Published On: Sun, Dec 24th, 2023

Ned Nwoko’s Anti-Gas Flaring Motion Call For General Applause

NED NWOKO

By Jerome-Mario Utomi

LAGOS DECEMBER 24TH (URHOBOTODAY)-There are clear thinkers, muddled thinkers and people that fall in between. Clear thinkers -are the ones that can cull everything down into the right points-are very hard to find. But if you get yourself a team of clear thinkers, the possibilities are endless. These are men who see tomorrow, trailblazers and high level executives, but most often misunderstood by some fellow countrymen still stuck in the old normal of yesterday.

Without any shadow of the doubt, Distinguished Senator, Prince Chinedu Munir Nwoko, popularly known as Ned Nwoko, a Nigerian lawyer, philanthropist, politician and Senator representing  Delta North Senatorial District in the Nigeria’s Upper Legislative Arm,  falls into the bracket of a clear thinker as outlined by Justin Merkins above.

This assertion is gleaned in his harvest of baskets of bills and motions in his seven (7) months sojourn so far in the nation’s Upper Legislative Arm, the Senate, popularly called the red chamber.  This is signposted in his scorecard of resourcefulness, ingenuity and vivid understanding of legislative procedures.

Some of these bills and motions coming from Senator Nwoko includes but not limited; Motion On Urgent Need for African Nations to Attain Veto Power at the United Nations Security Council, “A bill for an Act to alter the 1999 Constitution (as altered) to provide for Diaspora Voting and for related matters” holds several advantages, particularly in the area of inclusivity and representation for Nigerian citizens living abroad. Motion on urgent Need to Investigate the Brutal Murder of a Two-Year-Old Boy by Operatives of (NDLEA). Motion on the Need to Demand Reparations for Historical Injustices and Mitigation of Neo-colonialism in Nigeria, African Nations.

Others include; the motion titled “Need for the Establishment of Social Media Platform Offices in Nigeria for Economic Advancement and Efficient Dispute Resolution.  Motion on Urgent Need for African Nations to Attain Veto Power at the United Nations Security Council.  Motion on Investigating Crude Oil Theft in the Niger Delta. Motion on the Need for Redress, Healing and Reconciliation for the Grievous 1967 Asaba Massacre. Need to Demand Reparations for Historical Injustices and Mitigation of Neo-Colonialism in Nigeria, African Nations. Motion on the urgent need to stop gas flaring and enforces anti-gas flaring regulations in Ndokwa Land and the Niger Delta Region among others.

Beginning with the last which focused on urgent need to stop gas flaring and enforces anti-gas flaring regulations in Ndokwa Land and the Niger Delta Region among others, there exists several reasons that qualifies the motion as not only timely and a right step taken in the right direction, but carries several advantages essential for the well-being of the people and the environment.

The motion maintained that gas flaring contributes significantly to air and water pollution, which has detrimental effects on the environment, wildlife, and public health. He argued that by addressing this issue, the motion aims to protect the ecological balance and biodiversity in the affected regions, safeguarding the long-term environmental sustainability.

Of course, the Lawmaker’s argument is not only in order but should be perfectly appreciated by all Niger Deltans of goodwill.

The reason is not far-fetched.

Going by commentaries, what is currently happening as regards gas flaring in the Niger Delta region and Delta state in particular may no longer be the first half of a reoccurring circle, but, rather the beginning of something negatively new and different.

In fact, the aforementioned motion in my opinion will be more appreciated if one takes a tour by boat of creeks and coastal communities of Warri South West and Warri North Local Government Areas of Delta state. Such a trip 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 Ughelli down to Ogwuashi Ukwu in Aniocha Local Government of the state, shows an environment where people cannot properly breathe as it is littered by gas flaring.

The above account further highlights as true the argument by the Idumuje Ugboko born Senator that  gas flaring releases harmful pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter into the atmosphere, posing serious health risks to nearby communities.

Aside from seeking improved public health and reducing the prevalence of respiratory diseases and other health complications associated with exposure to flared gas emissions, also worthy of commendation is Prince Nwoko’s recognition that the negative impacts of gas flaring extends to the economic well-being of the affected communities- and his understanding  that  addressing this issue, will create the potential for sustainable economic development, promotes alternative uses for associated gas, such as power generation, which can create employment opportunities and support local livelihoods.

Tragically unique and a major reason why Nwoko’s motion should be applauded is the experts explanation that the major reason for 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 going on since the 1950s when crude oil was first discovered in commercial quantities in Nigeria.

Further posturing Senator Nwoko’s position on economic losses as a result of gas flaring as true is a recent newspaper report (Saturday December 23, 2023), which among other remarks noted that despite the continuous shortage of gas for electricity generation companies to power their turbines with, Nigeria is still losing massive revenue and generation potential to the persistent gas flaring by oil companies operating in the country.

The report observed that the country has continued to suffer losses from its gas, as companies operating in the country’s petroleum industry flared 241.1 million standard cubic feet, MSCF, of gas in the first 11 months (January – November) 2023, according to latest data from the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, NOSDRA.

NOSDRA put the value of the 241.1 MSCF flared in the said period of 2023 at $843.7 million, adding that going by the Central Bank of Nigeria’s, CBN current official exchange rate of N832.32/$, this translates to a loss of N702.2 billion potential revenue.

Away from inherent health and economic losses associated with gas flaring, the motion also mooted some alluring imperatives arising from compliance with regulations. Enforcing anti-gas flaring regulations, it noted, is crucial for upholding environmental laws and standards. By urging the enforcement of these regulations, the motion promotes adherence to legal frameworks designed to minimize the environmental impact of oil and gas operations, ensuring that companies operating in the region comply with environmental regulations and best practices.

Senator Ned said something else.

On community empowerment, he insisted that   the motion for cessation of gas flaring, which has been a source of contention and dissatisfaction among the residents of the Niger Delta region, will not only address the issue, but aims at giving voice to the affected communities and involve them in the decision-making processes that impact their environment and well-being.

While noting that Gas flaring contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, which exacerbate climate change, Nwaoko underlined that by taking steps to stop gas flaring, the motion aligns with global efforts to mitigate climate change by reducing carbon emissions, which is crucial for the long-term sustainability of the planet.

Whereas it will demonstrate Nigeria’s commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainable development, potentially improving the country’s international reputation and strengthening its position in global environmental initiatives and agreements, also working in favour of the motion is its willingness to encourage government agencies to be accountable for the oversight of oil and gas operations, while ensuring that environmental regulations are effectively implemented and enforced.

This accountability can lead to improved governance and regulatory oversight, enhancing transparency and responsibility in the management of natural resources. Nwoko concluded.

For me, issues raised by Senator Nwoko are not political but moral, environmental and economic concerns aimed at improving the life chances of Niger Deltans and therefore, should be given the needed support by all irrespective of party affiliations.

Utomi is the Programme Cordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos.  He could be reached via jeromeitomi@yahoo.com or 08032725374

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