21 January 2008

Nigeria: Groups Petition National Assembly On 2008 Gas Flaring Deadline

Abuja — Civil Society leaders and community representatives have petitioned the National Assembly, asking for a legislation compelling oil companies and the government to end gas flaring in 2008. In a public memo, endorsed by 13 organisations, the groups said previous deadlines set for gas flare-out was disrespected because they were not legally binding.

Following pressure from big oil companies in Nigeria, the federal government late last year shifted its deadline for ending gas flaring from December 31, 2007 to December 31, 2008.

The groups described this new extension as "distressing", reasoning that promises by previous governments since the 1970s to halt gas flaring has been broken again and again. "Even the 2005 Federal High Court ruling declaring gas flaring illegal does not seem to count. Shell and the other oil giants have continued with this dangerous practice while government looks the other side, imposing a small fine which the companies prefer to pay. As it were, communities in the Niger Delta are the biggest losers in this disgraceful act", they said.

According to Isaac Osuoka, director of social action, "the 2008 flare-out date was yet another concession to oil companies operating in Nigeria. The Nigerian government and national assembly must confront the impudence of the oil companies by legislating on the 2008 deadline for gas flaring. We cannot continue to toy with the lives of our citizens or condone the wastage of our national energy assets".

The groups, comprising Social Action, Environmental Rights Action (ERA), Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), Benin River Forum, Niger Delta Women for Justice (NDWJ), Stakeholder Democracy Network, Institute for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, Federated Niger Delta Ijaw Communities, Centre for Human Rights, Environment and Development, Ogoni Solidarity Forum, Egi Forum, and the United Action for Democracy (UAD), demanded as follows:

The National Assembly should, as a matter of urgency, enact a legislation that compels all oil producing companies to end gas flaring in 2008 as called for by the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR). Previous flare-out dates have been violated by the oil companies despite the 2005 ruling by a federal high court which declared gas flaring as illegal and a gross violation of fundamental right to life;

The National Assembly should enact legislation that compels government and the oil companies to harness associated gas, which is presently flared, for power generation for the communities of the Niger Delta and to feed the national grid;

There needs to be a participatory audit of gas flaring to ascertain damage and effect compensation to community victims. The National Assembly should enact legislation to compel the Government to conduct this audit;

The National Assembly should compel all oil producing companies to stop crude oil production in any oil field where gas is still being flared as called for by the DPR. According to a November 2007 report by the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), more than 70 percent (177 out of 139) of the oil fields in Nigeria still flare gas;

The National Assembly should legislate to ensure that the fines announced by DPR for 2008 are imposed and that all revenues are dedicated to a 'Special Community Health Fund' which will help deal with the direct and indirect health impacts of flaring and oil operations.

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