FG sets machinery in motion for nuclear energy
Written by Ebele Orakpo
|Friday, 15 August 2008|
The five-day training course for lawyers on Nuclear Safety and Radiological Protection, organised by the Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NNRA), in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Energy, Federal Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Vienna, Austria, comes to an end today .
The course which started on Monday, August 11, 2008, with an opening ceremony graced by the Attorney-General of the Federation, Chief Michael Kaase Aondoakaa, SAN, Minister of State for Energy (Petroleum), Mr. Odein Ajumogobia, SAN; Honorary Special Adviser on Legal Matters and General Counsel to President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Dr. Wale Babalakin; Special Adviser to President Yar’Adua on Petroleum Matters, Dr. Emmanuel Egbogah, and the chief host, Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola who was represented by the Solicitor-General in the Lagos State Ministry of Justice, Mr. Lawal Pedro, at the Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Ikeja, Lagos, was aimed to sensitise lawyers on the provisions of the Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection Act No. 19 of 1995.
According to the organisers, “Nigeria has over the past seven decades developed robust and rapidly growing peaceful nuclear applications mainly in the petroleum, health, manufacturing, mining, construction, agriculture, water resources, education and research sectors.
Today, Nigeria has made the political decision to generate electricity from nuclear power plants and has, therefore, committed itself to the international nuclear safeguards and nuclear safety regime.
“The implementation of the international standards and national regulations in the use of nuclear materials and radioactive sources requires the drafting, implementation and enforcement of legislation for nuclear safety and radiation protection for man and environment.”
The Director-General/CEO, Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Authority, Prof. S. B Elegba in his welcome address, noted that the potential use of nuclear energy for lethal purposes has engendered strict international regulations, hence the need to train lawyers as there is dearth of legal experts in that area.
Gov. Babatunde Fashola who declared the workshop open, in an address read on his behalf by Mr. Lawal Pedro noted that, as the commercial nerve centre of the country with 60 per cent of its manufacturing, telecommunications, aviation and petroleum products, Lagos State’s 18 million persons are exposed to the harmful effects of radiations from radioactive sources.
“For me, I believe that the only way that the care for people and the environment can be conclusively addressed is with enforceable legislation. I am very glad to identify with men and women of this noble profession who are going to be trained to take up the challenge to confront the silent killer in our society,” he said, noting that “as a lawyer myself, I believe very strongly that legislation should be a key component to the effectiveness of the NNRA, statutorily charged to protect all of us and the environment from harmful effects of ionizing radiation, radioactive and nuclear materials.”
The Attorney-General of the Federation, Chief Michael Aondoakaa in his address noted that this was the first national training course for lawyers in nuclear safety and radiological protection in Nigeria.
According to him, “ The demand for nuclear energy for peaceful purposes has become central to the development agenda of most developing countries, including Nigeria. However, the potential use of nuclear energy for armament purposes with a resultant destructive effect of monumental proportions has led to its strict regulation around the world,” noting that it is imperative for Nigeria as a country aspiring to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes (electricity generation) to be well aware of the dos and dont’s that characterise its use.
Chief Aondoakaa commended Prof. Elegba on his purposeful leadership, dynamism, dedication to duty and patriotism, noting the mutually beneficial relationship that exists between the NNRA and the Federal Ministry of Justice.
He urged the participants to take full advantage of the unique opportunity offered by the training to prove themselves and justify the confidence reposed in them by the Federal Government, noting that the Federal Government has stopped the use of foreign lawyers in its reforms but that if Nigerian lawyers don’t rise to the occasion, the president may be forced to look up to foreign lawyers.
The Minister of State for Energy (Petroleum), Mr. Odein Ajumogobia, SAN, in his keynote address noted that the main challenge for the nuclear regulatory authority is ensuring the regulation of nuclear proliferation outside peaceful purposes. He said that prior to 2001, radioactive substances were imported into the country without regulations and as a result, there were no records of accidents and so no punishments were meted to offenders.
In his remarks, Dr. Babalakin stated that globalisation of legal practice is the biggest challenge of the law profession today, noting that the only lawyers who have the best interest of the country at heart are Nigerian lawyers.
He urged the participants to rise up to the occasion, saying that “if you have to partner with a foreign lawyer, it should be from a position of strength.” He advised the participants to gain as much knowledge as possible so as to be in a position to advise NNRA, adding that he will never be a party to mediocrity.
The training ends today with a visit by the participants to the Linear Accelerator facility at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) Radiotherapy Centre.