By Ruth Tene Natsa, Abuja
Prior to the inauguration of Nigeria’s new political dispensation, Civil Society Organisations on the Platform of the Yar’Adua Foundation, have called on the incoming, Bola Ahmed Tinubu administration to take decisive steps to invest in research, production, and socially moderated distribution of renewable energy to meet the national and regional needs.
The call was made by stakeholders at a Roundtable, themed: From Corruption To Sustainability: Energising Nigeria’s Future, organised by the Yar’Adua Foundation, in Abuja on Friday, May 19, 2023.
Stating that regular corruption risk mapping will help the process of grasping how corrupt practices operate in the sector Director, of Health of Mother Earth Foundation, Dr Nnimmo Bassey, said the temptation to get trapped as the perpetual storehouse for colonial exports of oil, and gas or Hydrogen must be halted
In his presentation, themed “Nigeria’s Challenging Green Energy Future”, he said “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 the environment.
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.
According to Nnimmo “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.
He noted that the extreme degradation that has rendered the Niger Delta 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 report of 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”.
Quoting the 2014 OECD Foreign Bribery Report, Nnimmo said “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”.
He added that 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.
In his presentation, Tijah Bolton- Akpan noted that Climate change is undoubtedly the greatest existential challenge facing mankind today. He noted that in a world faced with this real and present danger, the rapid move away from carbon-intensive fossil fuels to cleaner, renewable alternatives has been heralded as a global way forward for both the energy and the climate
He noted that while plans are in place at country and inter-governmental levels to ramp up investments in energy systems in the decades ahead, this cannot happen where corruption forecloses green financing options.
“Corruption in oil-rich countries such as Nigeria is seriously undermining oil revenue optimization and the utilization of receipts for social good, with dwindling fiscal space forcing governments to risk bigger bets on oil despite climate-related evidence to the contrary. Indeed, the higher the degree of corruption the greater will be the deviation from the social optimum, which in turn results in less incentive to exit the status quo and more pressure on natural resources”
“By now it has been fairly established that our decades-long fixation on fossil-based exports and reluctance to embrace economic diversification is indicative of a deeper malaise with the rentier system that underpins the fossil fuel economy, a system that provides “settlements” for chains of formal and informal actors who cannot dare to imagine parting with their illicit “privilege” in the name of a decarbonisation.
Tijah said for Nigeria to address the root causes of corruption in Nigeria’s energy transition journey, Nigeria’s anti-corruption agencies need to have Energy Transition Units which look at corruption from the perspective of the intersection between carbon-intensive economic activity and new actions needed for the transition, the legislature must step up to the plate in terms of oversight on regulators in the time-worn fossil fuel industry, Ancillary reforms such as those around public procurement and asset recovery must be strengthened.
He further added that Nigeria is rich in transition minerals, which is already opening a huge flank for replaying the corruption risks witnessed in oil and gas. Regulation of this emerging sector must step up! “We need to accelerate the off-grid renewable energy and incentivize private investment by creating a stable and supportive regulatory environment for solar and other renewables. However, while the emerging renewables field needs to be encouraged to become competitive, we must watch out for the risk of that sector being captured by Nigeria’s corrupt elite the way they did with the oil and gas sector among other factors