Ambassador Robin Renée Sanders
Nigerian Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) Graduation
Abuja, Nigeria March 16, 2009
Remarks as prepared for delivery.
All protocols duly observed.
Good morning. At the outset, I would like to congratulate Minster John Odey on his recent appointment by President Yar’Adua as the Minister of Environment, Housing, and Urban Development. I wish you, Honorable Minster, success in the many opportunities and challenges your new appointment brings, and I look forward to working with you in areas of mutual interest.
I would also like to thank Dr. Bamidele Ajakaiye, the Director General of the Nigerian Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), for his strong leadership and commitment in building this young organization. Your leadership is very important for an economically and environmentally sustainable oil and gas industry in Nigeria.
I also want to recognize and congratulate each and every one of the graduates here today for successfully completing this U.S. Government funded course on Oil Spill Detection and Recovery. As environmental officers, you are the first responders to assess the disasters that oil spills can cause. You lead all efforts to mitigate their impact, and you restore areas that they have impacted. You are also entrusted with prevention; that is managing risks so that they do not eventually cause oil spills. It is my sincere hope that the skills and knowledge you have acquired through this three-week course will enable you to perform your important duties more effectively and efficiently.
But your technical and scientific skills are only one element of the arsenal you will need to conduct your duties to the best of your abilities. You will also need to develop close working relationships with counterparts in the oil and gas industry, and with federal, state, and local law enforcement and other emergency responders. Most importantly, you will need to work with the communities that are disproportionately impacted by oil spills, particularly in the Niger Delta.
Nigeria, as we all know, is endowed with vast oil and gas reserves. It is crucial that these resources are tapped in an economically and ecologically sustainable manner that does not jeopardize the livelihoods of the people and their environment. Every year, unacceptable levels of oil spills occur from deteriorating oil and gas infrastructure, industrial accidents and incidents, and illegal activity normally referred to as “bunkering.” Addressing these challenges requires the commitment and cooperation of all.
The U.S. Government will continue to partner with you, providing you with technical assistance for capacity-building and fostering dialogue among all stakeholders. Let me again thank our partners, the Ministry of Environment, Housing, and Urban Development, and NOSDRA. I congratulate all of you and wish you continued success in this very important work that you do.