By Ayobami Adedinni
BudgIT, a civic tech organisation, says Nigeria could lose as much as N9 trillion to gas flaring in the next 10 years if urgent control measures are not put in place by the federal government.
The organisation made the projection in its latest report titled “Gas flaring- A real and present danger” which it released recently.
According to the report, 14.33 percent of total gas produced in the country is flared, costing Nigeria N2.5 billion annually.
It projected that if flaring continues at that rate, Nigeria could lose N9 trillion, which is eighteen times the 2017 health capital budget.
The projected loss of N9 trillion the report said, could build 35,000 primary health care centres, generate power supply to the tune of 2.5 gigawatts and build road network of 100,000 kilometres capacity.
The report revealed that between 2001 and 2016, the volume of gas produced in the country increased by 91.13 percent while the volume of gas flared reduced by only 38.06 percent.
This according to the organisation, was a reflection of oil companies’ “aversion to invest sufficiently in technologies and infrastructure aimed at reducing routine gas flaring.”
BudgIT among other things, urged the federal government to strengthen penalty enforcement on companies that flare gas.
The report said if government uses a new penalty rate of $3.5 per 1,000 standard cubic feet (SCF) of gas at an exchange rate of N200 to a dollar, Nigeria could earn N2.86 trillion, going by 4.085 trillion SCF of gas flared between 2008 and 2016.
Pointing to the environmental implications of gas flaring on host communities, the report noted that gas flaring is a key driver of air pollution in oil-producing communities, with Nigeria accounting for 40 percent of all gas flared in africa.
Polaku community in Bayelsa state and Ogu community in Rivers state were used as case studies to show the “severe health crisis” suffered by residents from toxic chemicals released into ground water and the atmosphere during gas flaring.
Some of the health conditions outlined in the report include “deformities in children, lung damage, pneumonia, asthma, bronchitis, and blood disorders.”
Referring to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimation of 600,000 deaths in Africa resulting from air pollution, the report said gas flaring activities could wipe out a small oil producing community like Polaku, in one year.
In his recommendations, Oluseun Onigbinde, lead consultant, BudgIT, said: “BudgIT is calling on the federal government to muster the political will necessary to execute Nigeria’s gas master plan and to enforce regulations aimed at tangibly achieving Zero Routine Gas Flaring.
“Also, proceeds from gas flare penalties can be channeled towards funding health-related research in the Niger Delta region, to protect the residents and improve their living conditions.”