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Sunday, October 1, 2023

Campaigners advocate shift to renewables in ‘life after oil’

Groups participating in the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) 11th National Environmental Congress (NEC) in Port Harcourt, Rivers State have advocated a shift from fossil fuels to life after oil built on renewable energy.

Godwin Uyi Ojo
Dr. Godwin Uyi Ojo, Executive Director of the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN)

The NEC, which had “Post Extractivism: Energy Democracy for National Development” as its theme, brought together representatives of civil society, community groups, labour unions, government officials, the academia, and the media among others, crirticised the Nigerian government’s seeming slow march towards a post-oil economy and warned that the nation might be left behind if concrete commitments to transit are not made. It held from November 27 to 28, 2018

The keynote address by foremost activist and lecturer at the Lagos State University, Sylvester Odion Akhaine, on the theme of the congress examined Nigeria’s dependence on fossil fuels and the nature of alternatives in the post-extractivism era and provided an actionable roadmap to alternatives in renewable energy sources.

ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Dr. Godwin Uyi Ojo, in his welcome words titled “Energy Democracy for Nigeria is Possible”, explained that fossil fuels are dirty, expensive and kills Nigerians almost on a daily basis.

Ojo explained that the dead are victims of the country’s lack of foresight and fossil fuels dependency.

Excerpts for his speech:

About two months ago, over 50 persons – men, women, children, people like you and me – were incinerated in a pipeline inferno in Aba, Abia State, caused by a leaking pipeline belonging to the Pipelines and Product Marketing Company (PPMC). Since the Jesse disaster where over 1,000 persons were roasted due to pipeline rupture in 1999 to the recent Azuzuama tragedy in 2015 where 11 persons were burnt to ashes beyond recognition from a malfunctioning oil facility, several other gory tales of such incidents have become part of our daily lives. We have been witnesses of the gory pictures that emanated from explosions from the ill-maintained and leaking pipes in many parts of the Niger Delta even leading up to Abule Egba and Ijegun in Lagos and Arepo in Ogun State.

Aside the violence and death, the monumental environmental degradation arising from poor environmental governance by the Nigeria government and the international oil companies are catastrophic with irreversible consequences. For example, the government continues to pay lip service to the clean-up of the Niger Delta and the Ogoni clean-up that have become electioneering campaign gimmicks and deception.

It is exactly because of the need to save our people from these kinds of mishaps and the opportunities that a post-oil economy promises that the ERA/FoEN has been in the vanguard of campaigns for  a just energy transition.

Therefore, this NEC has brought people from far and near – local communities, the civil society community, government officials, academicians, lawyers, environmentalists, experts and every single person here to discuss this issue and jointly present a common front and raise a common voice demanding for a just energy revolution.

To address the carbon emissions released into the atmosphere that is leading to global earth temperature rise, global warming, extreme weather conditions and catastrophic events there is the need for transition from dirty energy to renewable energies such as solar, wind, and fuel efficient cookstoves to promote energy access for all in line with the Sustainable Development Goal 7.

Despite the quantum leap in the developed economies, globally, more than 1.6 billion people have no access to electricity and about 2.4 billion depend solely on fuel wood.  This is particularly true in Africa and in Nigeria, where rising energy demand is the cause of increasing violent resource conflicts at the sites of extraction. Nigeria is nowhere near meeting its nationally determined commitment to addressing climate change and reducing carbon emissions. About 70 percent of our population depends solely on fuel wood for energy, representing one of the world’s highest deforestation rate at 3.5 percent annually.

While we have been consistent in advocating that Africa and Nigeria join the renewable energy revolution sweeping across the globe, we cannot overlook the fact that a new form of energy colonialism seems to have emerged. Nigeria and less industralised countries stand the risk of energy colonialism if renewable technologies remain the exclusive reserve for industrialised nations. Indeed, Nigeria and the entire African continent have become dumping ground for fake and substandard alternative energy products from the developed world.

At the policy level, our energy policies are still deficient, lack focus and devoid of community perspectives. They have instead, opened opportunities for private investors in energy systems who are more interested in profits than bridging energy deficits. Persistence in fossil fuel dependency is the result of billions of Naira expended for generator and diesel for Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) at the federal level which is replicated at the state and local levels of governance.

Energy colonialism is killing the Nigeria economy. Access to green technologies is constrained by the problem of affordability and adequacy. Although removing the high tariffs for zero tariffs will help improve renewable energy availability and accessibility, we advocate for energy democracy that is decentralized, people driven and socially controlled such that citizens become energy producers as well as end users from mini-grids, and non-grid systems that are less capital intensive. To promote this, a percentage of the national budget should be dedicated to renewable energy research and development. All public finance, loans and subsidies being channeled to fossil fuel explorations should be halted immediately and the funds invested in renewable energy to promote greater energy access for the over 170 million people in Nigeria.  

To reinterate, energy colonialism should not lead to the dumping of petrol and diesel engines and cars from industralised nations to Africa in the name of providing development aid and energy for the poor. This Coalition warn against attempts to make Nigeria a dumping ground for such obsolete cars and machines. We call for a ban on generator sets in all MDAs at the federal, state and local government levels.

Lastly, energy colonialism can be avoided if the Nigeria government adopts a deliberate policy of energy transition from fossil fuels to renewable sources.  We call on Nigeria and Africa governments to adopt a deliberate policy for energy democracy and transition from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy.

Colleagues, friends, there is life after oil. It is to this challenge of energy emancipation and transition that you have been called upon to provide practicable ways to nudge us on the path of safe, clean and sustainable energy that will guarantee a bright future.

Community, power, and leave the oil in the soil is now. Leave the oil in the soil. There is life after oil.

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