Sheriff Mulade, an environmentalist and a Niger Delta activist, has said that despite several federal government pronouncements against gas flaring in the volatile region, the issue still remains unattended to by the bodies and agencies responsible to bring the oil firms to order.
He told emeraldng.com in Warri, the oil city of Delta state that the people living in the areas prone to gas flaring are in pains but the federal government lacked the will-power to implement its pronouncements and compel the oil firms to obey its directives.
Mulade, who is chairman of Kokodiagbene community in Gbaramatu kingdom of the state, lamented the pains of his people, noting that the federal government remains unwilling to enforce its pronouncements and rescue the Niger Delta people from the jaws of oil explorers.
He said: “There have been several presidential pronouncements but gas flaring is still on, why? He who pays the piper dictates the tune. The multinationals are the drivers of the Nigerian economy. So, they dictate the pace for our government. They dictate the economy, our political vision and future for our government.”
Mulade, who has championed series of talks for the good of the region, said Nigeria has some of the best environmental laws but the country lacked the willpower to enforce its legislative and executive pronouncements.
He attributed the challenge to corruption insisting that for the fact that some cabals are allegedly benefiting to the detriment of the poor creek dwellers in the region, the problem might remain a perennial challenge in the volatile but rich region.
According to him: “A nation that is ‘fantastically’ corrupt will find it difficult coming out of an issue as this. You can see all the stories in the presidency of 25billion dollar oil and gas scandal. And this is the government that is fighting corruption but corruption resides in Aso Rock.
“How do you expect gas flaring to come to an end? And unfortunately, gas flaring is taking place only in a particular part of the country. Assuming gas flaring is in the North, I want to believe they would have seen the negative impact of gas faring and definitely use a very good instrument to end the disaster.”
Emeraldng.com reports that while gas flaring has officially been declared unlawful in Nigeria since 1984, the Nigeria government has continually allowed gas flaring to go unhindered while the oil firms pay fines for flaring gas.
Although oil firms say they are working to reduce gas flaring, reports indicate that gas flaring has increased and continue to increase in Nigeria.
Reports reveal that gas flaring in the Niger Delta will take more years to end than anticipated by the average Nigerian. This is so because, besides the unwillingness of the oil firms to stop gas flaring, the fines being collected from them by the federal government against implementing the law banning gas flaring is an added boost to the continuity of gas flaring.
Government’s inability to enforce the law banning gas flaring, in the view of many, is attributed to weak institutions of government and Nigeria’s dependence on oil revenues, a development which has given oil firms the strength to continue in the pollution and destruction of the environment with impunity.
Reports also show that there are about 100 gas flare sites in the Niger Delta, some of which have been in existence since the early 1950s without any political will to bring them to a halt.
Economic experts have condemned the Nigerian government for being only interested in maximizing the monetary profits from oil production at the detriment of the people living in the area where the oil is produced and gas flared.
Oil companies, it is believed, find it more economically convenient to flare the natural gas and pay the inconsequential fine than to re-inject the gas back into the oil wells or convert to electricity for the people in the area.
Various legislative measures to curb gas flaring in Nigeria have been in place since 1969. Since 1984 it has been illegal to flare gas in Nigeria without the written permission of the Minister of Petroleum Resources. The current penalties for gas flaring in Nigeria officially stand at $3.50 per 1000 standard cubic feet.
This is why oil and gas bearing communities in the Niger Delta are not happy with oil firms operating in the volatile region. The communities have expressed displeasure over the manner in which the firms flare gas and abandon the people to their fate.
They are also more displeased with the manner in which the federal government and the Department of Petroleum Resources collect fines from oil firms involved in gas flaring.
They have argued that the federal government which enacted the law against gas flaring and criminalizes the act has failed to sum up the political will to implement the law, but rather goes behind to collect fines from oil firms and allow gas flaring to go unhindered and the community dwellers bear the brunt of the action of government.