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WHAT AFTER OIL: Climate and Environmental Resilience in Extractive Communities

The global shift toward more sustainable energy technologies has created a global demand for hydrocarbon fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and natural gas. Although it is unclear how long this transition will take, it is sure to have a significant impact on the fortunes of oil-dependent economies like Nigeria. Most affected by this will be impoverished extractive communities who will have to live with a polluted ecosystem and looming climate threats.

Given that nearly 86% of Nigeria’s export value is from fossil fuels, this conversation addressed the question of how sustainable Nigeria’s reliability on her oil products is. Will oil remain forever? With her dependence on oil, how will Nigeria navigate when there is no more oil just as we have seen with cocoa, tin and other materials that Nigeria transitioned from?

The forum which was organised by the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Foundation in partnership with the Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) held on the 16th of September 2021 with panellists such as Nnimmo Bassey, Director, HOMEF, Bekeme Masade-Olowola, Chief Executive, CSR-in-Action, Martha Agbani, Executive Director, Lokiaka Community Development Centre and Dr Osasure to discuss the environmental and economic implications of a post-oil future and how Nigeria can manage the transition in a just and sustainable manner.

L-R: Mrs Bekeme Masade-Olowola, Chief Executive CSR-in-Action, Dr Osasure, Ms Agatha Agbani, Executive Director, Lokiaka Community Development Centre, Mr Nnimmo Bassey, Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) and Mr Amara Nwankpa, Director Public Policy Initiative Yar’Adua Foundation

Highlights

The overarching discussion pointed to the fact that Nigeria is not ready for the end of oil nor ready for a transition to an alternative source of energy with 30% of her Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) revenue going into exploring more oil fields.

Following Dr Osasure’s perspective, there is nothing wrong with Nigeria being an oil-based economy. What needs to change is how these oil-based resources are utilised seeing as oil allows for manufacturing processes to take place leading to the creation of jobs and other benefits. Other suggested ways for the nation to move forward would include:

  1. Learn lessons from her previous oil investments and diversify her oil portfolio.
  2. The need for the iteration of a nuanced message especially surrounding the exploration of gas more safely and sustainably.

Mr Nnimmo Bassey on the other hand highlighted that for any transition to happen, Nigeria needs to first address the present issues within her oil-based economy. For instance, Nigeria, while generating significantly from fossil fuels has not sorted out issues concerning oil spills.

He highlighted issues from the PIA starting from its refusal to address handover issues such as “Who bears the responsibility for oil spills?” International Oil companies need be followed up to manage all existing liabilities before selling their onshore fields and oil spills need to be taken with a higher sense of urgency than it currently is. Also, there is a need to subvert the powers vested in oil companies. Oil companies should not be the major definition of host communities.

In addressing the avoidance of a re-enaction of the Oloibiri situation were Nigeria’s first oil well went dry, Mrs Masade-Olowola established the need for the following:

  • All stakeholders – ministries, agencies etc. – need to be carried along and work together to ensure that things work.
  • Value reorientation of the average Nigerian: Individuals need to see beyond themselves and look at the collective benefit of our resources to Nigeria as a whole.
  • There is a need for visionary leadership; leaders who are keen on harnessing opportunities and contributing positively and effectively to global goals.
  • The attitudinal problems towards stewardship by Nigerians need to be revisited.

Ms Agatha who works closely in and is monitoring the ongoing clean-up process at Ogoni, i.e. the technical expertise to extract oil from Ogoni waters as a result of oil spills, gave a comprehensive insight into the present activities. Highlights include:

  • The lack of a sense of urgency – Although work is ongoing, the proposed 6-month project has been ongoing for 2 years and counting
  • No baseline assessment done in communities by oil companies which have led to vegetation issues
  • Challenges with clean-up as oil remain present in Ogoni waters despite the work done
  • There are not enough contractors showing up for the work daily
  • The clean-up project is being done by foreigners rather than indigenous experts as earlier agreed
  • Women issues – there is little to zero women representation on the technical teams, instead, they are left to do domestic tasks such as cooking and cleaning.
  • The promise to reduce artisanal refiners using incentivisation has failed has these refiners have not been engaged and the promise to them have not been kept.

Next Steps

For Nigeria to move forward as a progressive nation, Mr Nnimmo Bassey maintained that the crude oil economy is not sustainable, so, communities need to transition from oil as there are other alternative ways to generate revenue and oil theft needs to be stopped. The government needs to have the right programmes and policies to manage engagements policies.

Citizens must begin to seek clarity on all of Nigeria’s memberships in international bodies that have delivered zero outcomes to stop the challenges of approaching and contributing to Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) wholistically.

When asked about the role of women in climate action, Mrs Masade-Olowola inserted that the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) has no reference to women inclusion. Therefore, there is a need for a conscious effort to include women more in politics, community decisions as well and women themselves need to be more, ask for more and be present more.

Dr Osasure revealed that Nigeria is developing an Energy Transition Plan to assist with data collection, setting a universal energy objective, managing the achievement of net-zero emissions, and ensuring her industrialisation.

In closing, ChiChi Aniagolu-Okoye, Regional Director West Africa, Ford Foundation stated that while it looks like Nigeria has no plan of moving away from oil anytime soon, at least for the next 30 to 40 years, she needs a clear plan to transition from oil to avoid making the same mistakes it did when it was an agriculture-based economy. She also urged the government to embrace partnerships that result in community empowerment and enablement.



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