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Concerns For Fossil Fuels Hinder Nigeria's Efforts To Develop Renewable Energy Sources

Feature Article A man stands at the site of the illegal refinery explosion in Emohua, Niger Delta, Nigeria [AP Photo]
THU, 19 OCT 2023 LISTEN
A man stands at the site of the illegal refinery explosion in Emohua, Niger Delta, Nigeria [AP Photo]

The government's reliance on fossil fuel contributes to climate change, according to ODIMEGWU ONWUMERE. He examines experts' concerns about Nigeria's need to transition to renewable energy, which Nestle Nigeria focuses on to implement global green policies and promote change

Our reporter's journey to this historic city in the South-South region of Nigeria was not intended for those easily frightened. On Monday, October 2, 2023, an inferno erupted in an adjacent oil tank as a result of a makeshift refinery, leading to severe burns for certain individuals and the tragic loss of over 18 lives, including that of a pregnant woman, in Emohua. Emohua is a town and the administrative center of Emohua Local Government Area in Rivers State, Nigeria. It comprises eight sub-villages: Oduoha, Elibrada, Isiodu, Rumuakunde, Rumuche, Mbu-eto, Rumuohia, and Mbuitanwo. The latter six sub-villages are collectively known as Rumuenyi.

In spite of Nigeria's efforts to transition to renewable energy and decrease carbon emissions since 2012, the country has encountered numerous obstacles, including emissions from both authorized and unauthorized flaring of petroleum products. It became evident that Barr Nyesom Wike, in his role as the then Governor of Rivers State, took additional measures to combat the issue of black soot caused by illegal oil refineries.

The residents rallied behind Wike in this battle. Recent data indicates that the black soot originating from these makeshift refineries poses a hazardous environmental and health threat to the state and its surrounding areas. The citizens have voiced their discontent with this situation, while Wike has criticized certain authorities for their ineffective handling of the problem.

In the search for a solution to the conundrum, environmental experts recommend that Nigeria concentrate solely on the implementation of renewable energy policies to address the impacts of climate change. Their rationale stems from a tragic incident that took place in the Emohua community, which will forever be remembered, and Nigeria's current prioritization of fossil fuel strategies goes against this objective.

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These specialists argue that the newly introduced Carbon Tax System in Nigeria is likely to fail and deviate from its intended purpose. Salisu Dahiru, the Director General of Nigeria's Climate Change Council (NCCC), declared the implementation of a Carbon Tax System. This decision was made following a meeting chaired by former President Muhammadu Buhari, with the goal of introducing a carbon taxing policy and budgetary system that aligns with the Climate Change Act 2021.

However, The Guardian editors are among the experts who argue that the government was only mouthing by prioritizing revenue generation through this tax scheme instead of taking effective action.

It is ironic that the government proposing carbon taxes is also failing to ensure sufficient clean energy. According to them, the imposition of annual levies on businesses using power-generating sets by the Federal Capital Territory Administration serves as a cautionary message against implementing carbon taxes.

"The Federal Government's intention, as outlined in the Climate Change Act 2021, to introduce a carbon tax policy and budgetary system for Nigeria is seen as hypocritical and lacking commitment to addressing climate change, except in areas where it can generate quick revenue. The government is considering imposing new taxes on businesses and individuals without ensuring proper accountability and responsibility, except for gas flaring, which remains unaddressed.”

Despite the efforts made by Nigeria to combat illegal crude refineries, she has faced challenges due to the involvement of influential politicians and security officials, as reported by local environmental groups. As a result, oil majors operating in Nigeria have chosen to sell their onshore and shallow water assets and redirect their attention to deepwater operations.

This decision is driven by concerns such as theft of crude oil, damage to pipelines, and legal disputes regarding oil spills. On the other hand, President Bola Tinubu emphasizes the significance of securing climate finance from developed nations to maintain a strong climate change policy. However, experts argue that his stance on energy priorities is contradictory, as he supports both renewable energy and increased production of oil and gas.

Regardless of the Buhari administration's efforts to implement climate action, experts highlight that their primary emphasis was on fossil fuels. Initially, the 2018 draft National Energy Policy gave priority to coal, but due to setbacks and the abandonment of coal projects, the focus shifted to fossil gas. It has been determined that Nigeria needs to execute its Energy Transition Plan (ETP) in order to accomplish its objectives. However, further policies and international assistance are necessary.

The aim of implementing the Nigeria Climate Change Policy Response and Strategy (NCCPRS) was to address the impacts of climate change and promote a low-carbon economy. In 2021, the Ministry of Environment in Nigeria introduced the National Climate Change Policy (NCCP), which outlines the country's direction for addressing climate change and its goal to enhance climate resilience from 2021 to 2030.

Yet, this has not helped. According to the Climate Action Tracker, Nigeria's policies and actions are viewed as fair contributions to global climate action. Olufemi Ayodele, spokesperson for the local Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps, stated that the Niger Delta region, which is rich in oil, is facing issues with illegal refining.

“This hazardous activity not only pollutes the environment but also worsens the effects of climate change,” the source said.

It has been discovered that impoverished locals resort to accessing pipelines to extract fuel, which they then sell using unsafe methods, resulting in fatalities. The editors argue that the government's decision to impose fines on firms for using generators appears to be a punishment for the government's own incompetence, inefficiency, and ineffectiveness.

“The situation is both grim and perplexing: the official supply of renewable energy falls far short of the minimum demand, even though many businesses rely on electricity and other forms of economic infrastructure to succeed.

“Individuals and organizations are forced to take matters into their own hands by obtaining and operating generators at a significant financial cost in order to compensate for the lack of electricity supply.

“However, the government has only added insult to injury by introducing a burdensome tax policy. This is extremely harsh, heartless, and unacceptable,” they say.

On the other hand, experts have pointed out that these measures are coldblooded for Nigeria's goals and fail to achieve the necessary emissions reductions to limit global warming to 1.5°C. As a result, there is an urgent need for renewable energy. The United Nations contends that renewable energy is crucial in "creating a more secure future."

As per the international organization, it is evident through scientific research that in order to avert the severe consequences of climate change, emissions must be decreased by approximately 50% by 2030 and ultimately reach net-zero by 2050. Consequently, there is an immediate necessity for renewable energy. In order to accomplish this, “we must reduce our dependency on fossil fuels and allocate resources towards clean, accessible, affordable, sustainable, and reliable alternative energy sources,” says UN.

It added that renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, water, waste, and geothermal heat, are abundantly available in nature. They are constantly replenished by natural processes and have minimal or zero emissions of greenhouse gases and pollutants into the atmosphere, the organization added. Although fossil fuels continue to make up over 80 percent of global energy production, cleaner sources of energy are increasing in popularity. Currently, approximately 29 percent of electricity is derived from renewable sources.

During her speech at the World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) event on March 15, 2023, Victoria Uwadoka, the Corporate Communications and Public Affairs Manager at Nestle, emphasized that Nestle's main focus is on four objectives: climate initiatives, sustainable packaging, sustainable sourcing, and water conservation.

She stressed that Nestle's dedication to safeguarding the environment is strengthened by their enduring establishment and their intention to persist in operations for numerous forthcoming years. Additionally, to foster a sustainable environment in Nigeria, the corporation is allocating resources towards renewable energy sources like solar panels, biomass boilers, and waste-to-energy solutions to fuel their factories.

According to her, by utilizing these sustainable energy sources, Nestle is diminishing its dependency on fossil fuels and decreasing its emissions of greenhouse gases.

Photo description: “A man stands at the site of the illegal refinery explosion in Emohua, Niger Delta, Nigeria [AP Photo].” Source: Aljazeera

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