In a conversation with journalists in Lagos, a controller of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Madugu Sanni Jubrin announced that the Nigerian Government has banned small generators “because [they are] causing air pollution and destruction of our lungs and breathing system”. While the governments decision to ban the generators is scientifically sound- it obfuscates the larger issue. The greatest threat to clean air in the country is caused by gas flaring and so far, the government has not done anything to stop it.
Gas flaring, which is a common process in oil exploration is a recurring environmental danger, however, the government has only made halfhearted attempts to curb it. In 2005, the Federal High Court of Nigeria ordered the discontinuation of gas flaring in the Niger Delta community by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SDPC), because it violates constitutional rights to life, yet, Shell flagrantly ignored this order and flaring continued.
Due to the oil companies disobedience, in 2011, then Minister for Petroleum, Diezani Alison-Madueke issued a directive that increased the gas flaring penalty fee from N10 to about N600 per standard cubic feet. However, by 2012, Department of Petroleum Resources records showed that the government’s penalty was unable to contain the hazardous activities of the oil companies. Furthermore, none of the oil companies paid the fine throughout that year.
As of July, 2015, 10 oil companies were guilty of gas flaring and owed Nigeria over $800 million penalty fees. Fines aside, the consequences of flaring for human health and environment are more severe than emissions from mini generators- and through this ban the government shifts the responsibility away from themselves to citizens.
If the Federal Government is ready to be impartial, then, it should also be ready to place a ban on gas flaring responsible for global warming, acidic rain, cancer, leukemia on a much larger scale than ‘I better pass my neighbor’ generators.