The Stakeholder Democracy Network (SDN), a human rights group, has cautioned the Nigerian Government against committing more scarce resources toward further expansion of the national gas programme and the Decade of Gas initiative, without commitment to safeguarding the livelihood of people of Niger Delta and investment in sustainable infrastructure.
This was contained in a statement released by the right group made available to EnergyDay on Wednesday, as a follow-up to its research outcome.
According to SDN, Nigeria’s gas expansion programme could delay its clean energy transition, and deepen dependence on fossil fuels, which could result in stranded assets and debt that will be difficult to repay as demand and prices fluctuate.
EnergyDay gathered that the research outcome SDN highlighted the risks associated with increased gas production in Nigeria.
The research documented the current state of the gas industry’s infrastructure, and impact on host communities, to highlight risks of further expansion.
SDN said it also based its research on a rapid assignment in communities surrounding a large gas processing facility that has been operated in Rivers State since 1985.
It also noted that gas expansion is expected due to domestic energy plans, and increased demand from Europe and others, following Russia’s war in Ukraine.
SDN said, “This will have profound impacts on oil and gas-producing communities in the Niger Delta, and the Nigerian economy as a whole.
“It raises important questions for the global energy transition that are often overlooked, including the negative impacts on producing countries.
“The expansion could benefit Nigeria, as it seeks to increase domestic gas consumption as part of development targets, and as a transition fuel towards more sustainable electricity generation.
“But if countries achieve net zero commitments, global gas demand could peak as soon as 2030, according to McKinsey.
“Nigeria must proceed with caution, to avoid redirecting resources away from more sustainable infrastructure, delaying the clean energy transition, and deepening dependence on fossil fuels, which could result in stranded assets and debt that will be difficult to repay as demand and prices fluctuate.
“Moreover, in the Niger Delta where most hydrocarbons are extracted, there are significant risks if companies continue to operate without due care, under the current system of weak enforcement of standards and regulations.
“Our research contains reports of negative health and economic impacts for communities living near gas infrastructure, and with expansion, they are likely to experience more negative impacts due to exposure to gas and other hazardous wastes, compounding decades of oil pollution.
The group emphasised that its research documented the following in communities surrounding a Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) facility – a subsidiary of the Italian major Eni.
It said, “Visible gas leaks along pipelines that are generally poorly installed, not sufficiently maintained, run overground, and alongside roads and settlements.
“When we re-visited gas leak sites six months later, leaks continued, in spite of visible attempts to patch them up. There was also an explosion at the gas facility during the research, which is reportedly common.
“We discovered slow responses to gas leaks and blowouts by NAOC and the government regulators, and poor techniques to stop leaking infrastructure and mitigate future issues.
“We also noticed constant gas flaring contributes to toxic air, water, and land. The community also informed our field experts that NAOC dumps toxic waste and has not decommissioned abandoned assets.
“Visibly polluted waterways, farmland, and air make the entire community less economical and unproductive to sustain the livelihoods of farmers, fishermen, and hunters.
“Complaints from communities claim that NAOC’s corporate social responsibility projects are not delivered in full as promised, and they are not sustainable when they are.
“The members of the community also complained of severe health impacts, including cancers, eye, bronchial, rheumatic, neurological, cardiovascular, developmental, and reproductive disorders.Florence Ibok-Abasi, SDN’s Acting Country Director, in her comment on the report, said, “The health and environmental impacts associated with fossil fuel production have been documented for several decades but largely ignored in favour of profits.
“We are particularly concerned that an increase in demand for Nigeria’s gas resources will aggravate this situation and continue to deprive the country of a clean energy transition.
SDN’s Acting Country Director, however, emphasised that the Nigerian government can no longer afford to pay lip service and must act to demonstrate its commitment to the provision of clean energy and economic diversification away from oil and gas.