By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi
Many Nigerians with critical interest had hitherto believed that the advent of Nigeria’s Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) 2021, which was signed into law in the year mentioned above, and arguably the most audacious attempt to overhaul the petroleum sector in Nigeria, would solve the real and imagined challenges in the nation’s petroleum sector, and turn the Niger Delta region, particularly host communities, to a zone of peace in their relationship with crude oil prospecting and exploration companies.
However, facts have since emerged that instead of providing the legal, governance, regulatory and fiscal framework for the Nigerian petroleum industry and the host communities, the Petroleum Industry Act has, contrary to expectations, become a first line of conflict between crude oil prospecting, exploration companies and their host communities.
Like other Acts that guided crude oil production in the past, PIA has similarly become a toothless bulldog that neither bites nor barks. In fact, analysts and industry watchers have come to a sudden realization that nothing has changed.
Among many examples, the recent 14 days ultimatum/threat by an oil-rich community of Tsekelewu (Polobubo) in Warri North Local Government Area of Delta State to shut down ongoing exploration activities of Conoil Producing Limited if the company failed to reach a definite agreement with the community on the implementation of Chapter 3 of the PIA for the Tsekelewu bloc of communities, supports this assertion.
Entitled ‘Fourteen (14) Days Ultimatum to Implement Chapter 3 of 2021 Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) in Tsekelewu (Polobubo) Host Community and Bloc of Communities by Conoil Producing Limited at OML 103’, the petition/ultimatum, dated December 30, 2022, signed by the President-General of the Tsekelewu (Polobubo) Development Association, Dr Bright Abulu, and the spokesman of the association, Mr Christmas Ukagha, and addressed to the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Conoil Producing Limited, among other things, lamented that they adopted the option due to seemingly snobbish attitude of the management of Conoil as the company’s management had refused to honour letters asking for a meeting with the TCDA on the issue of the PIA implementation.
Essentially, while the people of Tsekelewu (Polobubo) host community continue to wait for what becomes the outcome of their ultimatum, there is indeed, greater evidence that points to the fact that the underlying premise behind PIA enactment has been defeated.
There is equally a reason for concern that what is currently happening between oil companies and their host communities may no longer be the first half of a reoccurring circle but, rather, the beginning of something negatively new and different.
A tour by boat of creeks and coastal communities of Warri South West and Warri North Local Government Areas of Delta State will amply reveal that the much-anticipated end in sight of gas flaring is actually not in sight.
In the same manner, a journey by road from Warri via Eku-Abraka to Agbor and another road trip from Warri through Ughelle down to Ogwuashi Ukwu in Anoicha Local Government of the state shows an environment where people cannot properly breathe as it is littered by gas flaring points.
To a large extent, the above confirms as true the recently published report, which, among other concerns, noted that Nigeria has about 139 gas flare locations spread across the Niger Delta both in onshore and offshore oil fields where gas which constitutes about 11 per cent of the total gas produced are flared.
Apart from the health implication of flared gases on humanity, their adverse impact on the nation’s economy is equally weighty.
For instance, a parallel report published a while ago underlined that about 888 million standard cubic feet of gas were flared daily in 2017. The flared gas, it added, was sufficient to light up Africa, or sub-Saharan Africa, generate 2.5 gigawatts (GW) of power or produce 50 million barrels of oil equivalent (boe) or produce 600,000 metric tonnes of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) per year, produce 22 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2), feed two-three liquefied natural gas (LNG) trains, generate 300,000 jobs, able to attract $3.5 billion investment into Nigeria and has $350 million carbon credit value’. This is an illustrative pointer as to why the nation economically gropes and stumbles.
Looking at the enormity of the health and economic losses inherent in gas flaring, one may be tempted to ask what set the stage for gas flaring in Nigeria. The politics that keep it going, and why it ‘flourishes unabated?
Banking on what experts are saying, the major reason for the flaring of gases is that when crude oil is extracted from onshore and offshore oil wells, it brings with it raw natural gas to the surface and where natural gas transportation, pipelines, and infrastructure are lacking like in the case of Nigeria, this gas is instead burned off or flared as a waste product as this is the cheapest option. This has been on since the 1950s when crude oil was first discovered in commercial quantity in Nigeria.
While Nigeria and Nigerians persist in encountering gas flaring in the country, even so, has successive administrations in the country made both feeble and deformed attempts to get it arrested.
The facts are there and speak for it.
In 2016, President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration enacted Gas Flare prohibition and punishment), an act that, among other things, made provisions to prohibit gas flaring in any oil and gas production operation, blocks, fields, onshore or offshore, and gas facility treatment plants in Nigeria.
On Monday 2nd.September 2018, Dr Ibe Kachikwu, Minister of State for Petroleum (as he then was), while speaking at the Buyers’ Forum/stakeholders’ Engagement organized by the Gas Aggregation Company of Nigeria in Abuja, among other things, remarked thus, ‘I have said to the Department of Petroleum Resources, beginning from next year (2019 emphasis added), we are going to get quite frantic about this (ending gas flaring in Nigeria) and companies that cannot meet with extended periods –the issue is not how much you can pay in terms of fines for gas flaring, the issue is that you would not produce. We need to begin to look at the foreclosing of licenses’.
That threat has since ended in the frames as the Minister did little or nothing to get the threat actualized.
The administration also launched the now abandoned National Gas Flare Commercialization Programme (NGFCP, a programme, according to the federal government, aimed at achieving the flares-out agenda/zero routine gas flaring in Nigeria by 2020.
Again, like a regular trademark, it failed.
Away from Buhari’s administration, in 1979, the then federal government, in a similar style, came up with the Associated Gas Re-injection Act, which summarily prohibited gas flaring and also fixed the flare-out deadline for January 1, 1984. It failed in line with the leadership philosophy in the country.
Similar feeble and deformed attempts were made in 2003, 2006, and 2008.
In the same style and span, precisely on July 2, 2009, the Nigerian Senate passed a Gas Flaring (Prohibition and Punishment) Bill 2009 (SB 126) into Law, fixing the flare-out deadline for December 31, 2010- a date that slowly but inevitably failed.
Not stopping at this point, the FG made another attempt in this direction by coming up with the Petroleum Industry Bill, which fixed the flare-out deadline for 2012. The same Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) got protracted till 2021, when it completed its gestation and was subsequently signed into law by President Buhari as PIA.
Despite this vicious movement to save the industry, the environment and its people, the Niger Delta challenge remains.
So, the question that is as important as the piece itself is; if this legion of laws/Acts cannot save the people of the region, who will? When will it complete its gestation period and deliver the targeted result to the people of the Niger Delta region?
While the answer(s) to the above question remains germane, this piece holds the opinion that to permanently resolve the Niger Delta question, the people of the region must be directly involved in the management of their resources. Call it resource control; you may not be far from the truth!
Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Policy) at Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org/08032725374
Supreme Court Affirms Ahmad Lawan as APC Yobe North Senatorial Candidate
By Dipo Olowookere
The president of the senate, Mr Ahmad Lawan, has been affirmed as the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) for the Yobe North Senatorial District.
At a ruling delivered on Monday, February 6, 2023, the Supreme Court nullified the candidacy of Mr Bashir Machina.
Mr Machina and Mr Lawan had been at loggerhead over the party’s ticket for the slot.
The Senate President had contested the APC presidential primary along with the eventual winner of the exercise, Mr Bola Tinubu, and was said to have pushed forward Mr Machina as a placeholder.
However, after he lost in his bid to become the presidential candidate of the party, he turned to Mr Machina, who refused to back down, stressing that it was his turn to represent the senatorial district at the National Assembly and that the Senate President never participated in the party’s primary.
The number three citizen of the country had earlier accepted his fate, but his party took the matter up until today’s judgement, which has restored his hopes of remaining in the upper chamber of the parliament.
Justice Centus Nweze, in the lead judgement, faulted the approach of Mr Machina in commencing the suit at the Federal High Court Damaturu division by way of originating summons and without oral evidence to prove allegations of fraud.
Boss Mustapha Not Working Against Tinubu—APC Group
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
A support group of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) known as the APC Mandate Defenders (AMD) has denied claims that the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, was working against the presidential candidate of the party, Mr Bola Tinubu.
In a statement signed by the National Publicity Secretary of APC Mandate Defenders, Mr Ifeanyi Emeka, the organisation said Mr Mustapha supports the candidacy of the former Governor of Lagos.
He stated that the allegations made against the SGF by another support group of the ruling party, Concerned APC Stakeholders (CAS), were false, describing Mr Mustapha as a well-respected party leader who has great respect and close relationship with Mr Tinubu right from when he was the Deputy National Chairman of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) for Northern Region and would not engage in any real or imaginary plot to sabotage the electoral chances of the APC and its candidate.
According to him, the SGF is preoccupied with the task of meeting the demands of the transitional period, which mostly rests on his office as a frontline secretariat for the presidency as the administration gradually winds down and does not have the time to work against Mr Tinubu.
AMD asked CAS to tell Nigerians how following due process in board appointments for federal government agencies amounts to sabotaging the electoral chances of the party and its candidate in the forthcoming presidential election.
Recall that the SGF had advised Nigerians to be wary of scammers who use his name and office to dupe people while promising them non-existing government appointments.
“Therefore, we urge Nigerians and party members across the federation to ignore the allegation against Boss Mustapha as he cannot be forced into providing appointments to people by threats of blackmails as such responsibility rests squarely on the desk of Mr President and Commander-in-Chief.
“Associating such frustration with the campaigns of the presidential candidate of our great party, Senator Bola Tinubu, by CAS is a diversionary tactic against the overall interest of our party and Nigeria as a nation,” a part of the statement said.
Violent Protest Erupts in Ibadan Over Naira Scarcity
By Aduragbemi Omiyale
There are reports of a violent protest in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, over the scarcity of old and new Naira notes, Business Post has gathered.
It was learned that residents of the ancient city are venting their anger over the hardship caused by the policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the federal government.
The central bank redesigned the N200, N500, and N1,000 notes and asked citizens to return their old banknotes because they would cease to be legal tender.
However, since the introduction of the new currency notes in circulation on December 15, 2022, many Nigerians have not been able to withdraw their money from banks, fuelling anger in the land.
On Friday afternoon, some residents of Ibadan, especially in Iwo Road, took to the streets to express their frustration at the development, which is coming at a time consumers have to queue for petrol.
They had bonfires on the road and disrupted business activities in some areas of the city.
Recall that today, the Governor of Oyo State, Mr Seyi Makinde, announced the suspension of his campaign activities over the scarcity of Naira and fuel.
Also on Friday, the Governors of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) met with President Muhammadu Buhari to appeal to him to change his mind on the Naira swap policy because of the effect on the people and the 2023 general elections starting later this month.
The President had earlier been asked not to show up in Kano State because of fears of a violent protest over the development. After the deadline was moved forward, the Governor of the state, Mr Abdullahi Ganduje, said he was safe to visit the ancient city.
However, during his visit to Kano, there were reports of a demonstration, with a chopped stoned by some residents of the state and convoys attacked by angry protesters.
The government claimed the protest was not directed at President Buhari, while the opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), said otherwise.
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