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Friday, March 24, 2023

Friends of the Earth: How Buhari can achieve a sustainable Nigeria

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) presents this Memorandum to President Muhammadu Buhari as well as policy makers and law makers at the National Assembly for a sustainable Nigeria. The document identifies several priority areas as cardinal to meeting citizens welfare, while presenting some indicators in which the present government’s success will equally be measured.

President Muhammadu Buhari. Photo credit: informationng.com
President Muhammadu Buhari. Photo credit: informationng.com

Energy Access and Off-Grid Options

Energy, in particular, oil and gas, has continued to contribute over 70% of Nigeria’s federal revenue. Regrettably, Nigeria has relied too heavily on its oil and gas resources to the detriment of other renewable sources of energy as its main source of energy. Available statistics show that only about 40% of the nation’s population has access to electricity from the national grid, leaving close to 95 million people relying on the traditional use of wood and kerosene for cooking with its attendant health implications.

Oil exploration in Nigeria has led to monumental environmental damage to communities in the Niger Delta, while energy poverty has increased the rate of deforestation and loss of forest cover with about 72% of the population depending on biomass as source of cooking energy (GCN, 2010).

The unfolding effects of climate change, the production and use of energy remains the twin problem of induced climate change and global energy poverty. Therefore, the deployment of cleaner energy solutions, particularly renewable, is paramount to reduce emission of greenhouse gases, protect the environment and enhance sustainable development.

On a long term basis, rather than focus attention on oil discovery in the Chad Basin, a post petroleum economy for Nigeria should be the focus drawing lessons from the Delta Beyond Oil Masterplan that seeks to deliver on sustainable development through renewable energy sources. There is a need of shift from fossil fuel based energy sources to cleaner energy such as solar and mini-dams as alternatives to drive future development within planetary boundaries. Renewable energy has emerged as the most favoured alternative to fossil fuels because of its low carbon nature, low rate of depletion, high rate of regeneration and inherently sustainable component. The provision of reliable, clean, and affordable energy access is required to create economic opportunities, harness the economic potentials of the rural areas to reduce poverty, stall rural-urban drift, enhance educational potentials for rural school children and encourage the growth of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the rural areas and attain the MDGs.

The National Energy Policy (2005) emphasised the importance of renewable energy to achieving sustainable development through the expansion of overall access, targeting access rate of at least 75% by 2020. The National Policy and Guidelines on Renewable Electricity, and the on-going Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) also emphasised the importance of renewable energy.

However, renewable energy options are suitable off-grid and stand-alone systems. Based on a 10% economic growth rate and the corresponding ECN’s projected electricity demand profiles of about 16,000MW, 30,000MW and 192,000MW in the short, medium and long terms in the country, the document envisaged, that renewable energy (RE) would contribute about 13%, 23% and 36% of the total electricity demand of the nation in the short, medium and long terms, respectively (ECN, 2007). Nigeria needs to be in the forefront of the renewable energy revolution by dedicating adequate resources for research and development that will drive this process.


The UNEP Assessment Report Recommendations on Ogoni

It will be recalled that the FGN commissioned the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to assess the level of environmental pollution in the Ogoniland occasioned by years of spillage from oil operations in that area. The UNEP Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland Report released on August 4, 2011 made far-reaching recommendations for the cleanup, which it envisaged will take up to 30 years and cost an estimated $1billion. While government accepts the report, it has however not demonstrated sufficient commitment to implement the recommendation. It is therefore ironic, that despite several millions of Naira invested in the report and countless agitations by interested stakeholders, the Report has been subjected to political machinations and intrigues, while the environmental degradation continues almost unabated.

Your administration will do well to study the report with a view to fully implement its recommendations, which will certainly reduce environmental hazards and improve livelihoods of the affected communities.


Environmental Sustainability of the Niger Delta: Overhauling the JIV process

Closely linked to the UNEP Report is the general environmental concerns in the Niger Delta region which are well documented and further exacerbated by continued poor environmental enforcement, low level of commitment by operating companies and unbridled frustration by affected communities due to perceived neglect of government. ERA/FoEN-led coalition of CSOs and Host Communities Network urges the government to compel the transnational oil companies to halt gas flaring and commence the clean up of the over 10,000 oil spill sites by the establishment of US$100 million clean up and remediation fund for the entire Niger Delta. The socio-economic costs of inaction, economic and health losses and fast depleting biodiversity in the region have not been properly quantified neither is any one held accountable for such losses. The inability of government to hold culprits to account and non-enforcement of the Polluter-Pays Principle has encouraged the culture of impunity with grave consequences to the environment, rural livelihood sources and serious environmental degradation.

Environmental risks and ecological scarcity are being heightened. Rather than selective settlement, the root cause of grievance and environmental pollution should be dealt with decisively.

In particular, the mandatory Joint Investigation Visit to oil spill sites is currently led by the oil companies who are also responsible for the spill. It is the oil companies who put the logistics together and eventually decide the cause of spill, level of impact and extent of remediation rather than the NOSDRA with the statutory functions. The resulting Joint Investigation Report has been noted to criminalise communities, even falsified date and extent of impact in order to reduce damages and liability as the Bodo and Shell case show. Even though the issue is being settled out of court with US$83 million being paid to victims, it ought to be the concern of this government about how a company Shell has treated citizens of Nigeria with falsification of documents and manipulations of the JIV process.

ERA/FoEN advocates for stronger commitment from the government to hold every polluter accountable for both clean up and remediation of any affected area and strengthen institutions to avoid “regulator capture” which has often rendered government’s efforts useless. Attention should be paid to the Ministry of Environment, NESREA and NOSDRA so that they can properly be equipped to conduct their statutory regulatory and enforcement duties.


Climate Change and National Economic Development: The Climate Change Commission Bill

That this present government has pledged to focus attention on climate change is significant. But it can hardly do this without a strong institutional base to drive the process. There is a global consensus that climate change will stunt economic development if no urgent actions are taken. Nigeria has committed to the global effort to reduce the impact of climate change by signing both the UNFCCC and ratifying the Kyoto Protocol. Appropriate policies like the National Climate Change Policy and the National Adaptation Strategic Action Plan (NASPA) have been adopted. However, because climate change is crosscutting and directly affects economies of nations, a strong national institution that will provide appropriate climate governance is being advocated. Such national institution will provide leadership, coordination, create access to resources and information to fully respond to the present and future dangers of climate change.

Nigeria has pioneered the legislation for the establishment of a specialised National Climate Change Commission/Agency through the Bill for the establishment of a Commission since 2009. However the Bill has not been assented by former President Jonathan. It is instructive to note, that countries like Philippine, Mexico, Columbia and Kenya who have adopted the Nigeria’s proposed model have since established statutory Commissions to provide climate governance and resilience in their respective countries.

ERA/FoEN recalls then the President-elect’s acceptance speech where he commits to addressing the climate challenge that presently incapacitates livelihoods. ERA/FoEN urges the president to champion the fight against climate change by the establishment of a dedicated commission directly under the presidency in line with current global practices.


The Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB)

The PIB was introduced to restructure the oil and gas sector through unbundling the existing NNPC with specialized agencies and bodies. Amongst other things the Bill seeks to ensure that the management and allocation of petroleum resources and their derivatives shall be conducted strictly in accordance with the principles of good governance, transparency and sustainable economic development; enshrines the principles of transparency and good governance by stating that institutions of the industry shall be guided by the principles of the Nigerian Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (NEITI) and the provision for participation of the people in the decision making process and fully provides for the right of citizens to know about processes of the industry.

The Bill has been subject to intense debate and political intrigues despite that the philosophy and principles of the Bill have been generally accepted. While the present legislature has promised to pass the Bill before the expiration of the current legislature year, it behooves on the new administration to ensure the full implementation if passed that so that local participation in community development process is enhanced.

In the event of non-passage of the Bill, the President is called upon to accelerate the passage of the Bill by working with the National Assembly to ensure probity and accountability for the general good of the economy and the people. The Bill if passed will increase revenue for Nigeria, account for frequent oil spills and cleanup process and arrest the spate of oil theft.


Who is Afraid of Oil Pipelines Metering?: Publish What You Pump

Surprisingly, the amount of oil extracted in Nigeria on a daily basis is unknown. What is known is the amount offered for sale at the export terminals. ERA/FoEN suggested to the past administration the need for metering of the oil pipelines, oil wellheads, and flow stations down to the export terminals but the oil companies by consensus were opposed to this. It will surprise Mr President that the amount of oil extracted from Nigeria is basically unknown. What is known is the volume offered for sale. In this way, the massive oil theft currently on-going is unaccounted for. The question this government should ask and deal with is: “who is afraid of oil pipeline metering?” so that Nigeria can ascertain the actual volume of oil extracted from Nigeria which far exceeds the records of about 2.4 mbpd.


Social Justice and Equity: National Basic Income Scheme for the Unemployed

Years of failed promises, dashed expectations and limited opportunities for selfactualisation have been perceived by a large portion of the population as injustice. This has elucidated protests and to some extent armed struggle of diverse levels and characteristics across the country. Inequitable distribution of the nation’s endowed natural resources and the widening gap between the rich and the poor has increased a sense of social exclusion and public participation. Despite consistent GDP growth, Nigeria continues to experience “growthless growth” as poverty and joblessness have become pervasive. The absence of necessary social security safety nets like medical insurance, welfare particularly for the poor coupled with lack of access to energy, water and a safe environment have continued to demoralise meaningful contribution from this segment of the population.

As part of the solution, ERA/FoEN has continue to advocate for reforms that will guarantee livelihoods like the right to a clean and safe environment, right to access to water and public participation in environmental issues as a fundamental right under the Nigerian Constitution. A regime that ensures social justice and equity is the first step towards ensuring a sustainable Nigeria.

The Niger Delta is destroyed by oil impact so also is the 11 frontline states of the north by desertification. In particular, the Fulani-Hausa herdsmen-famers conflict over grazing and farmlands for food has spilled to the south. In Eastern Nigeria, gully erosion, and in Western Nigeria, deforestation has impacted rural livelihoods.

Selective payment to a few cannot be the answer to mass unemployment and security. Since rural livelihoods sources have been affected throughout Nigeria, ERA/FoEN further advocates for the adoption of a National Basic Income Scheme (NaBIS) of about N10,000 to be paid to ALL Nigerians who are unemployed to reduce the gad of social disparity and income inequalities to cushion the meagre earnings of the poor and provide some safety valves in desperate times. ERA/FoEN urge Mr. President to adopt NaBIS that has the prospects of unlocking creative potentials, reduce crime rates, and foster national cohesion and to give a sense of belonging to this group of Nigerians desperately in need of succour.

ERA/FoEN believes that Nigeria can only make meaningful progress through efficient use of its natural resources in a sustainable manner. A “Change” agenda that will “result to improved human well-being and social equity while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities” (UNEP).

Apart from statutory allocation to this NABIS Fund by deemphasising individual security but the collective, all Nigerians earning N500,000 and above on a monthly basis (or N6 million per annum) will be too willing to contribute 1% of their earnings to this fund. A social Security Fund for the Unemployed is long overdue. In the past, Governors Fayemi (Ekiti), Mimiko (Ondo) Dickson (Bayelsa), and Uduaghan (Delta) were already implementing monthly stipends to alleviate old age poverty. This experience can be built upon successfully by the use of biometrics.


Poverty, Unemployment, Population, Electricity Rates: Current Trend

How will the resent government reverse these damaging statistics and reduce the rate of poverty in Nigeria? The Nigeria economy grew at an average of about 6.2 percent annually between 2002 and 2011, the new poverty estimates in 2010/2011 and 2012/1013 is 35.2% and 33.1% respectively (NBS report 2014). Punch Newspaper of February 14, 2012 reported the NBS statistic as 112.519 million Nigerians live in relative poverty condition, this figure was contained in the 2010 Poverty Profile Report of NBS represented 69% of the country’s total population. There is a general disconnect between Nigeria’s economic growth and human development

Nigeria is ranked 156 out of 187 national economies worldwide (UNDP-HDR 2011). In 2004, out of the estimated population of over 130 million in Nigeria, 54.4% lived below the poverty line. The situation worsened in 2011 when 69.1% of the population or approximately 100 million people lived in abject poverty (NBS Report 2011). As of mid-2010, Nigeria’s population was estimated at about 163.4 million (NBS 2011) and a steady annual population growth rate of 2.5%. Presently the population rose from 40,431,790 five years ago to 167,912,561 as at 2014 (NPC).

This represents an annual growth rate of 3.2% or 5.6 million people per annum. The unemployment rate as at 2011 was 24% compare to 21% in 2010, according to NBS 2013, 54% of Nigerian youth were unemployed in 2012 this has continued to rise by 27% annually in 2014 according to NBS.



It is within this context that submission on the above critical issues stalling the development of Nigeria are raised, with a view to getting government to redouble its effort in seeking alternative and sustainable solutions to the current energy poverty in the country. The brief outline here focuses on some parameters which eventually provides a template for scorecard for this present government.

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