By Abdulwahab Abdulah
Over the years, issue of gas flaring has been a thorn in smooth operations of oil and gas companies and host communities.
As the host communities complain unabatedly over the effect of gas flared in their areas, the oil companies always find fault either in the legislation guiding their operations or adducing their problems to harsh economic conditions they operate.
However, with much pressure, the government and stakeholders recently came up with legislations aimed at making the business of gas production a seamless one with little or no damage to all stakeholders including the host communities. Lawyers and experts in oil and gas industry converged to evaluate the impact of the legislation on human rights of the people and the stakeholders.
A South-south monarch and lawyer, Serene Dokubo Spiff said that the situation in the oil producing communities, where gas is flared “is so bad that white cattle egrets have turned grey from blackened sooth, and there is no difference between night and day.
“The activity of gas flaring, which the oil majors unconvincingly tell us is an inevitable complement of crude oil extraction process, inflicts on host communities, unimaginable pain and panic with cataclysmic consequences. This avoidable, ignoble activity, wreaks havoc on the entire ecosystem of the region. To experience it in actuality first hand is to hobnob with death itself,” he said.
Speaking on the sub-theme: Gas flaring: Oil Producing Communities, Spiff said flaring has resulted in increased death rate, polluted water bodies, destroyed personal property, acidic rain water, toxic air, polluted and unproductive farmlands, eroded mangrove forests, non-existent fish habitat, reduced crop yield, among others.
“Gas flaring hampers sustainable development in host communities environmentally, economically and socially,” he said.
To him, the polluters should pay penalties to the host communities who are affected, not to the government.
“Regulation 13 of the Flare Gas (Prevention of Waste and Pollution) Regulation 2018, places a $2 per 28.317 standard cubic meters of gas flared within an OML area.
“However, this payment goes to the government, rather than to the host communities who bear the direct impact of flared gas. It is contended that the penalty be paid to the people who inhale the toxic air. Fair is fair!,” he said.
On the way out, he said it must be ensured that the 2018 regulations are adhered to, adding that the private sector has to play its part to aid the smooth implementation of the regulations.
Discussing the Regulations from a lawyer’s perspective, an energy law expert, Mrs. Yemisi Awonuga, said the 2018 Regulations have created a whole new framework for the governance of gas flaring, geared toward gas utilisation and commercialisation, in accordance with 2017 National Gas Policy.
According to Awonuga, said with new and higher penalties and the robust recording and reporting requirements, the Federal Government is clearly moving away from the previous regime that incentivized gas flaring and toward a system that increases gas utilisation while maximising its interest in generating revenue.
“The provisions of the 2018 Regulations, if properly implemented, will reverse the classic irony! ‘A Gas province without usable gas!,” she said.
Network in Oil and Gas Lawyers chairman, Mr. George Etomi said nothing tangible could be achieved except there is political will to tackle the problem of gas flaring. This he said will begin with beginning with the passage into law of the Petroleum Industry Bill.
“The PIB was conceived and negotiated for over an 18-year period. It’s very instructive that successive governments have not given the right priority to the innovations that this change in law in the petroleum industry will bring to Nigeria. The benefits far outweigh what is going on today. And let’s be honest about it: corruption is at the root of it.”