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Group Uncovers FG's New Plan On Gas Flaring

AKANIMO SAMPSON
BUREAU CHIEF, PORT HARCOURT

Group Uncovers FG's New Plan On Gas Flaring

FOREMOST environmental rights advocacy group, Environmental Rights Action (ERA) says they have uncovered a new plan by the Federal Government to stall the December 31, 2008 deadline for ending gas flaring in the Niger Delta area.

The planned introduction of a new flare-out formula christened Gas Oil Ratio (GOR) by the Federal Government, barely two days to the December 31, 2008 flare-out date, according t5o the group, ''is not only worrisome, but also indicative of government's capitulation to pressure from oil multinationals to shift the zero flare deadline indefinitely''.

In apparent reaction recent to comments by the Minister of State for Petroleum, Mr. Odein Ajumogobia at the International Organisation of Gas Exporting Countries (GECF) meeting in Moscow, Russia, that a new flare out formula was in the offing, the group said using a backdoor approach to side track the enforcement of the December 31 flare-out
deadline is unacceptable.

Ajumogobia, who was silent on the December 31 deadline announced by government earlier in the year, had also hinted that the new formula will not be rushed and "will be systematically implemented in order not to hurt government revenue from oil".

But ERA in an on-line statement to our correspondent yesterday, described the development as "disconcerting" warning that the remarks, coming from a spokesman of the government was tantamount to taking Niger Delta communities anxiously awaiting the zero flare date on a ride and condemning them to prolonged pollution, loss of livelihoods and deaths from noxious toxins from gas flaring.

"The talk of a not-to-be rushed new formula which the minister said will quicken the pace of stopping gas flaring just three days to the deadline is something to worry about because it was the same minister who last year in Saudi Arabia declared that zero flares is a "moving target when the initial deadline of 2007 loomed," said ERA Executive Director, Nnimmo Bassey.

Bassey pointed out that the most shocking aspect of the minister's remark is that, unlike the dummy of insecurity and lack of gas gathering infrastructure which government sold to the world previously, the new rhetoric is revenue loss from shutting flare sites.

"What does the minister mean by saying ending flares will hurt government revenue from the flare sites? Is government ignorant of a World Bank report which confirmed that currently Nigeria's annual losses to flaring amounts to $2.5 billion? Or is it unaware of the
health costs on the nation due to gas flaring-induced illnesses in the Niger Delta?

"We strongly believe the gas flare issue is a litmus test for the Yar'Adua administration because this double-speak from one of its own shows a lack of sincerity in ending the pollution in the Niger Delta Any further extension will be interpreted as a calculated attempt to further aggravate the already precarious environmental, health and economic problems being experienced in the region. The position of all well-meaning people all over the world is that the December 31, 2008 flare-out date remains sacrosanct," Bassey insisted.

However, a petition urging President Umaru Musa Yar' Adua to stick to the December 31 flare out has been endorsed by thousands of community people.

ENDS

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