30 April 2012

Nigeria: Make Gas Flaring History, Stakeholders Tell FG

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has called on the Federal Government to demonstrate genuine commitment to making gas flaring in the Niger Delta history by shutting down platforms in the region that still flare gas.

The NGO's demand is sequel to Shell's revelation in its Sustainability Report for 2011 that it emitted as much as 6.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the Nigerian environment during oil and gas operations, and that while it made progress in reducing flaring globally in the year under review, 80 per cent of continuous flaring took place in Nigeria.

In the report, Shell blamed the security situation in the Niger Delta and lack of government funding for the slow construction of gas gathering infrastructure.

But in a statement issued in Lagos, ERA/FoEN described the report as "a compilation of half-truths" which shows gross violation of the environmental and community rights on one hand, and yet, carefully crafted words by the company's officials to absolve it from liability.

"This is outrageous. Shell has, by its own admission of increased flares in the Niger Delta indicated it is taking the community people who carry the burden of its operations on a roller-coaster ride, spiced with sloganeering on mammoth sums deployed to ending gas flaring through so-called gas gathering infrastructure," said ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Nnimmo Bassey.

"Shell's admission that its overall energy efficiency for the production of oil and gas in the upstream business worsened in 2011 confirms fears that oil companies are the major drivers of global warming.

"It is alarming that the company is yet to apologise for the massive environmental rights abuses occasioned by its activities in the Niger Delta. It is time the company admits that its own negligence is responsible for the loss of ecosystems, lives and livelihoods in the Niger Delta," he added.

Bassey countered a section of the report in which Shell claimed more gas-gathering equipment and more controls were applied to sites with higher levels of gas associated with oil production.

He insisted that the increased flares was a clear indicator that the company has only been engaging in image whitewash on gas gathering infrastructure while pretty little was actually on ground.

"We are demanding as a right that the platforms and flow-stations flaring gas be sealed off and an environmental audit be carried out to ascertain the overall hazardous impacts of oil industry operations have had on humans, plants, animals and the entire Niger Delta environment", he said.

Bassey expressed regret that the Nigerian government continues to ignore the cries of the people of the Niger Delta that it enforces the deadline on gas flaring which was set for January 1, 1984.

He stressed that government must adequately penalise firms that flare in contravention of a subsisting court order by Justice V.C Nwokorie of the Benin Federal High Court which, on November 14, 2005 which declared gas flaring illegal.

"Government must be transparent and honour agreements legitimately entered into with other parties in the sector. Leaking pipes must be replaced. Gas flaring must stop. We refuse to accept Shell's penchant for blaming local community people for its leaking and ill-maintained facilities.

"It must take responsibility for the massive pollution in its downstream and upstream operations. It is the responsibility of the Nigerian government to make it own up, pay up, and remediate our environment. The 2011 Sustainability Report vindicates our position that oil operations in Nigeria are patently unsustainable", he maintained.

Bassey pointed out that the failure of the government and its stealthy collusion with the oil industry is also reflected in the fuel subsidy regime as evidenced by findings of the House of Representatives Ad Hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy Management.

The committee established that the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) are riddled with corruption and gross abuse of the Petroleum Subsidy Fund (PSF).

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