For a Safer Earth, Healthier Climate

Stakeholders Advocate Centering Communities in Energy Transitioning

By Ruth Tene Natsa, Abuja.

The need to centre impacted communities and take their perspectives into consideration as Nigeria joins the rest of the world to transition to cleaner energy sources was the crux of discussions when stakeholders on the auspices of the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Foundation and Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) brainstormed today.

The meeting funded by the FORD Foundation had key stakeholders from the Niger Delta communities stressing the need for a just transition, and for Nigeria to articulate a clear implementation roadmap with all relevant stakeholders synergising in view of the upcoming COP 28 set to hold in Dubai, from 26th November,2023.

In his keynote address, the Olu of Warri, His Royal Majesty, Ogiame Atuwase III, stressed the need for the government to be closer to the people, noting that the government has been far from the people, despite owning majority shares in the region’s resources.

In his words”Justice demands that  we centre the people and communities that have been affected by the long-term industrial activities and the looming threat of climate change

He said putting the people at the centre will ensure more equitable and more developed communities

According to His Majesty, “There can be no serious discussions about the Nigerian energy landscape without emphasising the critical contributions of the Niger Delta”

That since the discovery of oil in the region, the people have faced all forms of physical, environmental and psychological hardships, despite the huge investments and money paid to some community players.

‘Since the discovery of oil in Oloibiri in Bayelsa state in 1956, the region’s resources have been the cornerstone of our national economy, yet our existence is marred by environmental degradation, consistent energy poverty and the looming threat of climate change,’ he said.

Reiterating the Olu of Warri’s position, Ford Foundation’s Director for West Africa, Chichi Aniagolu-Okoye stressed the need to focus on communities so as not to have a repeat of the Niger Delta pollution situation in the non-fossil fuel era.

In her words “We have seen a consistent situation where we have abandoned communities recalling that in the 60’s was Tin, then coal, and lots of other minerals and the communities that had these minerals have since been abandoned.  Many of those communities in the Niger Delta today are the ones sustaining the Nigerian economy and once those minerals are no longer wanted the communities will become abandoned,” she said.

Now the world is moving on from fossil fuels to non-fossil fuels, but we realise that its still communities that are going to mine those non-fossil fuels and if we do not get it right, as we do not get it right during the fuel and fossil fuel era, the communities will be abandoned, ‘ she said while emphasising the need to ensure we do not repeat same mistake again.

In his welcome remarks earlier, the Director, of PPI YarAdua Foundation, Amara Nwankpa stated that at a time when there is a call for the world to transition from fossil fuels to cleaner energies, Nigeria is no bystander, further stating that the Niger Delta remains a crucial stakeholder in the global and national energy transition. With its six-decade history as a significant fossil fuel provider, the region faces unique challenges, from

“We stand at a pivotal moment in history where the call to transition from fossil fuels to cleaner energy alternatives resonates not just in high-level policy rooms but also in communities most affected by energy extraction. Nigeria, our nation, is no bystander in this global transition. However, it’s crucial that this shift does not perpetuate the existing system’s inequities but contributes to repairing the socio-economic damages wrought by years of unrestrained fossil fuel extraction.” he said

“At the core of this discourse lies the principle of a “Just Transition”—an idea that calls for transforming our communities into thriving, ecologically sustainable economies. Economies that not only sustain livelihoods but uplift them, bolster democratic governance and amplify ecological resilience.  The effectiveness of such a transition is fundamentally tied to prioritising people and communities. And that effectiveness is guaranteed when there is collaboration between government, civil society, industry, and communities in crafting effective strategies, plans, and reforms.

Amara stated added that “Nigeria took the right direction with its 2022 Energy Transition Plan. Still, the plan has an evident gap—it features limited input from the local communities that are most impacted, especially those in extractive regions like the Niger Delta. This is not just an oversight but a persistent flaw we’ve repeatedly seen in policies nationwide”

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