US embassy cable - 01ABUJA3201


Identifier: 01ABUJA3201
Wikileaks: View 01ABUJA3201 at
Origin: Embassy Abuja
Created: 2001-12-13 16:07:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ABUJA 003201 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/10/2011 
REF: LAGOS 2841 
1. (C) Summary: Minister of State for the Environment Imeh 
Okopido has enlisted the World Bank, the Government of Norway 
and environmentalists from around the world to support his 
position over the issue of gas flaring in Nigeria. 
Okopido,s personal crusade is to advance the deadline to end 
gas flaring from 2008 to 2004.  In this process, he has taken 
on major petroleum companies and some GON heavyweights, in 
particular Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National 
Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Jackson Gaius-Obaseki.   The 
former military government put forth the 2008 deadline in its 
1997 economic plan &Vision 20108 and President Obasanjo 
confirmed it during his 1999 election campaign.   Upon 
entering the Ministry of the Environment in 1999, Okopido 
announced that flaring should end sooner not later.  Okopido 
is using Environmental Impact Assessments for exploration in 
highly sought offshore plots to force competing firms to 
submit plans to eliminate flaring by 2004. 
2.  (C) While other major producers say they can fully or 
substantially comply with the 2004 target, Shell Nigeria 
insists that it may never totally eliminate flaring and that 
90 per cent reduction is impracticable before 2008. 
Supported by new overseas allies and confident that President 
Obasanjo will eventually favor him, Okopido plans to continue 
his offensive into next year,s World Summit on Sustainable 
Development (WSSD) in South Africa. Okopido is organizing 
Nigeria,s chairmanship of the Partnership Conference at the 
Summit.  End summary. 
Preparing for the WSSD 
3.  (SBU) On November 19, visiting Regional Environmental 
Officer Richard Hawkins and EconOff called on Minister of 
State for the Environment Imeh Okopido to inquire about 
Nigerian preparations for the WSSD.   Okopido explained that 
Nigeria had two important roles: first as host of the Super 
Preparatory Meeting in February of 2002, but also as the 
chair of the Partnership Conference to be held during the 
WSSD.   Okopido said that he was coordinating preparations 
among 14 Ministries for the Summit, but that arrangements 
were not proceeding well in South Africa.  Concerns over 
funding were overshadowing preparations for the event itself. 
 "This may be our last chance to come up with and fund 
projects that really will make a difference.  After the WSSD, 
when will we have another opportunity to focus world 
attention and donor interest?  Nigeria must play a major role 
in getting ready," he stressed. 
--------------------------------------------- --- 
Tempers aren,t the only things that flare 
--------------------------------------------- --- 
4. (C) During the meeting, Okopido received a phone call from 
his boss, Minister of the Environment Mohammed Kabir Said, 
during which he launched into a discussion of Shell and the 
NNPC.  After hanging up, he explained that during his stop 
over in London, the oil companies had offered to give him 
spending money for shopping.  He complained that too many in 
the GON were swayed by such false generosity and tricked into 
allowing the oil companies to mismanage national assets. 
5. (SBU) Okopido eagerly launched into a discussion of his 
anti-flaring campaign.  He shared a copy of his November 8 
speech presented at the margins of the COP 7 in Marrakech, 
and talked about the decision by the Government of Norway and 
the World Bank to back a global campaign against gas flaring. 
 His points were: 
--    Gas flaring represents only a small percentage of 
greenhouse gases, but included many of the most damaging 
ones, especially methane; 
--    68 percent of Nigeria,s natural gas is now flared, 
wasting a valuable national asset, damaging the local 
ecosystem and endangering the global climate; 
--    Nigerian flaring represents 19 percent of the world's 
gas flaring with the rest of Africa accounting for another 19 
--    Most of the oil companies are ready to replace flaring 
with collection and distribution in an accelerated way but 
they need to be pressured; 
--    The Obasanjo Administration needs to show the people of 
the Niger Delta environmental dividends before the 
re-election campaign in 2003; and 
--    Shell Nigeria was the sole major producer fighting the 
International Assistance 
6.   (SBU) Okopido had just returned from a conference on 
Nigeria in Washington D.C., the COP 7 in Marrakech, and the 
Global Anti-flaring Initiative Conference with the World Bank 
and the Government of Norway in Oslo.  His first day in the 
office in two weeks, he lamented how ignorant most of the 
country and even his staff were about the environmental 
movement.  &Here in Nigeria, they think our job is only 
about rubbish removal.8 
7.  (SBU) Okopido asked the REO for $100,000 from the USG to 
support the Super Prep Com to be led by President Obasanjo in 
February 2002, and the Partnership Conference Nigeria chairs 
at the WSSD. He stressed that, without identifying specific 
goals and projects at the Super Prep Com, the WSSD would 
become a diplomatic exercise without environmental or 
development impact.   He also asked the Embassy for support 
in training a team from his Ministry on constructing and 
maintaining a web site. 
8. (C) After two weeks in Nigeria, Okopido said he would be 
overseas again until just before Christmas.  He was 
optimistic about the Global Anti-flaring Initiative and felt 
that despite constant pressure from the NNPC and others 
within the Government to keep the 2008 deadline, that the 
2004 target would prevail.  "They (the oil companies) have 
the technology, the capital and the long-term potential 
profits to do it.  They will have to accelerate their capital 
expenditures and make the environment in Africa a priority, 
like it is in other parts of the world." 
COMMENT: Political and Geological Realities 
9. (SBU) If the end of flaring is much closer than seemed 
possible only a few years ago, much of the credit goes to the 
multinationals, especially the U.S. companies who have 
accelerated their plans for gas infrastructure investment. 
Chevron,s role in the West African Gas Pipeline is just one 
example.  Also noteworthy is the increasing use of gas 
reinjection technology to enhance oil yields. 
10. (C) Shell, because of its extensive and widespread 
on-shore fields, faces the biggest challenge.  Costs 
associated with collecting the gas are high and further 
complicated by pipeline vandalism.  Flaring will also be a 
problem for the small indigenous firms bidding on the 
marginal fields described in reftel.  To operate such small 
fields safely and economically, they will almost certainly 
need to flare.  Nigeria is, we have been reminded, "a gas 
province, with associated oil." 
11. (C) All of which does not change the political 
significance of Okopido,s campaign.  His confrontational 
style has alienated many colleagues in the Nigerian 
government, and at times irked the President.  However, his 
work has accelerated the decline in flaring.  His challenge 
will be to convince the Government to sustain the pressure. 
Rigorous anti-flaring programs run up against important 
political and economic priorities like the marginal field 
initiative, and could interfere with election-year demands 
for more oil revenue in a down market.  End Comment. 

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