By Harris Emanuel, Uyo
The Federal government has been urged to increase the penalties on a gas flare for associated gas derived from fields producing greater than 10,000 barrels per day of crude oil; and USD1.00 from fields producing less than 10,000 barrels per day to serve as a disincentive to the International Oil Companies flaring gas.
Besides, the government has also been advised to commit to a three-year gas flare out plan, which would remain sacrosanct, to free the Niger Delta region from the hazards of environmental pollution occasioned by gas flaring.
These were parts of the resolutions reached at the end of virtual training for journalists and civil society organizations, oil and gas operators, among others, on “impact of gas flare on oil-producing communities and discrepancies in gas flare data – a clarion call to action”, organized by African Initiative for Transparency and Responsible Leadership (AfriTAL).
Former President of PENGASSAN and DPG 1 of TUC and founder of AfriTAL, Louis Brown Ogbeifun, in his welcoming remark to the participants, noted that the only way Nigeria can reinvent herself after COVID 19, reduce the unemployment situation in the country and make her oil and gas industry attractive to investors, is not by borrowing, but by plugging all the hemorrhaging points in her economy.
‘’This would enable her to generate more funds to divest from oil and also properly develop the oil-producing communities. Nigeria’s projected workforce in the next 10 years is about 122 million, which is nearly as high as her current total population’’, he said.
Ogbeifun who doubles as the Convener, Save Nigeria Oil and Gas Industry Initiative warned that there is a hidden time bomb, waiting to explode in the near future except the present socio-economic downturn imposed by COVID 19 is reversed, to cater for the country’s rapidly expanding population and hinted that one way the nation can reinvent the wheels is through serious investments in gas-based industrialization projects.
In a paper presented by Engineer Solomon Adeleye, titled “Nigerian Gas Flare Commercialization Strategy”, he noted that Nigeria has over 600 trillion cubic feet (TCF) or 17 trillion cubic metres (TCM), which is made up of associated and non-associated gas.
He stated that instead of creating value in the gas chain, the nation flares most of her gas for several reasons, adding that ‘’unfortunately, the country has about 179 Flare sites with very disastrous negative impacts on our socio-economic growth, environmental and human impacts on the oil-producing communities of the Niger Delta and employment-generation opportunities.’’
He added, ‘’COVID 19 is beckoning on us to change the narratives so that our teeming youths can be employed, the Niger Delta can benefit from a clean environment, which they rightly deserve and at the end earn much-needed revenue for the country.’’
Participants noted that for Nigeria to reverse the fortunes of the oil and gas industry post-COVID 19 Era, the government should empower DPR to install its own independent automated metering systems to enable the government to properly assess the claims made by its operating partners with respect to volumes of gas flare and penalties owed.
Besides, the meeting advised the government to establish an independent protocol for auditing, measuring and reporting gas flares in the country, while the National Assembly and the agencies of government involved in over-sighting the oil gas industry, should ensure that volumes of gas flared, attract the appropriate penalties and payment made as at when due.
It noted that a percentage of the proceeds from the gas flare penalty, be ring-fenced to support the communities impacted by the flares even as it called on the National Assembly to hasten the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), which would create strong, autonomous, well-funded and well-staffed regulatory agencies for the industry; give legal teeth to the Host Community and Fiscal regimes that would incentivize domestication of gas.
While calling for urgent passage of the Host Community Bill, which would help restore confidence in the oil and gas producing communities, it also advised the government to incentivize local gas investors, to enable them to invest in domestic Gas Based Industrialization programmes, which have the potential to alleviate the current and future unemployment burden of the rapidly expanding population.
It equally urged the government to pursue the Nigeria Gas Flare Commercialization Program (NGFCP), which was initiated in Nigeria in 2016, as part of the Federal Government’s deliberate policy, to bring gas flaring in the Niger Delta to a logical conclusion.