Economy

House orders committees to investigate loss of billions through gas flaring

The House of Representatives has expressed concern about the huge financial loss the nation is incurring as a result of gas flaring by oil companies operating in the Niger Delta and has directed its committees to investigate the loss and report back to the House.

The House said it was unfortunate that a few weeks to 2020 target to end gas flaring in the country, there is nothing concrete on ground to suggest that gas flaring will stop.

The House expressed concern about the huge financial loss to the nation, stressing that while the country was looking for money to fund its annual budget thereby resorting to borrowing; a lot of resources was being wasted through gas flaring, while oil companies in the Niger Delta have failed to implement extant laws.

The resolution was arrived at as a result of a motion sponsored by Hon. Ben Rolland Igbakpa (PDP, Delta) drawing the attention of the House to the hazard being faced by communities in the Niger Delta as a result of gas flaring as well as the huge financial loss to the nation.

He also drew the attention of the House to the fact that flaring of natural gas around the world contributes immensely to the scourge of climate change, with over 350 million tons of emissions each year.

He disclosed that as a result of the recent United Nations summit on climate change which held in New York was pursuant to a consistent global action plan to end gas flaring by 2030, Nigeria is now a signatory to the Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership (GGFR), setting for herself a 2020 deadline to end gas flaring.

He expressed concern that routine flaring of associated gas still goes on unabated in the Niger Delta area thereby posing severe environmental and health hazards to the people of the area.

According to him, pollution related to gas flaring has been linked to cancer of the lung and other neurological and reproductive illnesses in the Niger Delta, adding that gas flares are destroying crops and polluting the waters as well.

He said further that an estimated 2 million people live within 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) of a gas flares in the Delta region, adding that “during the rainy season, the rainwater is visibly black and in Port Harcourt and Warri for example, there were days of dark clouds hanging in the sky, so that noon may look like evening time.”

He said further that aside the environmental and health risks posed by flaring of associated gas, gas ‘flaring amounts to burning money and wasting of resources as the methane or the combusted type which is flared can be monetized as a revenue earner for Nigeria, as is now obtainable elsewhere.

He informed the House that small Gas to Liquid (GTL) units are now an attractive option globally for monetizing associated petroleum gas which would otherwise have been flared, adding that a World Bank report estimated that about 50 billion dollars’ worth of gas are being wasted to flaring annually.

He stressed that with the use of modern technology, associated gas can be used to generate electricity and solve the nation’s power problem which has attracted huge investments.

He expressed concern that since the year 2018 when President Muhammadu Buhari approved a legal framework called the Flare Gas (Prevention of Waste and Pollution) Regulations, 2018 aimed at reducing Green House Gas through gas flaring, nothing visible has been achieved in this direction.

He said in spite of the framework which provides the legal basis for the implementation of the Nigeria Gas Flare Commercialization Programme (NGFCP), which prohibits flare, or a vent of gas and imposes sanctions on defaulters, nothing concrete has been achieved to end gas flaring in Nigeria.

He said that the country stands to suffer more from the effects of climate change since the ozone layer is eroding fast due to incessant gas flare and appealed to the House to call on Multinational Oil Companies operating in the Niger Delta Region to stop forthwith continuous flaring of associated gas and rather install equipment for capturing the associated gas as it obtains elsewhere.

He also wants the House to direct the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and other Regulatory bodies saddled with the responsibilities of ending gas flaring in Nigeria to ensure strict compliance with the “Flare Gas (Prevention of Waste and Pollution) Regulations 2018 as well as implementation of the Nigeria Gas Flare Commercialization Programme (NGFCP).

The House mandated its Committees on Petroleum Resources (Up Stream and Down Stream), Gas, Climate Change and Environment to investigate the non-compliance with extant laws and ensure compliance.

Leading the debate, Hon. Igbakpa said available report suggests that in 2016 alone, the country lost about 770 million dollars to gas flaring, adding that communities living around the areas where gas is flared can longer sleep at night.

He argued that even though there is government policy to end gas flaring by 2020, there is nothing on ground to show any sign of seriousness, a few weeks to the 2020 target.

He said aside from the health implication, the nation was losing huge revenue daily from gas flaring while the nation is looking for money to fund its budget.

Hon. Ogun Sergius Oseasochie (PDP, Edo) said the matter should be taken beyond the level of motion as the nation has been discussing the issue of ending gas flaring for the past 25 years without any success.

He said the problem has to do with the fact that the government has not shown any commitment to ending the menace, adding that the government was benefiting from fines being paid by the oil companies.

He asked the House to summon the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, the Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation and the Director of the Department of Petroleum Resources to appear before the House to answer questions.

Hon. Ifon Patrick Nathan (PDP, Akwa Ibom) said Nigeria has lost about N9.16 trillion from gas flaring since the policy on gas flaring was put in place, pointing out that existing laws on gas flaring were not being implemented.

He said the House should call those charged with the responsibility to monitor gas flaring to come and answer questions.

Attempt to get the Minister of State, Petroleum, Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Director of the Department of Petroleum Resources to appear before the entire House failed as members argued that the various House Committees were capable of handling the matter.

The Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila who presided over the House said since the matter has been referred to the committees, they should be allowed to do their work and report back to the House.

He said the House rules do not allow any none member to enter the chamber, stressing to do so would mean the House first suspending its rules, adding that when such officials come before the house, only a few questions can be asked which may not provide enough opportunity for close scrutiny of the issue.

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