Abuja-Kaduna rail travelers safe – NRC assures

Abuja-Kaduna rail service
Abuja-Kaduna rail service

By Lucy Ogalue

The Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), says it has intensified efforts to ensure the safety of trains and passengers that travel via the Abuja-Kaduna Train Service(AKTS).

Mr Paschal Nnorli, Manager, AKTS, NRC, in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), on Tuesday in Abuja, said that the 1955 Railway Act that established the NRC created a command  for the protection of lives and property.

“The command is usually headed by a Commissioner of Police with six or seven area commanders. On this corridor which cuts across FCT, Niger and Kaduna, there are three police divisions in Idu, Kubwa and Rigasa.

“Aside that, any train you see on this corridor is having at least 15 armed policemen and you know this trains stop at the stations.

“There are some plain clothed policemen deployed recently by the Inspector-General of Police, including Police Mobile Force units. We also have DSS personnel attached to us for intelligence gathering.

“Again, we are in synergy with the military who sometimes use helicopters to escort our trains when they have information of security threat.

“At Rigasa in Kaduna town, we have the army on ground very near to our station, so it will be extremely difficult for anyone to attack the train,” he said.

The manager debunked claims by an online media that a train was attacked along the Abuja-Kaduna route last week.

According to him, no such attack took place.

“We wish to use this medium to inform our passengers that adequate security arrangements are in place on all our trains.

“We thank the security agencies, especially the Nigeria Police and the Military, for their support toward securing our train service.

“Our passengers are appreciated for their trust and continuous patronage; we want to assure them that safety and security remains our priority,” Nnorli said. (NAN)

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OML 25: SPDC, Belema signs dispute closure agreement

Oil drilling in Niger Delta

By Edith Ike-Eboh

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) with its joint venture partners, Shell Production Development Company (SPDC) and Belema OIL, have resolved the dispute on the operation of Oil Mining Lease (OML) 25.

The group at the signing of the dispute closure agreement in Abuja, on Tuesday agreed that operations at the oil well would take off in the next 10 days.

The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Slyva, at the event  thanked all the parties stressing that the step signified the beginning of a new chapter in the industry.

Slyva said that the aim of the ministry was to ensure an oil industry that worked and operated in harmony and in unity.

“When I came into the office, the issue was one of the problems that came on the table; there were so many letters from communities complaining about the problem.

“I just decided to invite Shell to hear its own part of the story but fortunately, the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Mele Kyari, had intervened in the matter.

“So, I have the honour now to thank him for this great intervention.

“And also thank Shell and Belema for cooperating to ensure that there is closure to this matter that has bedeviled the industry for so long,” he said.

He said that one of the aims of the Petroleum Industry was to ensure zero loss in the industry and production got to destination.

According to him, zero loss is not loses from pipelines but lost to the country, especially with assets that can produce but for some reasons bug down by leakage issues.

He said that the biggest beneficiaries of the agreement were not the companies but the communities, especially those in Belema who had been suffering since the beginning of the dispute.

The minister commended the NNPC, Shell and the Belema Oil for agreeing to resolve the dispute.

Earlier, Kyari said that the development was a big achievement for the corporation.

The NNPC boss said that the dispute around the OML 25 had been on for over two years, adding that  the end result was that communities lacked peace with the disruption of property and social lives in the area.

“For us, the most important aspect of the dispute resolution is that, at least, the communities will have their peace restored.

“At the back of it, you are aware that there is a complete stoppage of petroleum operations around the OML 25 and adjoining blocks.

“What this means is shut down of production of over 35,000 barely of oil every day in the last two years and that is enormous economic loss for all stakeholders, Nigeria and the communities.

“This is why we engaged all stakeholders and we are happy to announce today that the closure has been obtained.

“It means that the communities will have their peace back and also commence operations with the OML 25.

“That means that there is prosperity for the community and also some returns to shareholders of Belema Oil, NNPC and Nigeria at large,” he said.

Kyari commended the Belema Oil for its role and assured full engagement of the communities, adding that all the parties would be taken care of.

The NNPC boss also said that all opportunities found would be shared equitably for overall peace and development of the country.

He commended the minister of petroleum for his support and assured that the operations would soon commence in the area.

Also, the Managing Director of Shell, Osagie Okunbor said that the dispute had been for two years but “we are happy that we concluded on resolving the dispute.

“I want to convey my deep appreciation to the GMD of NNPC for the intervention to bring this issue to a closure.

“When dispute of this nature happens, every one suffers, especially the immediate family, recipient community not to talk of investors like ourselves.

“We have been in discussion with communities and Belema Oil and sometimes under the auspices of government.

“We are very pleased that we have finally brought this to a conclusion, to work on some agreements with communities to achieve speedy return to operations on that facility,” he said.

He said that to meet the plight of the host communities, Shell had paid in the Joint MOU account, over N300 million to restart community efforts it had not done because of some issues.

Okunbor said that under the joint MOU framework,  monies would be paid into communities’ accounts to execute projects to ensure that employment opportunities get to the people.

He noted that SPDC  remained the operator of the OML 25 but assured commitment to ensure that all parties would derive from the benefits.

The President and Founder, Belema OIL, Mr Jack Rich-Tein, also said the agreement signaled that stakeholders shared common interest and value of lifting the country high and strengthening relationships.

“What has been resolved is that, we have agreed to work together, SPDC and Belema Oil.

“Belema Oil is now going to be able to create a lot of employment opportunities for the communities under operations and maintenance part of the operations.

“SPDC remains the operators because they still have the licence, the communities will be happy because we will employ them and they will be able to work with SPDC.

“The key thing there is getting back to work and creating jobs for the local communities, everybody will be happy.”

He said that Belema OIL with 7.7 per cent asset would provide the operation maintenance and employ the community members through that platform.

The founder said that Belema OIL would work with shell to ensure that the development needs of the people were met.

“We have agreed that less than 10 days from today, we will visit the communities and appeal to them and then, we go to work,” he said.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that operation in OML 25 stopped since in 2017 when the host communities sent SPDC away from operating in the facility over issues of unemployment and underdevelopment among others. (NAN)

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Facebook blocks Netanyahu’s chatbox for election violation

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lashed out at Facebook (FB.O) on Tuesday after the social network blocked a “chatbot” from his right-wing Likud party’s account for violating election day rules.

“They took a 100 kg hammer and brought it down on a fly, because it is a Likud fly,” Netanyahu said in a video posted on social media.

“They shut down our means of communication with our voters.”

Israel’s leading YNET news website said the chatbot, a type of automated software that is able to simulate a conversation with a user, had posted results from an election poll on Tuesday while

Israelis were out voting, a contravention of election rules.

The problematic posts were apparently taken down and no longer appeared on Netanyahu’s Facebook page.

Netanyahu appeared to play down the violation, saying: “Someone published a small poll on Facebook.’’

Asked about its intervention on Netanyahu’s account, Facebook said in a statement it works with

“elections commissions around the world to help protect the integrity of elections.”

“Our policies clearly state developers are required to comply with all applicable laws in the country where their app is available.

“We have restricted this bot for violating local law until the polling stations are closed tonight,” it said.

Netanyahu, who is battling for his political career, has been trying to mobilise his base by warning them of low supporter turnout.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu battled for his political survival in the final hours of a close-run election on Tuesday, urging voters to support him to avert a “disaster”.

His voice hoarse from weeks of campaigning, the veteran leader took to the streets and social media, at one point using a megaphone in Jerusalem’s bus station, to urge voters to extend his unbroken decade in power.

Netanyahu, 69, has cast himself as indispensable and blighted by voter complacency over his tenure – the longest of any Israeli prime minister.

Prime minister from June 1996 until July 1999, he has held the post since March 2009 and is seeking a record fifth term. (dpa/NAN)

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Xenophobia: S/Africa finally allows Air Peace to evacuate 2nd batch of Nigerians

Air Peace flights
Air Peace flights

By Fortune Abang

South African authorities have granted landing permit to Air Peace Flight B777 to enable it to evacuate some 320 Nigerians escaping from xenophobia in that country, a Nigerian consular officer has confirmed.

Nigeria’s Consul- General in Johannesburg, Mr Godwin Adama, made the confirmation in a telephone interview with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Tuesday.

Adama spoke against the background of a complaint by the Managing Director of Air Peace, Chief Allen Onyema.

Onyema had said  that the refusal of South Africa to grant the permit made it impossible for the flight to leave Lagos at 1 a.m. for Johannesburg to convey the second batch of returnees.

But Adama said the permit had been granted the airline and that the flight would be late in the night of Tuesday.

Adama said, “They want Nigerians to arrive during the week, they are taking-off from here midnight.

“I do not know the exact time but they will be leaving (South Africa) midnight.

“I do not know why they were denied the landing permit. I think it is an airline operational issue. They did not get it yesterday but they told me that it came late yesterday (Monday).

“It was weekend and they were going to get it this morning; the airline did not tell me it was deliberate, but they explained to me that they have gotten it.

“Our manifest arrived last night towards the close of work and they were to take-off 1a.m. Nigerian time yesterday (Monday) but they did not because it was late.

“I have gotten it now so they will be able to make me know the time of their arrival here so that we can know when to take-off.”

Adama said buses provided to convey Nigerians wanting to return home were still at the mission premises and everyone was there.

“We are still really working on the number (320) to see how we can fill up the airline capacity with anyone that is readily available.

“We have more than enough, we are even trying to ensure that the aircraft is filled up that is why we are readily taking people who are on ground now.

“We have more than enough to fill the aircraft, the delay has also helped us because as we call names to board we see some people cleared at the last minute.

“The truth is they are people who have not been cleared, those who are ready to go are all here and we are trying to queue them up.

“We may not even be able to take all of them who are hopeful,” he added.

Adama said that the next batch of evacuation would be based on the Federal Government’s directives.

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Benue to conduct LG poll on Nov. 30

Gov. Samuel Ortom
Gov. Samuel Ortom

By Emmanuel Antswen

The Benue State Government said on Tuesday said that it plans to conduct election into local government councils in the state on Nov. 30.

Gov. Samuel Ortom made the announcement at the inauguration of the state Local Government Service Commission, the state Planning Commission and a member of the State Independent Electoral Commission (BSIEC) in Makurdi.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reported that the last local government poll was held in June 2017. The two years tenure expired in July 2019.

Meanwhile, the governor has appointed caretaker chairmen to the run the affairs of the councils before the election.

The governor said that the State Independent Electoral Commission had confirmed that it is ready to conduct the election on Nov. 30.

“I held a meeting with the state electoral commission; we agreed that tentatively, the local government election will hold in November.

“I am aware that the law requires the state to provide 40 per cent funds for the conduct of the election while the local councils provide the balance 60 per cent.

“We will ensure that the funds are made available for the exercise,’’ Ortom said.

He cautioned the service commission against use of federation allocation funds for overheads instead of executing projects.

“I want to know the exact staff strength of the local government councils. I also want to know the ghost workers in the local councils.

“If you go to Guma local council where I come from, you will see less than 20 people at the secretariat but the same council has over 900 staff in its payroll.

“Some people are working elsewhere but collect salaries as council staff. They are mechanics, business people, they don’t go to work but receive salaries monthly,’’ he said.

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African swine fever: South Korea culls pigs

 

China to kill over 1000 pigs over swine fever outbreak
South Korea culls pigs after confirming African swine fever

South Korea is culling thousands of pigs after confirming African swine fever at a farm near its border with North Korea, which had an outbreak in May.

Kim Hyun-soo, South Korea’s agricultural minister, said the country’s first case of the highly contagious disease was confirmed Tuesday in tests on five pigs that died Monday evening at the farm in the city of Paju.

Officials were planning to complete by Tuesday the culling of some 4,000 pigs raised at the farm and two other farms run by the same family. The government also strengthened efforts to disinfect farms and transport vehicles and ordered a 48-hour standstill on all pig farms, slaughterhouses and feed factories across the country to prevent the spread of the disease, which threatens a massive industry that involves 6,000 farms raising more than 11 million pigs.

African swine fever has decimated pig herds in China and other Asian countries before reaching the Koreas. It is harmless to people but for pigs is highly contagious and fatal. There is no known cure.

“We will invest maximum effort to prevent the disease from spreading … we believe the first week (following the outbreak) would be most dangerous,” considering incubation periods, Kim said during a news conference in Sejong City.

“We will quickly complete monitoring inspections at the 6,300 farms (nationwide) … checking each pig to see whether it has fever or not and testing on even the slightest of symptoms,” he said.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in called for fast and stern quarantine measures to prevent the disease from wreaking havoc on the pork industry, the presidential Blue House said.

The outbreak in South Korea comes despite months of heightened monitoring efforts at border area farms after the disease spread to North Korea. In May, the North told the World Organization for Animal Health, or OIE, that 77 of the 99 pigs at a cooperative farm near its border with China died of the disease and the remaining 22 pigs were culled.

South Korea’s agriculture ministry said investigators were sent to the farm to trace the source of the outbreak and it wasn’t immediately clear if the disease would have crossed from North Korea. The ministry said in June that blood tests of pigs from some 340 farms near the border with the North came back negative.

North Korea has scaled back cooperation with South Korea after a summit between leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump collapsed in February, and it has ignored repeated South Korean calls for joint efforts to stem the spread of the disease.

South Korea placed hundreds of fences and traps around border area farms to prevent pigs from being infected by wild boars that roam in and out of North Korea. South Korea’s military, which had monitored the movement of wild boars through heat sensors installed along the border, said it would be difficult for wild boars to cross over barbed wire fences in the mine-scattered border zone. But government officials have said the animals could possibly swim across rivers.

Kim, the South Korean agricultural minister, said the Paju farm hit by the disease was about 1.5 miles away from a river that runs across the border. But it is a sealed indoor facility with no windows and is surrounded by fences to fend off wild boars. The farm’s owner and four Nepalese workers said they hadn’t recently traveled outside of South Korea, Kim said.

“We haven’t been able to immediately confirm the infection route of the disease,” Kim said. “We are trying to identify the cause as soon as possible because that would be crucial for preventing the disease from spreading.”

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Gatefield, Oliver’s Burgers launch campaign against “Shisha” consumption

Campaign on dangers of consuming Shisha
Campaign on dangers of consuming Shisha

By Emmaunel Afonne

Gatefield, a Public Strategy Firm in collaboration with an Abuja’s leading Burger restaurant, Oliver’s Burger  in Abuja launched a campaign on the dangers of Shisha consumption in the country.

Shisha smoking – also called hookah, narghile, waterpipe, or hubble bubble smoking – is a way of smoking tobacco, sometimes mixed with fruit or molasses sugar, through a bowl and hose or tube

Miss Ebiuwairo Uwagboe, Campaign and Media `Specialist, Gatefield, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that  rising popularity of Shisha smoking among young people in Abuja, and other parts of the country was alarming and constituted a major health risk to residents.

“To help bring attention to this issue, Abuja’s leading Burger restaurant, Oliver’s Burger today in partnership with public strategy firm, Gatefield, launched campaign #PipeDown to inform young people about the health risks associated with Shisha by crashing the price of Burgers for one week.

“The #PipeDown campaign aims to educate people especially smokers of the flavored tobacco product about the implications of the behavior on public health and safety.

She noted that Shisha has been proven to be more harmful than regular cigarettes.

“Smokers including second-hand smokers are at the risk of cancer and other respiratory and cardiovascular diseases”, she said

She said that Oliver’s Burger rebranded its trucks and food packaging to reflect the campaign adding that the restaurant also shared branded posters at their stands to buyers carrying messages such as “smoking shisha for one hour is as bad as smoking 100 cigarettes” and  “smoking shisha in public places endangers others”.

She noted that the campaign’s Instagram page @pipedownNG, provided users with the relevant information and facts on the dangers of Shisha smoke.

In his remarks, Oliver Naku, the Chief Executive Officer of the Burger restaurant said that the company felt obliged to ensure that customers live healthy lives.

“It is good to let customers know that this not only endangers them, but the people around them.”

Maryam Hassan, a customer at the launch said: “I have never really been a shisha smoker but I didn’t know it was this dangerous.

“This campaign will help spread awareness on this issue because a lot of people are ignorant of the dangers of Shisha.” She said

Also speaking to NAN, Mr Michael Olaniyan, Technical Resource Officer of the Washington DC based Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids said “This campaign is very important.

“There is a lot of misinformation around Shisha. People think it’s trendy and healthy because of its deceptive flavours; truth is that Shisha is as bad if not more dangerous than cigarettes,’’ he said

But Mr Sebastian Abegunde, a Tax consultant with Deliotte said, it is not about stopping the consumption of Shisha but moderation.

“I believe everything in the world needs to be taken in moderation. Shisha is not something you should take a lot or every day.

“Everything you take in excess has adverse effect in the body, like sugar, if you take too much, at the end of the day, you come down with diabetes.

“The campaign is necessary because people need to pipe down, people who take it should reduce the level of consumption, ” he said

The World Health Organisation has said that one hour session of Shisha smoke was equivalent to smoking 100 cigarettes.

The world health agency added that that people are also at risk of hepatitis when they share Shisha pipes.

NAN reports that the Nigerian Tobacco Control Act 2015 and the recently approved tobacco control regulations 2019 prohibit the smoking of cigarettes in public places.

However, this law is yet to be fully implemented as Shisha smoking in public places is still common in many public places in Abuja. (NAN)

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UNGA: Nigeria’s Muhammad-Bande takes over as president

Ambassador Muhammad-Bande: declares interest in UNGA Presidency

By Harison Arubu

Ms Maria Espinosa, the President of the 73rd UN General Assembly, on Monday handed over to Nigeria’s Muhammad-Bande, who will lead the 74th session of the assembly in the next one year.

The ceremony, held inside the General Assembly Hall of the UN headquarters in New York, marked the end of the 73rd session .

The 74th session will formally begin on Tuesday with the inauguration of Muhammad-Bande, who is the Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the UN.

The handover ceremony was witnessed by top officials of the UN led by the Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres.

Nigerian officials, including a presidential team, comprising the Director-General, National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Mr Ahmed Abubakar, and presidential spokesman, Mr Garba Shehu, also witnessed the ceremony.

In a short address, Guterres lauded Espinosa for her strong leadership, describing her as a “champion for multilateralism”, who made the UN “relevant to all”.

“I commend her ambitious priorities for this session, which addressed crucial matters of international impact and concern.

“These include gender equality, migration and refugees, decent work for all, environmental protection, the rights of people with disabilities, promoting the voices of young people to advance peace and security, and revitalising the work of the United Nations.

“The commitment of Espinosa to the environment especially ending plastic pollution also stands out,” he said.

The UN chief said he looked forward to working with Muhammad-Bande to advance the organisation’s mission of building  more peaceful and prosperous world.

Earlier in a valedictory press conference, Espinosa said she was satisfied with her achievements within her one-year tenure.

She said her practice of formally reporting back to member states every three months, was very useful, especially for the smaller missions that could cover all the agenda items.

Espinosa said during the 73rd Session, no fewer than 341 resolutions were adopted, making it the highest number in several years.

She reiterated her call on member states to “read the resolutions we have adopted again and let´s deliver and implement them using this norm-setting power of the General Assembly”, she said.

Espinosa is the woman to hold the office of the president of the General Assembly. (NAN)

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Aero begins flight operations to Benin

Aero Airliner
Aero Airliner

By Yunus Yusuf

A Nigerian carrier, Aero Contractors,  on Monday began  flight operations on the Lagos-Benin route as part of its expansion drive.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the airline’s Boeing 737-500 aircraft departed the Murtala Muhammed Airport 2 in Lagos at about 5:05 p.m. to Benin Airport.

Aero Contractors.  with the move, has  joined Arik Air and Air Peace which already operate daily flights to Benin City, the Edo State capital.

Capt. Ado Sanusi, Managing Director, Aero Contractors, in a statement said the airline would operate into Benin City four times a week – Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday .

“We are resuming these operations to give people from the state opportunity to make Aero their preferred choice of the airlines operating into the city.

“Resuming operations on the Benin route will reinforce the strength and quality of our brand.

“We will continue to offer the most reliable, safe and secure operations which the airline is renowned for,” Sanusi said.

He explained that for weekdays, the flight would depart Lagos to Benin at 4:55 pm and out of Benin to Lagos at 6:15 pm, while on Sundays, it would depart Lagos to Benin at 12:40 pm and out of Benin to Lagos at 2:00pm.

Sanusi said that the airline intended to increase its flight frequencies to daily in the not too distant future.

NAN reports that the aircraft is expected to be received at the Benin Airport by Edo State Government officials and other eminent personalities. (NAN).

 

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Shell deploys cameras to track spills, crude theft

 

Shell Worker

By Edeki Igafe

The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC) says it has deployed state-of-the-art high definition cameras for quick detection and response to crude oil theft and spills from its facilities.

Mr Igo Weli, SPDC General Manager, External Relations disclosed this at a workshop on Monday tagged: “2019 Pipelines Right of Ways Media Engagement” in Warri.

Weli, who was represented by Mr Alaye Dokubo, said the cameras would also help in tracking vandalism of SPDC Joint Venture (JV) assets.

“The cameras are attached to specialized helicopters, which carry out daily overflight over our facilities. This measure has improved the surveillance of our Joint Venture assets,” he said.

The general manager also said that SPDC had implemented anti-theft protection mechanisms on key infrastructure, such as wellheads and manifolds to address constant attacks from vandals.

He noted that the development would prevent and minimize sabotage-related spills.

Weli said the daily loss of over 11,000 barrels of oil per day in 2018 and the threat to the integrity of the SPDC JV assets necessitated the approach to protect critical national assets.

“We collaborate with community leaders, traditional rulers, civil societies and state governments in the Niger Delta.

“This is to implement several initiatives and partnerships to raise awareness on the negative impact of crude oil theft and illegal oil refining.

“Such public enlightenment programmes on the negative impacts to people and the environment help to build greater trust in spill response and clean-up processes,” he said.

Weli said that SPDC would sustain its air and ground surveillance to complement the efforts of government security agents in checking crude theft, pipeline vandalism and illegal refining.

He commended the effort of the Operation Delta Safe in protecting critical oil and gas assets and appealed to other government security forces to intensify their activities around oil and gas facilities.

“In its June 2019 monthly report, NNPC, which controls Nigeria’s 55 per cent interest in the SPDC JV, reported a 77 per cent rise in oil pipeline vandalism.

“Also, 106 pipeline breaches were recorded in June, up from 60 in May,” Weli said.

Also speaking, SPDC’s General Manager, Safety and Environment, Mrs Chidube Nnene-Anochie, said majority of spill incidents on SPDC pipelines were as a result of sabotage.

Nnene-Anochie, who was represented by SPDC’s Compliance Monitoring Leader, Temitope Ajibade said the company was worried by the continuous increase in cases of sabotage and theft.

“Oil spills due to theft and sabotage of facilities as well as illegal refining, cause the most environmental damage from oil and gas operations in the Niger Delta.

“SPDC removed more than 1,160 illegal theft points from its pipelines between 2012 and end of 2018.

“The attendant spills from the theft points are sometimes made worse by challenges of access to the incident sites to investigate and stop leaks.

“We track the progress of our spill response from when we learn about the leak to when clean-up is completed and certified by regulators,” she said.

Nnene-Anochie said that one of the key priority for Shell companies in Nigeria remained to achieve the goal of no spills from its operations.

“No spill is acceptable, we work hard to prevent them. However, SPDC cleans and remediates areas impacted by spills from its facilities irrespective of the cause,” she said. (NAN)

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