For the family of Chief Augustus Tom Sunday the 28th day of June 2015 was like any other Sunday. After the Sunday service at his local church he and members of his family had retired for the night rest but suddenly the peaceful quiet night was shattered by the sound; “Boooooommmm! It sounded like the voice of many thunders, our house vibrated and the earth trembled”
“At first I thought that it was a bomb, considering the fluid nature of our community that has witnessed sporadic violence within the past few days” he explained. When Chief Tom came out to investigate, he peeped around in the dark but as he looks towards the general direction of Ebocha, “the night sky was light up by fire”. “Balls of fire were rolling up into the sky and thick clouds of smoke soon enveloped everywhere.”
Ebocha the home to Nigerian Agip Oil Company Limited’s Flow Station and Oil Center Production facilities has suffered years of neglect. So the storage tanks that exploded during the blowout were reported to be more than 30 years old. To many keen observers of the petroleum industry Ebocha was just “a disaster waiting to happen”. Legitimate concerns expressed by local communities about the safety of these facilities were ignored and often viewed with disdain by the Multinational Oil Corporation.
Another respondent interviewed by this reporter said “it was on Sunday at about 10.30 pm there was a serious fire outbreak at Ebocha, it was very serious but no life was lost”. Mr. Festus Wilson told the reporter that the fire was so much that it destroyed substantial part of the oil center facility. He ruled out sabotage, when he was asked if he knew the cause of the fire. “No, no, it is not sabotage” he said.
Though he did not know the number of tanks that got burnt he told the reporter that the fire lasted from Sunday night till Monday evening before it was put out. “But the fire started again on Tuesday morning and was finally brought under control, later in the day.”
When this reporter asked him how the fire affected the people, he said, “All the people living at Ebocha have fled from their homes”.
A lady who gave her name as Iruka Blessing lamented the fact that Nigerian Agip Oil Company has not done anything to help the victims.
“Look I am pregnant and I am yet to recover from the shock” she said. She also complained that all that Agip did was to gather people to narrate how the fire incident affected them without any attempt at alleviating their pains.
Mr. Wilson also complained that Nigerian Agip is slow to responding to the affected communities.
According to Mr. Wilson the source of drinking water for the communities has been heavily polluted.”Water from Nkisa River is black, the same goes for rain water,” he said. “Everything in the community turned into black”.
Narrating her own ordeal a 23 years old Miss Iruka Jane from Ikeduru local government of Imo State who lives opposite the Nigerian Agip company Oil Center, the epicenter of the fire outbreak told the reporter that it was around 11 pm on the Sunday night “when everybody was sleeping, we heard a loud noise and the thing shake the buildings around and the neighboring villages, we came out and saw the fire. And the fire was very, very terrible”. She explained that everybody started running for their dear life.”We later came back and saw that the fire was drawing even closer”
As a result of the intensity of the fire many people fled to neighboring communities while others fled to their home town far away from the fire. Even as I am talking now all my body is paining me. I am calling on the government to come and help us” she said. While speaking to the reporter she explained that there is palpable fear in town for few of them who braved the situation to be there. When she was pressed to explain the source of their worry seeing that the inferno has been brought under control. She told the reporter that there are chances that the fire might be ignited again.
On Tuesday 1st July 2015 when this reporter visited Ebocha though a rural community but always bustling with life, Ebocha was only a shadow of itself. The ever busy Omoku road was deserted, shops were closed. Few people that were still hanging around were seen discussing in groups. In the neighboring communities of Okwuzi, Mgbede and Aggah the situation was the same as men and women were seen in clusters discussing the effects of the Ebocha fire on their communities.
Series of protests has been held by affected communities against Nigerian Agip Oil Company Limited for ignoring the people’s demand for environmental justice.
GASIN, in partnership with the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, NOSDRA, organized a stakeholders roundtable discussion for communities within Rivers state. The meeting was attended by Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC), Nigerian Agip Oil Company Limited (NAOC), NOSDRA, Federal Ministry of Environment, Rivers State Ministry of Environment, National Environmental Standards Regulation and Enforcement Agency (NOSDRA), the Police, Paramount Rulers, Women Leaders, CDC Chairmen, youth representatives, GMG Leaders of host communities, the media and other interested members of the public.
Issues bothering the host communities were presented and respectfully discussed upon in an effort to strengthen the relationship among stakeholders of the oil and gas industry. Communities including Aggah, Obrikom, Okwuizi, Mgbede, Obie, Ebogoro were represented in the meeting. A COMMUNIQUE that was adopted by all participants were released after the fruitful deliberations.
MULTI-STAKEHOLDER' ROUNDTABLE BETWEEN COMMUNITIES, REGULATORY AGENCIES AND OIL OPERATORS
In an effort to create and strengthen linkages between Communities, Government Regulatory Agencies, and Oil Operators (SPDC and NAOC), the Gas Alert for Sustainable Initiative (GASIN) in partnership with NOSDRA (Port Harcourt, Zonal Office), organized a town hall stakeholders workshop for leaders from Aggah, Ebogoro, Mgbede, Obrikom, Obie and Okwuzi communities in ONELGA, Regulatory Agencies and representatives of SPDC and NAOC.
2. Attendance: see attached list.
3. The Stakeholders resolved that host communities should be consulted before projects are executed under the MOU framework to ensure projects add value to the communities and are sustainable.
4. Sincerity in dealings between the oil operators and the community in terms of execution of projects under the MOU as well as prompt renewal of expired MOU.
5. Appropriate feedback mechanisms between the operators and host communities should be strengthened to check the ugly trend of abandoned projects.
6. Oil operators should consider the employment of qualified indigenes of their host communities when opportunities exist.
7. Safety mechanisms should be put in place by oil operators in their host communities in the event of any emergency issues.
8. Establishment of revolving loan funds, micro-credit schemes as well as agricultural facilities put in place to alleviate the suffering of women and youths.
9. In order to foster environmental sustainability, oil spills should be contained and cleaned without delay and communities should not deny access to the spill sites.
10. Host Communities that have waste pits and other hazardous facilities sited close to them should channel their complaints to the appropriate authorities within the companies for action to be taken.
11. Communities should be committed to make input for improved Sustainable Community Development (SCD) and relations through ownership approach to the projects executed for them by the operators.
12. Operators should enlighten the communities on the normal grievance handling procedure to present their complaints and communities should also avail themselves of this opportunity to enable peaceful relations.
13. Communities should encourage their youths to adequately make use of the available capacity building and empowerment opportunities to improve their performance in order to succeed in SPDC recruitment examinations.
14. Federal Government and the oil and gas operators should put the necessary mechanisms in place to stop gas flaring in their operational areas considering its adverse effects on communities and their sources of livelihood.
15. There should be sincerity in promises made to the communities by the operators.
16. SPDC carries out major projects and other benefits for its host communities (impacted by its facilities) through the GMoU/PGMoU platforms. But some social investments are usually attached to pipeline projects to mitigate impact to the pipeline communities.
The Nigerian Independent Petroleum Company (NIPCO) Plc, an indigenous downstream petroleum and gas operator, says about 5,000 vehicles use Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) as fuel in Nigeria.
The company said that contrary to other opinions, CNG powered vehicles had come to stay in Nigeria, since the inception of the project in 2009.
Mr Taofeek Lawal, NIPCO’s Head of Public Affairs, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos that more than 4,000 vehicles had already converted to use CNG in Benin, Edo.
Lawal said that over 500 vehicles were also operating in Lagos on the environment friendly CNG.
According to him, the aim of the CNG refilling stations in Nigeria, especially in Lagos, was to provide alternative to Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) or petrol at a reduced cost and to boost national socio-economic growth.
He also said that aside the economic gains, CNG targeted reduction of unfriendly automobile emissions and exposure of Nigerians to the innovation of powering vehicles on gas.
NIPCO’s spokesperson said that the company had about 10 CNG operating stations nationwide, while others were under construction.
He said that the patronage of CNG refilling station, at Ibafo, Ogun, was impressive with an average of five minutes’ drive by commercial buses and private vehile owners.
“CNG sustainability in Nigeria and Lagos is sustainable considering Nigeria is one of the largest producers of Natural Gas.
“Ibafo CNG station, near Lagos, is a world class facility with about 12 dispensing pump for light and heavy duty trucks refilling facilities.
“It is also sustainable in that private sector is taking the lead, as government provides enabling environment for it to thrive,” he said.
Lawal said that the conversion of vehicles to become CNG compatible cost between N200,000 and N300,000.
He said that the cost profile of CNG vehicular conversion came with a flexible repayment package and depended on the choice of kit.
He also identified poor awareness about the innovative CNG powered vehicles to the absence of policy on natural gas vehicles and lack of natural gas supply across Nigeria.
Lawal said that stagnation of CNG revolution in Nigeria was also due to the inability of NIPCO and the Nigerian Gas Company to float a Joint Venture (JV).
He said that the lack of gas infrastructure, pricing and government support was militating against CNG expansion in Lagos.
“Nigerians are well informed towards the CNG projects but it could improve.
“The best time for CNG popularisation is when government increase the price of PMS to further compel motorist to think of the cost benefits of powering vehicles with natural gas.
“N55 per standard cubic feet of gas is equivalent to one litre of petrol which currently sells at N87 with government subsidy.
“All the necessary approval from DPR has being obtained before commencement of operation,” he said.
Lawal said that NIPCO had concluded arraignment to build CNG refilling stations in Lagos and environs.
NAN gathered from some officials at the Ibafor CNG refilling station that motorists paid initial deposits of about N20,000 for conversion with the balance deducted through daily purchase of gas.
“When you want to convert your motor to gas, you will pay as low as N20,000, then we will put you on installment payment anytime you come to fill your cylinder.
“This method makes it convenient for our customers to pay within some months depending on your usage.
“A cubic feet of gas cost N55, if you are on our debt list, you will be paying N80 per cubic feet which means that remaining N25 will be servicing your debt.
“This will continue until you complete the payment.
“Because of this payment method, we have over 5,000 vehicles running on CNG in the country,” he said.
Meanwhile, some motorists plying Lagos/Ibadan expressway described CNG powered vehicles as economical, safer, flexible and eco-friendly.
Mr Ibrahim Kareem, a commercial motor driver, said that the conversion of his vehicle to CNG early 2015 had saved him money.
“I converted my bus to gas early this year and I am happy to tell you that I saved up to N7,500 daily on my fuel consumption.
“Before now I spent N6,000 to travel to Ibadan from Lagos but now with just N3,750, I will travel to Ibadan and come back with ease,” he said.
Mr Sunday Adeyemi, another commercial vehicle driver, said that most of the commercial vehicles operating between Lagos and Ibadan had converted to CNG because of its availability and the economy of scale.
“Most of us here have converted our motors to CNG because of the installment payment created by the company.
“They are aware that we cannot run away once you got converted.
“What we would have used on petroleum is being used to balance our debt; by next month, I would have completed my debt,” he said.
Adeyemi said that he used the availability of CNG in his vehicles during the petrol scarcity to make more money.
“When others did not get petroleum for transportation during the fuel scarcity, I was busy making money because gas was available and cheap,” he said.
Mr Daniel Folorunsho, a civil servant with Lagos State Government, said that CNG was Eco-friendly and management friendly.
“Before my friend introduced me to CNG, I serviced my car every three months but now, I service it once in six months because of its Eco-friendly nature.
“It is clean and there will be no smoke coming from your motor.
“The government should enlighten road users on the advantages of CNG because it is better than petrol and it is economical and safer.
“Even the subsidy government is paying on petroleum products will reduce if more emphasis is placed on CNG usage,” he said.
The post NIPCO Says 5,000 Vehicles in Nigeria Powered on Natural Gas appeared first on Metro Watch.
Rev Fr Dr Edward Obi is a Nigerian priest, born and now working in the Niger delta, where Nigeria’s oil is exploited.
He is the executive secretary of the Niger Delta Catholics Bishops Forum. The forum has been at the forefront of campaigning for good oil governance and inclusion of the host-communities of the Niger delta in the petroleum industry.
Recently, Dr Obi was invited to Kampala by Global Rights Alert (GRA), one of Uganda’s civil society organizations on oil and gas, and spoke on Nigeria’s oil journey. While in Uganda, Dr Obi told Edward Ssekika that so far, Uganda is on the right track with regard to the oil industry.
Whenever there is a discussion about the ‘oil curse, Nigeria is normally cited as an example. As religious leaders, what are you doing to reverse this and ensure oil benefits the ordinary people?
The Niger Delta Catholic Bishops Forum’s main task is to steer debate on the thorny issues of oil and gas in the delta. It became necessary to get the bishops involved because interventions and various efforts had faced a stalemate and there seemed to be no movement forward especially on the part of the church.
The bishops decided to come together and reignite their own interest in the issue. The story of oil in Nigeria is a long story. But there are certain key points that need to be noted. Oil was discovered in Nigeria over 60 years ago, actually in pre-independence.
At the eve of independence, the British already knew the concerns of the local people in regard to oil; so, the British actually set up a commission to try to address some of the fears of the minorities that live in the Niger delta. The British fell short of granting semi-autonomy to this area of Nigeria and simply indicated in their handover reports and in the first constitution that this area had to be treated in a special way due to its peculiarities.
The first problem we encountered was that oil was discovered when Nigerians were ill-prepared. We had no knowledge of what this was, no clear understanding of what we could do at the beginning and we didn’t even have the assistance of government to enable the people actually understand and be involved in the industry from the beginning.
As a result, oil was exploited for many years before people became aware of what was going on. When the people started getting aware of what was going on, government, actually military juntas that ruled Nigeria for many years, started to restrict them from getting involved in anything concerning oil.
Each of the military juntas saw oil as easy money that they could access. We had so much money and our problem was simply how to spend it. But the effect of the industry began to get to the people.
In 1978, the military administration of Gen Olusegun Obasanjo came up with a certain decree that dispossessed people of their land and gave all the land and all natural resources to the federal government of Nigeria. That Land Use Decree, a year later, was transformed into an act of parliament and it became the Land Use Act of 1979.
Now, by that stroke of a pen, all the local communities all over the country, but particularly in the areas where oil was being exploited, lost their land to government.
That meant that they could not negotiate directly with the oil companies.
Government made deals with oil companies and the companies simply moved in and started to exploit; whenever communities would ask, companies would say, ‘please, just discuss your issues with your government.’
So, that became a point of tension. This turned into pollution, loss of arable land as agriculture was downgraded in favour of the oil industry. When huge chunks of land were acquired for oil pipeline right of way, it meant ordinary communities could no longer farm and support themselves.
Were people compensated for the loss of their land?
No. If your land happened to be on the pipeline right of way or where any industry facility was to be set up, you would be thrown out without any compensation.
So, is the situation still the same today?
Actually the situation is still almost the same. The law has never been repealed; it is still in force. All of us Nigerians don’t own land as far as this act is concerned. We only get a certificate of occupancy and the government reserves the right to revoke that certificate of occupancy at any time.
For instance, if oil is discovered near your house, the government would simply revoke your certificate of occupancy of that piece of land in favour of the industry but currently with some meagre compensation.
So, communities have been evicted because of this law. It is a very unjust law. Efforts have been made by many civil society organizations to review that law but as far as I know, the efforts have not yet yielded results.
And what has the government done?
There are several joint ventures involving different oil companies and different percentages of equity between government and the oil companies. Now, if a government is a business partner with an oil company, its interest tilts in favour of the oil company. So, government negated its responsibility to protect the people.
It could not play a regulatory role because you can’t be a regulator and player in the same business at the same time. That is why the oil industry as such doesn’t seem to benefit ordinary people at all.
We, as religious leaders, consider this as an issue of justice, and the Catholic Church in particular we have a preferential option for the poor. We are actually taking side with the poor in the oil-producing areas whose lives have been changed by the industry.
What role are you actually playing?
We want dialogue to occur so that all sides, the communities, government agencies and the oil companies can come together and see how to resolve some of these sticky issues.
What has changed in Ogoni and Niger delta in general, after the 1995 death of Ken Saro-Wiwa and the other Ogoni chiefs?
What the killings of Saro-Wiwa and others did actually was to bring the story of the Ogoni suffering and pollution to the public forum. People have become more interested and are no longer as naïve as they were. They are now taking steps, suing companies, government and other collaborators.
As a coalition, we have come in one case at least in Bodo in Ogoniland and we have got Shell to sit around with the communities. Right now, we are negotiating for compensation. There has been a steady understanding by ordinary people of issues concerning their rights in relation to the oil industry.
For a long time, the government of Nigeria was playing an ostrich, pretending that there was no problem but because people are now aware, government can no longer pretend.
What is Uganda doing right or wrong in as far the industry is concerned and what lesson can we learn from Nigeria?
You [Uganda] have had the opportunity to learn from the mistakes that were made in Nigeria and other places. So, the chances of Ugandans repeating those mistakes are probably limited. Uganda at least has had discussions with many stakeholders about the industry.
One thing that Uganda can do is expand the value chain of oil in such a way that there are industries that ordinary people can engage in, for instance, the footwear industry that can be developed from the byproducts of oil refining.
That way, you enlarge the value chain and include many people. Also, the oil companies can help local farmers to rear things like chicken so that all the chicken that is consumed by thousands of oil workers is supplied by local people.
Uganda is currently crafting the revenue sharing and management model. Any lessons Uganda can learn from Nigeria?
As far as I know, all revenues go to the federal government of Nigeria, but in the new Petroleum Bill that has not yet been passed, there is a proposal to give 10 per cent of the profits back to the host communities through the Host Communities Fund.
I think, in such a business, the government should disengage from doing business with oil companies. The worst model of revenue sharing is a model that excludes the ordinary people because now people are wiser than they were 40 years ago.
There have been problems with compensations in Uganda and people getting evicted without compensations. Isn’t Uganda courting trouble?
First of all, we need to understand what the real compensation is. Compensation is not the value of the piece of land that you give up at today’s value. You must factor in its present cost value, the gains that the individual who owns the land would have made over fifty years or so and other factors and that is how compensation is supposed to be calculated.