Reps Want punitive tax against contributors to environmental pollution
The House Committee on Environment, on Friday called for a form of compulsory tax by the companies that are polluting the environment through gas flaring in order to remediate its effect.
Johnson Oghuma, the committee Chairman, made this known hen the Coalition for Socio Ecological Transformation of Nigeria (CoSET) a civil society organisation led by Mr Nnimmo Bassey visited the committee in Abuja. Oghuma said the decision was part of the amendment proposed in the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) Act.
“We want all the people polluting the environment to contribute money into NOSDRA so that when there is a problem, we won’t have challenges of creating emergency budget, because NOSDRA is the agency that is responsible for remediation of gas flaring. “We have two motions on ground already on the need to end gas flaring in the country and to harness associated gas.
“We will soon be moving from community to community to find out possible solutions to gas flaring with the support of the government to achieve healthy and clean environment for our people.’’
According to Oghuma, fortunately enough, the motion moved in the floor of the house is referred to two joint committees which are; committee on gas and committee on environment. Earlier, the group had also paid a courtesy call on the Minister of Environment, Mrs Sharon Ikeazor to lay down some request to curb gas flaring in the country.
Ikeazor said that the NOSDRA amended Act would give it more implementation power adding that there have been series of stakeholders engagement including the National Assembly on the NOSDRA amendment bill. She said the ministry and the UN Environment (UNEP) were carrying out remediation of damaged environment which she alleged was mostly cause by illegal refineries.
“The Port Harcourt soot was the consequence of such illegal refinery, the laboratory tests proved it and NOSDRA laboratory result also showed that the particles were from crude oil combustion.
She said the ministry is working closely with the Joint Task Force, the Navy and security forces in the country to tackle the issue of illegal refineries. Bassey in his response said that the group’s objective is to mobilise; sensitise; educate citizens and stakeholders on the Socio Ecological Transformation alternative. He said CoSET considered gas flaring an illegal and harmful practice with far reaching negative impacts on people and the environment, thus the introduction of its gas flaring campaign.
Bassey said that the flaring of gas was a key source of greenhouse emissions, contributing significantly to global warming and climate change, with Nigeria reeling under disastrous climate impacts.
He said the group encouraged the Ministry to reproduce the kind of assertiveness that characterised its work during the Ogoni Clean-up especially during the flag-off days.
He said that CoSET requested the ministry to compel oil companies to make public their plans for ending gas flaring and managing associated gas and carry out a health audit on the impact of gas flaring in affected communities.
Bassey said that communities in which flare sites were located suffered untold hardships as a direct consequence of their exposure to toxic flares such as deadly illnesses; poisoned food systems and destroyed livelihoods.
He said that gas flaring also led to an estimated 2.5 billion dollars worth of gas being wasted annually as routinely flared gas, a practice that was an economically wasteful one.
Also Ms Rinmicit Temlong, another member of CoSET said that the group was seeking the support of the National Assembly to pronounce actual date to end gas flaring and to request for access to the End Gas Flare Bill.
Temlong said that the group also requested progress on the Petroleum Industry Bill and urged the representatives to compel oil companies to make public their plans for ending gas flaring and managing associated gas.
She said that the group also urged the legislators to push for the government to carry out health audit on the impact of gas flaring in affected communities.
she said that the group having worked in communities for years knew that gas flaring was an urgent existential threat to Nigerians,“ and we cannot afford even a day more of gas flaring”she said
Mr Ulrich Thum, the Resident Representative of the Fredrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) office in Abuja said that FES was in collaboration with CoSET to work for the total wellbeing of peoples, communities and the natural environment.
Thum said that FES was also supporting the coalition for ecological transformation by identifying issues especially on gas flaring and looking for possible solutions to them.