Last October the Government of Nigeria gave the multinational oil companies in the country a firm ultimatum: “The Federal Government policy to stop gas flaring commences on Jan. 1, 2008, and any company which flares gas after that time would be shut down.”

Well guess what, the flares are still burning. Responding to pressure from oil companies, the Nigerian government pushed the deadline back on January 6th.

Now a press statement issued by Levi Ajuonuma, public affairs manager for the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), announced a shift of deadline from December 2007 to December 2008.

This has met with total dismay with the local population: “The fires are so large and so close to our homes and farms that we feel the heat. We know no darkness because they burn brightly for 24 hours every day,” said Che Ibegwura of the Egi community.

This is not the first time the government has delayed the deadline. After so many shifts in deadlines, Ibegwura is fed up and suspects that even the new deadline may not be realistic. “I suspect that gas flaring will not stop on Dec. 31 2008, it will not happen, they have been fooling us all these years,” he says, stressing that, “The oil companies and the Nigerian government are only concerned about proceeds from oil, they never consider the health of the people. Their greatest concern is profit.”

Those Shell bosses must be laughing all the way to the bank..