Akwa Ibom - Mr Nnimmo Bassey, an Environmentalist and Chairman Friends of Earth Nigeria (FoEN), has decried the high rate of gas flares from the oil and gas fields in the country.
Bassey, who reacted to the monthly petroleum information for January 2012 published by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), said that the figures were alarming and portends danger for the environment.
The NNPC data for January 2012 obtained by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) showed that Mobil Petroleum flared 9.85 billion standard cubic feet (bscf) of gas into the atmosphere in the month under review.
The oil firm produced 38.64 bscf and utilised 28.77 bscf of its associated gas for fuelling its operation, re-injection, and sale to industrial users.
The FoEN boss told NAN on Friday that the activities of International Oil Companies (IOCs) in Nigeria were below the board.
He wondered why the operators, who have since outlawed and ended gas flare in their home countries for more 20 years ago could justify the practice in Nigeria.
The environmentalist urged the Federal Government to take drastic measures to get the oil majors to operate at par with international best practices in the oil and gas sector to safeguard the environment.
He said that once the government insisted in enforcing existing environmental legislation, which stipulates various degrees of sanction from fines to shutdown of facilities, the oil firms would readily comply.
``Gas flaring has been illegal since 1984 and a High Court declared that it is unconstitutional and against the human rights of the people of Nigeria.
``Stopping gas flaring is something that can be stopped immediately if government places more value on the lives of the people than on revenue and on securing profits for the oil companies.
``It does not require months of preparation. Where there is no infrastructure to convert the wasted gas into power or other usable forms, production of crude to which the gas is associated can simply be shut down.
``That would guarantee the stoppage of flaring at such locations,” Bassey said.
On reports that Mobil, Chevron and Shell came first, second and third respectively, he said that the statistics were a true reflection of activities in the oil sector.
``That is not surprising. These are the three major polluters of the Niger Delta. ExxonMobil has hidden its toxic activities offshore and off the radar of most Nigerians.
``The statistics are now showing clearly those engaged in this unconstitutional, unlawful waste and poisoning of our people and environment,” he said.