The Coalition for Socio-Ecological Transformation of Nigeria (CoSET) has called on the federal government to pronounce the actual date gas flaring will come to an end on the back of numerous unfulfilled promises.
This formed the high point of demands the civil society organisation made to Environment Minister of State, Sharon Ikeazor, and Chairperson, House Committee on Environment, Johnson Oghuma, in Abuja on Thursday, March 19, 2020.
During the courtesy calls, CoSET, which comprises civil society, media and community groups and operates in collaboration with German Foundation, Fredrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), wants both these executive and legislative arms to help ensure the Presidency makes a pronouncement to that effect.
Nnimmo Bassey, who led the delegation, suggested that the Ministry of Environment should act as a driving force in ending gas flaring and not abdicate their duty to the Petroleum Ministry.
He urged the ministry to reproduce the kind of assertiveness that characterised its work during the Ogoni clean-up especially during the flag-off days.
He said that CoSET would work in synergy with the ministry of environment and be part of subsequent relevant national consultation or engagement in the group’s areas of focus.
While seeking a clarification of the difference between Nigeria’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) target and national target on ending gas flaring, Bassey told the minister: “We request your office to compel oil companies to make public their plans for ending gas flaring and managing associated gas. We also request the ministry carries out a health audit on the impact of gas flaring in affected communities.”
During the trip to the House of Representatives, the CoSET team requested access to the End Gas Flare Bill and demanded to know the deadline for submission of inputs to the bill, which is before the House.
“Honorable members, at this point, fines or penalties are no longer viable options, it is part of cost of production and shared in percentages between government and oil companies,” CoSET members declared, even as they demanded for more progress on the Petroleum Industry Bill.
They added: “We are from the communities and have worked there for years. This is an urgent existential threat to us and all Nigerians, and we cannot afford even a day more of gas flaring. Having followed your early strides in office we believe that you possess the needed will to protect our environment and we hope you will prove us right by ensuring that the government meets the 2020 deadline to end gas flaring.”
Mr Ulrich Thum, Resident Representative of the Abuja-based FES, said that the organisation is working closely with CoSET to work for the total wellbeing of peoples, communities and the natural environment.
Thum said that FES was also supporting the coalition for ecological transformation by identifying issues, especially on gas flaring and looking for possible solutions to them.
In her reaction, Ikeazor submitted that government would continue to work to curb gas flaring that damaged environments. She called on Nigerians to always conserve and protect the forest and ecosystem for safety.
According to her, the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) Act is being amended to give it more implementation power.
“We are amending the NOSDRA Act to make it more effective to give it more power to implement; though it seems to be somehow in competition with the Department of Petroleum Resource (DPR) but all that will end with the amendment.
“We have had the first stakeholders meeting engagement with everyone in that sector; we just ended a meeting at the National Assembly and we will continue to have such engagements until that amendment is done for NOSDRA to take its place in regulating the oil and gas sector,” she said.
She said that despite government’s remediation effort, illegal refineries are causing more damage in the Niger Delta.
She attributed the act to the Port Harcourt soot, adding that the laboratory test proved it and that the NOSDRA laboratory result also showed that the particles were from crude oil combustion.
She said the ministry was working closely with the Joint Task Force, the Navy and security forces to tackle the issue of illegal refineries.
She assured Nigerians that the government would continue to work to curb gas flaring that damaged environments and called on Nigerians to always conserve and protect the forest and ecosystem for safety.