The attention of Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Environment has been drawn to the imminent danger and insecurity posed by petrol stations located within residential areas in the State and which are capable of causing explosion or fire outbreak and untold loss of lives and property in the State. This fear was expressed by the Chairman of the State House of Assembly Committee on Environment, Mr. David Lawrence Udofa during the review of the pre-2017 budget briefing of the committee members by the State Commissioner for Environment, Dr. Iniobong Essien recently held in the committee room of the State House of Assembly complex.
The Chairman of the Committee, Mr. David Lawrence Udofa who is the Member representing Eket State Constituency in Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly was flanked by some members of the committee during the briefing. The Committee Chairman informed the Commissioner who was accompanied by his Permanent Secretary, Mr. Eshiet Ikpe and other departmental heads in the ministry that available information has revealed that some of the petrol stations located within residential areas in the state are operating in their hideouts without approved licenses from the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR). The Committee Chairman therefore urged the Ministry of Environment to take the bull by the horn and ensure effective monitoring and check mechanism, in order to control such petrol stations and their attendant hazards for the safety of lives and property.
The Committee Chairman specifically asked the Ministry to check and ensure that all petrol stations operating in the State obtain licenses from the Department of Petroleum Resources and to liaise with the Ministry of Lands and Town Planning to ensure that petrol stations are not located within residential areas, in order to curb the danger and insecurity to lives and property. The Committee Chairman also reminded the ministry to closely monitor and control the growing activities of illegal sand dredging in the State as many dubious sand miners have found Akwa Ibom State as a conducive ground for illegal sand dredging businesses having been expelled from the neighbouring States where sand mining has been prohibited. The Committee Chairman frowned that these sand dredgers who are mostly non-indigenes of the State or in partnership with indigenes are engaging in the business without payment of taxes and community development levies to the government and royalties to the host communities.
The Committee Chairman however expressed optimism that the problems associated with sand mining in the State will certainly come under control in no distant fire as Bill for the Regulation of Water Front Infrastructure Development in Akwa Ibom State is receiving attention in the State House of Also, the Chairman of the Environment Committee spotted the weak point of the State Ministry of Environment in the last year bordering on poor working relationship with his committee members and therefore asked the ministry to improve upon the poor relationship and work together with the committee members for collective bargaining and greater achievements. He explained that oversight function by members of the House of Assembly is not mainly for briefing purposes, but includes policy formulation, implementation and over sighting such policies.
Members of the Committee on Environment used the opportunity to appeal to the State House of Assembly to expedite action on the passage of the Bill on Signage, Haulage and Advertising in Akwa Ibom State for the benefit of the State.
Earlier in his speech, the State Commissioner for Environment, Dr. Iniobong Essien reviewed his Ministry’s budget in 2016 and subsequently briefed the committee members on the achievements and challenges in encountered by the ministry same year. We disclosed that the approved budget for the ministry in 2016 stood at N4.1b and therefore solicited the assistance of the committee members for an increase in the budgetary allocation of the ministry this year by the House Committee on Appropriation and Finance to enable the ministry discharge its functions successfully. The commissioner promised the Committee Chairman and his members of improved working relationship between his Ministry and the Committee in the current year and beyond.