The Unspoken Dangers Of Gas Flaring In Nigeria

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By Patrick Akotonaiya

Experience, as it is often said, is the best teacher.” Hence, I would like to begin by sharing my childhood experience.

As a young boy growing up in the ancient town of Badagry, Lagos State , electricity was a luxury as only a few could afford generators and have their houses powered. My family lived in a public compound, and only a few of our neighbours could afford a generator, while my family could not. Aside from our inability to power our house, the experience of having to live in the same little compound with those who could was both ridiculous and unjust. The generator sets produced fumes, known as carbon monoxide, which makes the environment very uncomfortable and the air unbreathable and unhealthy for those who are exposed to them. The sets are also known for the loud grating sound they produce. But, each time my neighbours switched on their generator sets, they locked up their doors and windows. The electric fans or air conditioning in the house were on full blast and the shut doors and windows kept both noise and noxious gases out. Meanwhile, just a few feet ahead was my house. We had to keep our doors and windows open to have our apartment ventilated. Inadvertently, the fumes the generators released found space in our apartment. And due to the noise of the generators, we could not communicate without having to scream. But, I, or any other, dared not complain. Anyone who did this would be labeled ‘jealous and unhappy’. So, while they ‘enjoyed’ electricity, we suffered the dire consequences of the fossil fuels they burned. Each night, we struggled for a life-giving breath. Only God could tell how much it was beginning to tell on our life-spans as we suffered heavily from heavy breathing night after night. This is not an experience particular to me or my family; it was also the experience of others living in the same compound, in other compounds, and indeed the length and breadth of Nigeria.

Gas flaring has over the years been a significant challenge in Nigeria, especially in the oil and gas producing states. By definition, it is the burning of natural gas that is associated with crude oil when it is pumped up from the ground (Anselm O. Ajugwo, 2016). That being what it is, research indicates that Nigeria flares about 17.3 billion meter cube of natural gas per year. This is in conjunction with the exploration of crude oil in the Niger Delta. This high level of gas flaring is equal to approximately one quarter of the current power consumption of the African continent. This in the long run has been the bane of the Nigerian society as it has not only posed a threat to the existence of every living thing in the country but has also dealt a grievous blow to her growth especially with her inability to diversify the source of her economy. The latter goes a long way to tell how long the effects of gas flaring would stay with us. To say the least, they are far-reaching.

Having briefly highlighted the topmost among the effects of the gases released into our common home in my introduction, I would equally want to highlight its implications on life in general and on Nigeria in particular.

Gas flaring is a major contributor to climatic change, which has serious implications for both Nigeria and the rest of the world. The turning of fossil fuel, mainly coal, oil and gas, green house gases has led to the warming up of the world. This is a major factor for the short downpour of rain in Lagos State as the state last experienced heavy rainfall in May (2020).

Acid rains have been linked to the activities of gas flaring. Corrugated roofs in the Delta region have been corroded by the composition of the rain that falls as a result of flaring. That being the case, one can begin to imagine the fate of those who live in the Delta region with their skins bearing the brunt of the effect of acidic contents on their bodies.

The poisonous substances associated with gas flaring give rise to atmosphere contaminants. These include oxides of carbon, Nitrogen and Sulphur. Each of these in particular ways acidify the soil, deplete soil nutrients leading to stunted growth in plants. In most cases, chances of getting produce from the soil is on a scale of 1 as against 100. While many would want to resort to the use of irrigation farming method to support their plants, the waters are already contaminated owing to oil spills that have found their way into the ocean, leaving aquatic animals with no chances of survival. Life then becomes hard for the poor man (fishermen and farmers alike).

Economically, the Nigerian government continues to lose revenues as a result of oil spillage and incessant flaring of gases. Statistics has it that about 800 standard cubic feet of gas is flared every day from approximately 144 gas flare points across the country. Meanwhile these spills and gases can be converted to useful substances that could help generate income.

Having highlighted the sad panorama that captures the Nigerian society with particular reference to our lackadaisical disposition towards the care of our common home, our situation is still not a hopeless one as we could equally partake in effecting a lasting change. The change must begin from our very selves. Here, my childhood experience holds sway. We must learn to have a sense of obligation towards the safe keeping of our environment and those around us. This is because whatever we do today has a way of getting back at us tomorrow. Life would then become a better place.


The Unspoken Dangers Of Gas Flaring In Nigeria

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