GAS FLARING PENALTY: The Right of Oil Producing Communities.
By Assam Abia.
Since 1979, the Federal Government has been collecting millions of Dollars annually from Oil Companies operating in the Niger Delta of Nigeria as penalty for flaring gas, without a kobo going to the Core Oil Producing Communities who bare the direct negative impact of gas flare.
What injustice can be worst on a people who have been condemned to high mortality rate and their aboriginal means of livelihood destroyed beyond repairs ?.
Why should the Federal Government of Nigeria, instead of putting stiffer measures to ending gas flaring in the country, take delight in charging penalties, to the detriment of the economy and local inhabitants of the oil producing areas ?.
It is on record that Rt Hon Nduese Essien, when he represented the people of Eket, Onna, Esit Eket and Ibeno local government areas of Akwa Ibom State in the House of Representatives from 1999 to 2007 battled with the forces of injustice on the issue but failed because he was a lone voice in the maddening crowd of scuppers in the National Assembly scampering for the national cake. Everybody was talking at the same time.
Senator Helen Esuene also drew the attention of the Federal Government to the pathetic negligence of the people of the Niger Delta against the injustice of collecting money meant for them into the national coffers without recourse to the law of conscience and humanity. She failed in her bid because there was no law in place, stifling the excesses of the Federal Government on the issue.
Those who make peaceful amend impossible, make violent resistant inevitable. Youths of the Niger Delta sometimes run mad and take refuge in the mangrove of the creeks not because they enjoy militancy but because when they go to Abuja and see the amount of money from crude oil buried in that city, while back home they wallow in abject poverty, they simply cry and try to avoid the mistakes of their parents who kept quiet while their roots were being uprooted.
Just recently, in October 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari caused to be gazetted the “Prevention of Waste and Pollution” Regulation 2018 which increased the penalty for flaring gas in the country to $2 (#612.00) per thousand standard cubic feet,from #10. Big money, considering the millions of Barrels of crude oil produced by Mobil and other Oil Companies daily.
The question is, how much of those billions collected as penalty is given to the oil producing communities ?. Nothing. Or are they not entitled to such “blood” money ?. Yes, blood money because our people are dying in droves on daily basis as a result of air polluted related diseases. Mortality rate is high.
What has the Niger Delta Region not done for this country ?. Nothing.
What has Nigeria done for the Niger Delta ?. Nothing but degradation of its environment for the benefit of all.
The Federal Government seems to be enjoying the “blood” and cheap money (penalty) to the outright stoppage of environmental pollution through gas flaring.
Time has come for the over 40 years of injustice against the core Oil Producing Communities to stop. The negative effects of gas flaring on the people of the Niger Delta can not be overemphasized. This awful scenario can not be tolerated in the Northern part of Nigeria by extremist.
To this end, the Federal Government must make a refund of all the monies, estimated at over #50 Trillion, collected as penalties for gas flaring, over the years, to the affected communities.
The 2023 dateline given by the Federal Government to Oil Companies to stop gas flaring and re-inject the flared gas into power and other economic value does not seem visible because the Oil and Gas Companies find it cheaper to pay penalties than the huge reinvestment of the wasted hydrocarbon for huge economic advantage to the country.
Now is the time to act before it becomes too late. That the Niger Delta has remained peaceful in the past three years is not as a result of intimidation or fear of the Federal Might. No. It is as a result of the legacies and memory of late President Musa Ya’adua and the respect accorded a few Patriarchs of the Region such as former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Victor Attah and Pa Edwin Clark.
Meanwhile, a window of consolation and last hope of negotiation has opened in the recently elected Federal law maker from Eket Federal Constituency, Hon Pat Ifon and his Etinan Federal Constituency colleague, Hon Onofiok Luke, together with other law makers from Akwa Ibom State, who have sworn to fight this glaring injustice to a standstill. It must not be allowed to continue.
The monies collected from foreign donors and the billions of Naira from the Federation account for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the Northern part of Nigeria has never been shared to other States of the Federation.
Why then should monies collected as penalties for a deliberate harm caused to a people by Oil Companies be termed as national revenue ?. Why ?.
Be that as it may, the sleeping dog is better let alone in his sleeping position while his master goes to the negotiating table to call for a redress of a better forgotten past. If he wakes up this time around with a rattled annoyance, the center may not hold for a long while as things may fall apart. God has always stood with those who fight for justice.
The Pen Oracle has never gotten it wrong. Never.