficiaries will have access to quality health care services and drugs under the ILERA EKO Standard Plan at no cost to them.

Nominees will be selected from the Lagos State Social Protection Register. An equal number of the 5000 eligible beneficiaries are to be selected from the five IBILE divisions of the State and will enjoy Universal Health Coverage.

These beneficiaries have been identified using a multi-dimensional poverty index tool, which includes the poverty means-testing to ensure accuracy, reliability and validity of the data generated.

ILERA EKO is the State Social Health Insurance Plan managed by Lagos State Health Management Agency (LASHMA), which offers the basic minimum health plan that provides quality and affordable healthcare for all Lagos residents, especially the middle and low-income earners as well as the vulnerable.

Services on the Plan include: General consultations; Specialist Consultations; Management of uncomplicated chronic diseases (Diabetes, Hypertension, Asthma); Maternal and Newborn Care; Normal Delivery and Caesarean Section; Dental Care (with Composite filling) and Eye Care, including glasses.

There are also minor and major surgeries; laboratory tests and scans; HIV/TB Testing services; Emergency Health Services; Cancer Care and the provision of prescribed drugs.

A policy cycle under the ILERA EKO Health Insurance Plan runs for 12 calendar months in which an enrolee’s policy is due for renewal before the 25th day of the 12th month to enable such subscribers have access to care the next month (Start of renewed policy cycle).

The selected beneficiaries will commence access to care from July 1, 2022.

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Senator Ike Ekweremadu, Wife remanded as UK Court denies them bail

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Senator Ike Ekweremadu and his wife
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An Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court in the United Kingdom did not grant bail to Ike Ekweremadu, former Deputy Senate President, and Beatrice, his wife, who were apprehended over attempted harvesting of organs.

It was gathered that the Nigerian couple was detained by the Metropolitan Police when they tried harvesting an unnamed child’s organs.

When the Senator was arraigned on Thursday, the court refused to grant him bail but ordered that he should be remanded till July 7

The Metropolitan Police while confirming the arrest said in a statement that the pair were charged to court on Thursday following an investigation by the police’ specialist crime team.

“Beatrice Nwanneka Ekweremadu, 55 (10.9.66) of Nigeria is charged with conspiracy to arrange/facilitate travel of another person with a view to exploitation, namely organ harvesting,” the statement read.

“Ike Ekweremadu, 60 (12.05.62) of Nigeria is charged with conspiracy to arrange/facilitate travel of another person with a view to exploitation, namely organ harvesting.

They have both been remanded in custody and will appear at Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court later today.

“A child has been safeguarded and we are working closely with partners on continued support.”

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Conditional Cash Transfer: Lagos flags off distribution of ATM card, activation pins

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Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu
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Lagos State Government on Thursday flags off distribution of ATM cards and activation pins to beneficiaries in continuation of conditional cash transfer programme.

Speaking at the event which took place at Agege Local Government, Agege, Lagos, Commissioner for Wealth Creation and Employment, Hon.Mrs. Yetunde Arobieke, appreciated the Federal Government through the National Cash Transfer Office(NCTO), under the Office of the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development (FMHADMSD), who has the mandate to develop humanitarian policies, provide effective co-ordination of national and International Humanitarian interventions, ensure strategic disaster mitigation, preparedness and response and manage the formulation and implementation affair, focused social inclusion and protection program in Nigeria.

She recalled that she was elated that CCT beneficiaries in Lagos State have received the bi-monthly cash stipends from the programme and have been availed with the much needed capacity skills through the Savings and Group Mobilisation (SGM) training, which have been in no small measure of immense benefits to their livelihood, which culminated in the result of the success stories that have been shared across the targeted LGAs /LCDAs.

“It would be recalled that the Federal Government in partnership with the World Bank, established National Social Safety Nets Project (NASSP), have played a pivotal role to help end extreme poverty and promote shared prosperity with a view to ameliorate the lives of the citizenry. The NASSP Project Development Objective (PDO), is to provide access to targeted transfers to poor and vulnerable households under an expanded National Social Safety nets system”, Arobieke said.

She further maintained that the National Cash Transfer Office under NASSP, was given the mandate to implement the Federal Government conditional cash transfer, also known as Household Uplifting Programme.

“The programme since inception has successfully paid beneficiaries via transparent and accountable means that enables the NASSPS programme pay beneficiaries at their doorstep through Payment Service Provisions (PSP)”, Arobieke said.

She also acknowledged the President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari and the Governor of Lagos State, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, for being a father of the nation and as well as a proactive governor for putting the programme in place with his audacious vision of lifting 100 million people out of the poverty net in Nigeria .

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