Executive Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), Nnimmo Bassey, speaks to Seun Akioye on gas flaring in the Niger Delta.
As an environmentalist, what have been the most horrid effects of gas flaring that you have seen in your campaigns?
Gas flaring is a raw sore on the conscience of this nation. It is dehumanizing to communities and should be seen as a crime against nature as well. The impacts of gas flaring are many and severe. The lightest of the impacts that is glaring in the communities where these flames of hell roar is that the corrugated metal roofs in the communities corrode rapidly due to acid rain caused by the mixture of nitrous and sulfur oxides in the fumes with moisture in the atmosphere. This places economic pressures on the locals who have to contend with frequent roofs replacement or repairs.
Routine gas flaring is a big insult on our people. You just need to imagine living in a community with those toxic fires burning non-stop for decades, roaring noisily, banishing the night and yet the community stays without electricity.
Why is it difficult for the government to implement the laws on reduction of gas flares by the multinational oil companies?
The Associated Gas Reinjection Act of 1979 is not about reducing routine gas flaring, but about stopping the act. Right from 1984 when the Act came into force, those who engage in routine gas flaring have been committing crimes. In fact, every gas flare site is a crime scene. That Act has not been repealed. It is still in force.
The law requires that associated gas should be re-injected or harnessed for utilization. Where associated gas is to be flared, the oil company is required to obtain a permit from the responsible minister and to pay a fine for the objectionable act. But most importantly, the permit or fine come only after the company has presented an acceptable plan to stop the flaring at the specific sites. The Act never anticipated reckless and open ended flouting of its requirements as is currently the case.
The situation now is that the oil companies are simply running amok, completely unrestrained. Notice that in the past the government used to set deadlines for stoppage of gas flaring. That is no longer the case today. The convenient cover under which the companies persist in this atrocious act is that they are making plans to use the gas in power plants. The truth is that this is largely a cover. A high ratio of gas used in power plants in the country are from natural gas fields and are not gas associated with crude oil extraction.
The government has been unable to face this situation squarely because we are running a mono-product economy the government is tied to the apron strings of the oil companies. The government is so unconcerned about this obnoxious act that it provides the oil companies sufficient reason to ignore the crime also. We say this because the companies have been complaining that the government is not stepping up to the plate as a joint venture partner and keeps reneging on making necessary counterpart funds available. This is scandalous. It speaks very poorly of the government and of the nation. It sentences our people to avoidable harm.
Do you believe Nigeria can make any appreciable impact in tackling this issue especially with the non passage of the PIB?
The PIB does not offer any solution to the problem of gas flaring. It is the same old story. It will allow the scam to persist at the pleasure of whoever is the responsible minister. That is the sad truth. The Gas Flaring bill passed by the previous Senate had more teeth than the provisions of the pending PIB. In fact, the Gas Reinjection Act of 1979 was more serious about stopping gals faring than the PIB as it stands now. The PIB only says that a date for stoppage of flaring will be as agreed by the “minister” after the PIB comes into effect. Nothing could be more lax. The oil companies must be laughing at us.
Read the original article on The Nation