This reflection is coming at a critical moment with climate change alarm bells are ringing loudly and clearly. According to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), global near-surface temperature rise may between 2023 and 2027 exceed the threshold of 1.5C above preindustrial levels. Although they say that this rise would be temporary, it is also agreed that there is no certainty over whether this scenario is true.
The point is that although 1.5C is given as the best-case scenario in the Paris Agreement, catastrophic impacts of extreme climate events are already being experienced with temperature rise below that threshold. Droughts, water stress, coastal erosion, desertification, and related conflicts are well documented. We have seen such events in Nigeria and in Africa generally. Floods have led to the deaths of thousands of Africans in recent years, and the intensity of cyclones has been on a high trajectory, especially on the southeastern seaboard of Africa. Higher rainfall and floods have been predicted for Nigeria in 2023.
The climate alarm bells may be sounding what has already been the experience of those least responsible for climate change. The point must also be made that Africa suffers about 50% higher temperature increases than most other regions worldwide.
What have all these got to do with the shift from corruption to sustainability and the critical need to energise Nigeria’s future? Many things. The concept of sustainability itself has been corrupted and is limping on two legs when it should stand on at least three. The traditional three legs of sustainability are social well-being, economic growth, and environmental care. Without a doubt, in practice, economic growth trumps environmental care and social well-being. The focus of governments on economic growth has blindsided the fact that development, and social well-being, cannot be attained without ecological care. Lineal economic growth and sustainability are contradictory on a finite planet.
With massive revenue from crude oil and gas, Nigeria has allowed decades of ecocide on her environment and permitted operators in the sector to ride roughshod over the social and even cultural wellbeing of communities unfortunate to have these resources in their territories. The Niger Delta, comprised of wetlands, swamps and forests, is crisscrossed by 21,000 km of oil pipelines and has 5000 oil wells. The extreme degradation that has rendered this region one of the top ten most polluted places on earth has been attested to by UNEP’s assessment of the Ogoni Environment and recently by the reportof the Bayelsa State Oil and Environment Commission aptly titled “An Environmental Genocide: Counting the Human and Environmental Cost of Oil in Bayelsa, Nigeria.”
Besides the word ecocide and what the Bayelsa Commission has termed genocide, the other word to describe the situation in the oil fields is corruption.
According to the 2014 OECD Foreign Bribery Report, one in five cases of transnational bribery occurs in the extractives sector. Research confirms Studies a correlation between corruption and increased carbon emissions particularly as this had been a key for extending the life of carbon-intensive industries, through corporate capture, alternative truths and sometimes outright deception.
It is estimated that Nigeria has suffered a financial loss of more than 11 trillion Naira from corruption in the electricity sector from 1999 and this May rise to over 20 trillion Naira by 2027.
Nigeria’s Energy Future
It is not easy to figure out what government policy would be and how it will shape Nigeria’s energy future, seeing that the nation is in a critical moment of political transition. The electioneering campaigns should have presented robust ideas on energy or about the environment. The town hall on environmental issues, hosted by a coalition of CSOs, including HOMEF, was unfortunately shunned by the front-running political candidates. From public statements, the parties are all enamoured with rent-seeking from the murky oil and gas sector. However, we suppose that the incoming government will implement the Nigeria Energy Transition Plan and other policy templates, such as the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) from the outgoing government. In that case we can surmise that there will be a need for intensified campaigns at both practical and pedagogical levels. The alternative will be to allow a reign of muddling through half-hearted policy formulations.
Among other things, Nigeria’s NDCs pledge to end gas flaring by 2030 and to reduce fugitive methane emissions from oil and gas by 60% by 2031. To put this in perspective, The NDC indicates that fugitive emissions represent 36% of energy sector GHG emissions, accounting for 60% of the country’s total GHG emissions. This means a 60% reduction would represent about 13% of total GHG emissions for Nigeria. The International Renewables Energy Agency (IRENA) states that Nigeria can produce 60% of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2050. The report projects that 47% could be reached by 2030 and 57% by 2040. These projections may appear less than plausible for a fossil fuels dependent country with scant investment in renewable energy.
As for the Energy Transition Plan, the aim is to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060, with key focus areas being power, cooking, oil and gas, transport, and energy. The plan discusses replacing fossil fuel-powered electricity and deploying decentralised renewable energy to achieve universal electrification goals by 2030. The same plan interestingly states that “there will be an initial ramp-up of gas generation before 2030.” It also mentions the “deployment of centralised RE-solar PV and corresponding storage with Hydrogen starting from 2040.”
There are concerns about Nigeria’s energy future due to embedded contradictions, and lack of political and economic clarity hinged on a complex of factors, including ongoing divestments by international oil companies, the marriage to fossil gas and the proposal to deploy centralised solar power and production/storage of hydrogen. Despite the enormous amount of oil and gas extracted in Nigeria, the nation suffers perennial power outages, boasting of poor social infrastructure and massive poverty levels.
With an energy future hooked to fossil gas and centralised renewable infrastructure from 2040, Nigeria seems unable to escape the trap of rent-seeking from fossil fuels. It will step into rent-seeking from solar power by producing “Green Hydrogen” for export. Thus, energy will likely be available for export, but unavailable for use at home.
To avoid this bleak prognosis, the incoming government, and others after it, must take decisive steps to invest in research, production, and socially moderated distribution of renewable energy to meet the national and regional needs. Regular corruption risk mapping will help the process of grasping how corrupt practices operate in the sector. These are important because the extraction of minerals for renewable energy equipment can easily replicate the dastard realities associated with fossil energy resources.
The temptation to get trapped as the perpetual storehouse for colonial exports of oil, gas or Hydrogen must be halted.