It promises to be an interesting probe on how International Oil Companies (IOCs) were able to side-step government regulations and withheld $14 billion in fines for polluting the environment and endangering lives for eight years.
The non-Payment of the gas flaring penalties was brought to the attention of federal lawmakers in the House of Representatives by seven of their own: Ehiozuwa Johnson Agbonayinma, Uchechuku Nnam-Obi, Johnny Johnson E. Oghuma, Randolph O. Brown, Jerome Amadi Eke, Edward Pwajok, and Issa J.C. Ali.
According to the lawmakers on Thursday, gas flaring is harmful to the economy and the environment as the gas flared contains toxic substances which cause respiratory diseases and air pollution leading to depletion of the Ozone layer, and ultimately, having adverse effects on the weather and climate;
Furthermore, they added, statistics show that the quantity of gas flared in Nigeria exceeds over 40% of gas flared across Africa, which amounts to trillions of Naira that have been wasted over the years;
“The consequences of gas flaring include destruction of farmlands, damaging of crops, contamination of the air and acid rains which, apart from corroding corrugated aluminium roofs, acidify the soil in the areas where gas flaring takes place;
“…the Federal Government, in a bid to discourage gas flaring and encourage the redirection of gas flared from waste to wealth, and also to save the environment and the lives of the people living in the gas flared environment, imposed a penalty of $3.5 per 1000 SCF of gas flared by Oil Companies,” they disclosed.
Giving a hint of their source of information, they revealed that the Deputy Director and Head, Upstream of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), while speaking at a Conference in Houston, Texas, USA recently, said that the country has lost $14.298 billion between April 2008 and October 2016 in form of penalties for gas flaring which the International Oil Companies (IOCs) failed to pay.
In a similar vein, they disclosed, the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), in its latest Oil and Gas Audit Report, noted that Firms operating in the country failed to abide by the regulating penalty of $3.5 for every 1000 SCF of gas flared by oil companies;
They expressed concern that the Multi National Oil Companies which adhere strictly to internationally acceptable environmental best practices in their countries and other parts of the globe have refused to pay the agreed penalties on gas flared in Nigeria.
Specifically, the lawmakers wanted the relevant Government Agencies to undertake a damage and post impact assessment of the gas flared environment and direct the payment of compensation by the Oil Companies to the affected communities.
In addition, they called on the Lower House of the National Assembly to set up an Ad-hoc Committee to investigate the non-payment of the penalties by the companies and report back within eight (8) weeks for further legislative action.
It was not clear on Friday what position the National Assembly would take on the constitution of the probe panel, and when exactly it would begin operation.