More gas is flared in Nigeria than anywhere else in the world. Estimates are notoriously unreliable, but roughly 2.5 billion cubic feet of gas associated with crude oil is wasted in this way everyday. This is equivalent to 40% of all Africa’s natural gas consumption in 2001, while the annual financial loss to Nigeria is about US$ 2.5 billion. The flares have contributed more greenhouse gases than all of sub-Saharan Africa combined. And the flares contain a cocktail of toxins that affect the health and livelihoods of local communities, exposing Niger Delta residents to an increased risk of premature deaths, child respiratory illnesses, asthma and cancer. This is a monstrous and unnecessary state of affairs. Especially in a country where 66% of people reportedly live below the poverty line, and where the benefits of nearly half a century of oil production have gone almost exclusively to the multinationals and the corrupt local elite.
Routine flaring of associated gas began at the start of the industry in the Delta at the very end of British rule, with its patronising, complicit attitude and double standards. It has been carried to world record heights by Shell, ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco, Agip and TotalFinaElf in joint ventures with the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. This is quite astonishing, as flaring has been in general illegal since 1984 pursuant to section 3 of the Associated Gas Reinjection Act, 1979. This section only allows companies to flare if they have field(s)-specific, lawfully-issued ministerial certificates. Despite requests, none of these have ever been made public. Moreover, the toxic cocktail from flares violates the Delta residents’ rights guaranteed under Nigeria law, such as to live in dignity, and to enjoy health and a satisfactory environment.
Gas flaring continues despite the seeming general agreement that it should stop. Though President Olusegun Obasanjo and the major transnational oil companies appear to have agreed a non-binding commitment to a flare-out date of 2008, efforts to achieve the target have been, at best, tardy. With crude oil production having risen to 2.5 million barrels per day, and with the projected increase to 4 million barrels a day by 2010, it is difficult to see how most of the increased amounts of associated gas will not be flared.
We demand an immediate end to gas flaring, and an end to exploration and new oil field development until facilities are in place for the utilization of all associated gas.