NGO scores govt low over gas flare deadline in N’Delta.

By Isaac Job, Uyo

A Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) under the aegis of “We the people’s” has blamed the federal government and governors in the Niger Delta region as well as their counterparts in the 36 states of Nigeria for looking the other way while Oil Companies operating in the Niger Delta continue to flare gas not minding Health and environmental problems it poses to the Oil producing communities.

The Executive Director of the Organization, Mr Ken Henshaw while interacting with newsmen in Eket local government area last Saturday, during a Community Environmental Monitoring training organised by Home of Mother Earth (Foundation (HOMEF) for Ibeno and Joinkrama Communities in Akwa Ibom and Rivers States respectively said government at all levels have neglected their responsibilities.

He regretted that each time the deadline to end gas flaring in Nigeria approaches the Oil companies involved especially Shell and ExxonMobil would blackmail the Nigerian government that they would stop production and the deadline would be postponed to another date.

“The Oil Companies keep blackmailing the Nigerian government because they know that Nigeria cannot survive without Oil money. What all the 36 governors know is to go to Abuja to collect money. So they will blackmail the Nigerian government, and the government will shift the Gas flare deadline.

“They have moved the Gas flare deadline 8 times in Nigeria. In fact, the last one that was moved was when former Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachukwu, came on Air, and announced everywhere, at conferences that Gas flaring in Nigeria will be brought to an end in the year 2020.

“Everybody celebrated, including me. We started reminding him about the date. But just in December 2020 they sacked Ibe Kachukwu and then the Minister of Environment came out and said that there is now a new framework that will stop gas Flaring in 2030 and that Nigeria is joining that one, no more the 2020 framework.

“So we changed our target to 2030. But as 2030 is drawing close, two years have gone already by last year. They realized that only 8 years is left so they now went to Climate change conference and made a new commitment.

” In fact Nigeria is now working on what is called ‘Net Zero emission, it is a climate change commitment that all Hydrocarbon pollution, including Gas flaring, would end in the year 2050″

Henshaw expressed concern that the people of the oil-producing communities in the Niger Delta region would continue to suffer the negative effects of gas flaring for over two more decades, whereas flaring of gas had been declared illegal in Nigeria since 1979.

He however advised the people of the region not to celebrate the Petroleum Industry Act as it doesn’t favour them, frowning at some of its provisions including one act of sabotage, pipeline vandalism or civil disobedience drafted such that a situation would arise where the communities would have to pay the Oil companies money as compensation.

He however regretted that “Some people were being paid billions of naira to protect Oil facilities. When there is Oil theft they don’t hold those people to account. But when there is an Oil spill they want to hold the Communities to Account”.

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“Nobody from the Niger Delta should celebrate the PIA. You can see that the PIA has been drafted in such a way that what it gives you with the right hand, it takes with the left hand and takes even more. Clearly, it is criminal Law.

” Also they will be the ones to carry out NEEDS Assessments for the impacted Communities Another worrisome thing is that what the PIA has actually done is to package the Oil Communities and handed them over to the Oil Companies as their property.

“So I am shocked at those clapping for the PIA because there is nothing to clap there, but there is a lot cry in the PIA. The PIA actually allows gas flaring to continue. This is something that is poisoning and killing our people, but the government said it can continue, as long as the oil companies pay fines for the gas they flare.

“And that fine is not going to be used for the benefit of the people suffering Heath issues, rather it is put into a fund that helps them to explore more gas in Frontier Basins mostly in Northern Nigeria. That is because the Federal government of Nigeria sees Niger Delta as a source of getting money.

” The reality is that they will always keep something in front of us to look forward to, and time is going. So part of the reason that the Health of Mother Earth Foundation and its partners have brought this meeting together is that time is up. Let’s wake up” he said.

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