Nigeria’s Oil Spills Experience: Challenges Before Engr. Chukwuemeka Woke

Oil , one of the most globally sought after natural resources, ostensibly, followed by gas, has its colourfully attractive benefits, advantages and positive points, not only to economically industrialized nations, developing economies of the world but to few privileged rich personalities.

The trade in oil, apart from conferring instant huge and mind-boggling wealth on stakeholders in the business, offers them fame, national, continental and international visibility profiles.


Highly enthralling and fascinating individual and collective testimonies, abound from from America, Russia, Britain, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Vienna, Nigeria, Angola and perhaps, most recently, Ghana and Southern Sudan, where ordinary and simple citizens, who were not known to the tradition of staggering wealth and fiscal-instruments acquisition, suddenly, moved away from the sociological twin-concept of the excruciating pangs of Rural Poverty & Urban Misery, to miraculously- puzzling and sudden transformational growth, financially and economically.

These mid-afternoon turned multi-billionaires, who by virtue of their trading and business partnership in oil, are today listed as being amongst the richest individuals in their respective countries of origin, had their breakthrough via oil exploration and exploitation, respectively.

However, beneath the fun, fad and fancies of the quickest ladder or processes towards transforming into a midday or mid-evening multi-billionaire, courtesy of a well-defined business partnership with oil, there exits, animated correlates or factors that tend to raise the frequently asked in almost all rural environments of the world, whether the possession of oil as a great natural resource is a blessing or curse?


For purposes of a simple understanding of what OIL SPILLS are, the following will offer a clear insight by way of a functional definition.

Oil Spills, geologically identified as dangerous disasters, refer to the letting out or accidental release of liquid petroleum hydrocarbon into the immediate physical environment, bordering the marine environment or ecosystem as a result of gross carelessness , brought about by high degrees of emotional errors, lack of cognitive capacities and instinctual reasoning on the part of the operators of rigs, that result into dangerous environmental disasters and pollution. There are multiple reasons that can induce Oil Spills.

The innocent and law-abiding rural citizens of these highly economically impoverished rural communities, become threatened by chemically toxic effects resulting from the action of these oil or marine spills, when they are released into the ocean or larger coastal water bodies.


Additionally, spills also take place within the surrounding mangrove forest and arable farmlands, thereby creating untold hardship for these down-trodden dwellers, who are left at the mercy of the Federal Government to intervene.

It is perhaps, due to the sad , painful, agonizing, mentally devastating and life-threatening experiences of citizens of oil-bearing communities to fully understand and come to terms with emerging realities of the sociology of rural poverty and urban misery, particularly in Nigeria’s Niger Delta Region, the President Olusegun Obasanjo led Federal administration, saw the urgency to establish a quick- interventionist federal agency.


The aim of the federal government, to establish an agency that will best monitor, detect, respond as well as maintain a holistic and comprehensive geolocation-premised data for accuracy of information, regarding either catastrophic or less serious oil spills, was what led to the formation of the current day National Oil Spills Detection & Response Agency {NOSDRA}, having come alive on October 18, 2006 by an act of parliament gazetted as ACT NO 15 ,2006.

The major, amongst the numerous challenges facing the National Oil Spill Detection & Response Agency, is the need to have the headquarters of the agency, domiciled close to the geographical domain, where the activities of the International Oil Companies, can best be monitored, evaluated and assessed on a routine basis.


Having the corporate headquarters of the National Oil Detection & Response Agency, situated in a far flung location, like the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, where it is largely detached from the daily and routine official activities of the International Oil Companies, would make the agency, much more redundant, lack-luster and unproductive and as such may not be able to achieve its vision and mission.

A Federal Capital Territory Laison office can still be maintained for purposes of administrative convenience, however, moving the operations of the agency is the best thing to do , if it is to achieve its core Institutional mandate.

The above preface to cover, may perhaps, explain why the conceptual topic of OIL SPILLS and its negatively reinforcing effects on the ecosystem as well as the immediate physical environment in local or rural host communities, who are oil -bearing, can either be totally eliminated, drastically or partially reduced ?


Guided by the psychology reality principle that states that, ” an individual’s immediate physical environment, just like the human physique, has a way of effectively, influencing, shaping, molding and defining human behaviour””, one can safely say that after reliance on the Almighty Most High GOD, members of all rural oil-bearing communities, may look up the quick-interventionist approach of established government institutions, such as Nigeria’s ” National Oil Spill Detection & Response Agency””, NOSDRA , as the second hope for their often painful, agonizing , death-threatening, health-hazards and economically incapacitated conditions of daily existence.

Nigeria’s Oil Spills Experience and lasting impressions, date back to 1908, according to a 2004 geological research efforts put forward by Tolulope, which took place in the rural oil- bearing riverine community of Ondo State, South-West Nigeria, called Araromi.


Another oil spill, perhaps, the second in history, was the 1970 major oil spill disaster that happened in Ogoni land in the present day Rivers State, causing enormous damage to farmlands, mangrove forests, besides greatly affecting adjoining rivers, within the vicinity.

This incident was said to have been caused by the Shell Petroleum Development Corporation {SPDC}, which attracted a fine of £26 Million, as decided by the Nigerian Courts, as the payment came only 30 years after the accident happened.

Again, in the year 2008, there were two principal Oil Spills that rocked Bodo rural settlement, another community in Ogoni land.

From available statistical records, obtained from the International Oil Spills Conference {IOSC}, the 2008 two major oil spills, were from a Shell Petroleum Development Corporation oil pipeline, which spilled no fewer than 560,000 barrels of oil into the Bodo local Community of Ogoniland, in Rivers State.


The devastating accident was said to have affected well over 1000 hectares of mangrove land, as the innocent members of the rural settlement could neither farm nor grow crops, even as marine life was hugely affected.

Findings by these reporters show that, since 1986, there had been almost 8,000 incidents of Oil Spills, on the scale of 300 per year, resulting in more than 500 deaths.

It is believed that at least, about 10,000 gallons, equivalent to 34 tons of oil, may have occurred globally in the last 20 years.

These include the annual amount of oil spilled at different source types as well as in total and those spilled by process of size range.


In the last 50 years, it is estimated that no fewer than 70,000 oil spill incidents had occurred in the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria.

As a tie-back to history, it is recorded that the first ever OIL SPILLS, in the world, is said to have taken place between 1889 and 1890.

This happened while crude oil was being transported from an oil well within the geographical vicinity of LA South to North San Diego County, in the United States of America, as reportedly caused by a massive oil slick .This is even as the source of the oil slick is largely unknown.


The National Oil Detection & Response Agency, under Engr. Chukwuemeka Woke, needs special intervention funding to enable him to contribute to the blue – economy of the nation and by doing so, increase the nation’s GDP.

Meanwhile , the newly appointed Director-General / Chief Executive Officer of the National Oil Spill Detection & Response Agency, Engr. Chukwuemeka Woke, says, working towards the successes of the RENEWED HOPE AGENDA, a development administrative blue-print of the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu – APC powered federal administration, will define his vision at the agency.

He also stated that his tenured engagement as the new Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of NOSDRA, will bring about novel behaviour-modification processes, amongst the agency’s workforce, through motivational incentives that would help amplify their individual and collective productivity profiles.


Specifically, the new DG/CEO, in a fatherly and open interactive session with the top management and staff, advised that every member of the NOSDRA workforce should fully understand the entirety of the concept of the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu ‘s Renewed Hope Agenda.

This understanding, he explained, will enable each and every staff member to know what the concept means in relation to issues, values and norms of development administration, which is the core of every civil service structure the world over.


According to the new DG/CEO, fuller insight about the larger political vision of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, when cascaded down to the least civil servant in a workplace, will help all NOSDRA staffers to drive the successes.

This is even as he cautioned that anybody who would want to thwart the efforts of Mr. President’s Renewed Hope Agenda would be shown the way out.


In his words, “my administrative concentration, as the new Director-General & Chief Executive Officer of NOSDRA, is to Refocus, Redirect and Revitalize , the agency, with a view to greatly impacting positively, the quality of lives of rural communities, affected by the environmental degradation as well as socio-economic problems of Oil Spills.”

A highly experienced technocrat, bureaucrat and skilled electoral mobilizer, Engr. Chukwuemeka Woke, gave the assurances at the weekend, while addressing the management and staff at the agency’s Corporate Headquarters, housed on the fifth floor of NAIC Building, in the Garki Central Business District of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

Engr. Woke, whose first day familiarization session at NOSDRA headquarters, evoked fits of euphoria, joy, excitement and happiness, amongst the junior and senior staff of the agency.


Borrowing from his robust experience and lasting impressions in handling matters of group dynamics as a former Chief Of Staff , he told NOSDRA staffers that, his appointment as Director-General / Chief Executive Officer of the downstream, midstream and upstream based quick-interventionist oil and gas organization, is not to witch-hunt, harass, intimidate or victimize anybody.

At least, these assurances came as a great relief to almost everybody, who was gathered at the very compact Conference Hall, given the unspoken but imagined humanly degrading lines of difficulty they had witnessed in the hands of some tyrants that by accident rather than design, were appointed into the headship of the agency.

He stated that as a political appointee of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, he is determined to maximize the positive gains of the 2023 electoral successes and additionally, translate same into cogent and verifiable democratic scorecard and credible milestones by deploying his his vast professional knowledge-base, expertise, competences, skills and lasting impressions as a former staff of the NNPC group to deepen his primary assignment schedules.


The new Director-General, who for eight years, was the Chief Of Staff to the immediate Executive Governor of Rivers State and Honourable Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Barr Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, urged the NOSDRA workforce to re-dedicate themselves towards facing up to the challenges confronting the agency.

According to the environmental specialist and wisdom-imbued former staff of the NNPC Limited Group, diligence, dedication to duty as well as hard work, should define and shape their individual and collective engagements towards maximum productivity goals.


To demonstrate his knack for administrative details within a workplace, at least , having experienced , first hand, how lack and total absence of alternative electrical energy sources at the miniature Conference Hall of the agency, compelled him to sweat profusely, Engr.Chukwuemeka Woke, instantly promised addressing the animated direct-grid and off-grid electrical energy challenges, currently being faced by NOSDRA workforce.

Appreciating the reality principle that regular or constant electrical energy supply, just like the role of motivational incentives, can amplify productivity amongst civil servants, the new DG/CEO, said plans-on-action, would be put in place to fix the power supply challenge.


Speaking while responding on behalf of the management and staff of the agency, to welcome the new DG/ CEO of NOSDRA, the Director of Information Communication Technology /General Information Service, Mrs. Adesiba Margaret, who also doubled as the administrative head of the management team, used the instance of the occasion to pledge the cooperation of every staff towards the the attainment of the successes of the new DG/CEO’s tenure.

President Tinubu, had first appointed Engr.Chukwuemeka Woke as the Managing Director / Chief Executive Officer of the Ogun-Osun River Basin development Authority, {OORBDA}, before re-deploying him to head the National Oil Spill Detection & Response Agency, {NOSDRA}

Engr. Chukwuemeka Woke brings on board a wide range of skills, competences, professionalism and experience to bear on his new role as Director- General of NOSDRA.


Engr. Woke has a rich background in engineering, environmental sciences, expertise, plus a robust historical pedigree in politics and political interests-aggregation and grassroots-mobilization, amongst other creative capacities.

He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemical/Petrochemical Engineering.

He has also garnered valuable experience over time, having worked in various capacities within the environmental, safety, and operations divisions of the former Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation {NNPC},now NNPC Limited.


Prior to this appointment, Engr. Chukwuemeka Woke, had held notable positions in the establishment circles of government, such as Chairman of Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers State, Deputy Chief of Staff and Commissioner for Special Duties in Rivers State.

He was the Chief of Staff to the immediate Executive Governor of Rivers State, now the Honourable Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Chief Nyesom Ezenwo Wike.

While in that capacity, he demonstrated exceptional political and development administrative leadership competences desiring of an appointee.


President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR, while announcing the appointment of Engr. Chukwuemeka Woke as the new DG/CEO of NOSDRA , had expressed interest in Engr. Woke’s ability to leverage his extensive experience as both an engineer and administrator to effectively steer the operations at NOSDRA towards success.

Notably, Engr. Woke shares a close political alliance with Barr. Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, further underscoring his deep-rooted connections within the political landscape.


Hajia Asmau Galadanchi, Obiaruko Ndukwe and Prince Chidera Ejike-Umunnabuike Jr the writers of this news-feature piece, are seasoned journalists and communications specialists.

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