(NIGERIA), BRUSSELS (BELGIUM), January 12, 2009 – While Europe faces gas
shortages, Friends of the Earth International is putting the Nigerian
government under pressure to ensure that oil companies stop flaring Nigerian
Following a December 31, 2008 deadline to end
harmful gas flaring in Nigeria, Friends of the Earth International started
today a letter writing campaign - directed at the Nigerian President - asking
the Nigerian government to prevent oil companies from continuing to flare gas.
 Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell is the largest producer of gas and oil in Nigeria.
is often found mixed with crude oil, and must be separated. The cheapest way to
deal with the gas is also the most environmentally destructive way: burning it.
This practice costs the African country about 2.5 billion US dollars annually,
while more than 66% of the population is estimated to live in poverty.
companies are flaring gas in the oil-rich Niger Delta despite the fact that a
Nigerian judge stated that flaring is illegal. Led by oil giant Shell, they
have been burning gas for decades when they could be using it to provide energy
to the local population. The government must ensure that oil companies stop
this destructive practice now,” said Nnimmo Bassey, Friends of
the Earth International chair and Friends of the Earth Nigeria Executive Director.
Nigeria is one of
the world's biggest gas flarers. Nigerian gas flares emit as many greenhouse
gases as 18 million cars, and release toxic substances in densely populated
areas, damaging both the environment and the people in the Niger Delta. Flaring
can lead to leukaemia, asthma and premature death. It causes acid rain which
acidifies lakes and streams and damages the environment. 
Nigerian Federal Government recently pledged to halt gas flares in Nigeria and set December 31st, 2008 as the zero flare date. For the first time it also
raised the prospect of punitive action for any breach.
first attempt at forcing oil corporations operating in the Niger Delta to end
flares was in 1969 when the administration of General Yakubu Gowon ordered them
to put in place facilities to utilise associated gas within five years.
“Pressure on the
Nigerian government to end gas flaring once and for all is mounting. The government
must enforce its deadline and ensure the end of flaring. Local people have
waited long enough. All oil companies, including Shell, should simply comply
with Nigerian law,” said Paul de Clerck, Corporates
Campaigner for Friends of the Earth International.
order to 'greenwash' its image and distract the public from its dirty track
record in Nigeria and elsewhere, Shell engages in partnerships with
organisations such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature, or
IUCN. The Shell-IUCN partnership takes place despite the fact that most members
of IUCN are opposed to the agreement. To protest this partnership, and to draw
attention to Shell's dirty track record, Friends of the Earth International
decided to leave the IUCN. 
2007 the oil giant earned record-breaking annual profits of 31.3 billion US
dollars, a massive 23 per cent increase from 2006.
Paul de Clerck, Corporates Campaigner for Friends of the Earth International:
Tel: +32 494 38 09 59 (Belgian mobile)