The Nigerian Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) has criticised the country’s offshore companies for failing to implement health and safety measures to tackle the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic announced by the department in April.
According to government figures, Nigeria has reported 22,020 positive tests for Covid-19, the 50th-highest in the world, although just 542 people have died from the virus. This has given the country a death rate of just three per million people, a relatively low figure that has perhaps encouraged the country’s oil and gas sector to focus more on expanding operations and enhancing productivity than ensuring safe working conditions. Earlier this month, the country launched its first licensing round for marginal oilfields in 18 years.
In response, the DPR has been critical of the sector’s overall response to the crisis, although stopped short of naming individual companies for their supposed lack of efforts to curb the pandemic.
“We wish to commend your efforts in implementing stringent measures to contain the spread of Covid-19 in your immediate environment and areas of operations in line with government’s directives and circulars issued by the DPR,” said the DPR in the statement addressed to the country’s oil and gas companies. “In spite of these efforts, the industry has sadly recorded Covid-19 cases in some offshore and remote locations, many of which are linked to non-adherence to established protocols.
“It is worrisome to note that some personnel of government authorities do not subject themselves to the controlled isolation period which forms part of the protocol for the management of Covid-19 by operators prior to embarking to these locations.”
These periods of isolation and quarantine are a key aspect of the country’s Covid-19 response. The DPR has encouraged oil and gas companies to suspend all non-essential travel to and work at offshore facilities due to the risks of spreading the virus in such isolated and enclosed environments. Furthermore, offshore workers are now required to work for a minimum of 28 days before returning to shore, with shorter work rotas outright suspended, to limit the frequency of workers travelling to and from facilities.
The DPR’s latest advice follows earlier instructions to simply cut workforces in order to protect individuals , and it remains to be seen how effective the department’s latest round of policies are.