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Different tunes on gas flaring

By Babs Odukoya
21 December 2009   |   10:10 pm
IN a related editorial last week, we drew attention to some of the utterances of Mr. Odein Ajumogobia, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, in which he downplayed the horrific devastation of human, plant and animal life caused by gas flaring in the Niger Delta. We warned that what is at stake is how to avert a looming catastrophe that cannot possibly wait for the Minister's proposed long-term solutions.

But at the recently concluded Copenhagen world conference on climate change attended by a crowd of our globetrotting rulers, a totally different and conciliatory tone was sounded by the Nigerian delegation. Members of the delegation acknowledged that Nigeria had been delinquent on checking gas flaring but that the nation had turned a new leaf and would embark on a realistic and final commitment to end gas flaring as part of a collaborative effort to save the earth.


Mr. Ojo Maduekwe, Minister of Foreign Affairs, told his audience that Nigeria is ready to do something about climate change. In relation to the notorious gas flaring in the Niger Delta, he said that he was mandated by President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua to say that Nigeria will deliver on time concerning the issues of gas flaring. He observed that some sceptics might scoff at the latter-day zeal now being displayed by the federal government to end gas flaring but that things will be different this time. He therefore promised that there would be no more excuses as there is now the political will and the economic capacity to end gas flaring.

The Minister of Environment and leader of the delegation, John Odey, was of similar opinion. He added that Nigeria is making a major commitment on the vexed issue of gas flaring which has for quite some time been the subject of international criticism against the behaviour of successive Nigerian governments and that the country is prepared to exceed the recommendations of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.

Rilwanu Lukman, the Minister of Petroleum Resources, was quite blunt in his condemnation of gas flaring. He submitted that the world has a duty to ensure sustainable environment not only for our survival but that of our children and up-coming generations. He then went on to say that Nigeria sees the effort to cut down on gas flaring as a national obligation to check the health and economic hazards resulting from it. Nice, not so?

All these exhortations to political correctness must be music to the ears of the long-suffering people of the Niger Delta and to millions around the world who have continuously deplored the attitude of successive Nigerian governments who greedily grab the money from crude oil production without bothering about how to manage its by-product – the dangerous but useful associated gas that comes with it.

We hope that the ministers upon return to Nigeria will put into effect what they promised the world in Copenhagen. Not trying to be cynical, we must draw attention to the oft-noticed attitude of our leaders when they are abroad. They say the right things abroad only to do the wrong things at home.

There is an aspect of these glossy promises that we find worrying. How is it possible that within the space of one week the Minister of petroleum resources makes a statement on gas flaring that is diametrically opposed to that of his deputy? Just how is policy made in this government? There is a disconnect somewhere and this is not the first time that this sort of thing is happening.

May we suggest that on major policy issues like gas flaring there ought to be a reasoned position that will be consistently canvassed at home and abroad in order to convey a sense of seriousness in the management of our national affairs. In the meantime, Nigerians are waiting anxiously to see an end to gas flaring in the Niger Delta.