The Curse of Black Gold
By Dele Oni
Nigeria is the most populous black nation on earth and is notably recognized within the frame of a number of attached identities, such as being the biggest producer of petroleum in Africa. While it is invariably advancing to become one of the top producers in the world, the country has really come a long way as a fossil fuel-based economy to achieving yet another identity as one of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases in Africa.
The country is yet to find a place among the fully industrialized nations in the world that have been well noted as the all time big emitters. In a way, it has gained commonness for being in the category of generating more green house gases, mostly from the fossil fuel industry, which is the basic bedrock of the nation’s economy.
Despite the long standing credentials; the cumulative years of being an oil producing nation with the occasional rise and boom seasons of the oil trade, one would expect a massive all round development and being in the league of the emerging economies.
But the situation is quite in the opposite as the nation seems to be in a standstill in terms of development and improved standard of living. In the view of the older generation that have been around prior to the discovery of oil and largely still present in the post discovery era, they have often pointed out the fact that the country had faired so well before the advent of crude oil exploration. To them, it’s been like the discovery of oil has only brought pains and hardship.
The fossil fuel trade has been a reward for Nigeria. It has enjoyed great patronage overtime from many great economies like the US. This is because of the low sulphur content of the oil obtained in the country. Alongside, many multinational exploration companies have found their ways into the country and become well-rooted, becoming more prominent than the indigenous and government-controlled oil corporations. Many of these organizations have become like cabals in the country and their presence in a way, has done more harm to the stability of the resurrounding environment in which their oil exploring activities are being carried out.
The creeks of the Niger-Delta, which have now become home of drilling activities for many of these companies, used to be a rich ecosystem of many wetlands with their endemic species of aquatic life forms and mangrove forests. A look at the creek today is quite far from the norm as the current situation reads nothing less than a red alert category.
The great level of environmental degradation and disruption as a result of unethical fossil fuel exploration, has projected the country on the eco emergency map of the world. The attention of concerned international agencies like UNEP, has been drawn towards the country in this regards. It has found the multinational companies guilty of ecological crimes enabled by their exploration activities. A global call is been sounded for the needed cleanup of the heavily polluted Niger-Delta region of Nigeria. Unfortunately, still not much of action has been recorded and the situation is remarkably worsening day by day even with less attention from the government.
Another notable area of attention is the incessant gas flaring that has never ceased to light up the creeks all times since the inception of oil exploration in Nigeria. For this reason alone, the country has assumed the status of the largest emitter of green house gases in West Africa. Despite the global call for the complete eradication of gas flaring, Nigeria still holds the record of nonstop action in the regard.
Now that there is a shift of focus on the post-Paris influence on the global enactment of nations in compliance with the Paris agreement, it is time to assess the moves so far in Nigeria – especially regarding the Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC), made prior to the climate conference. In the draft submitted, the country highlighted its commitment to the reduction of greenhouse emission by 20% unconditional and 45% conditional in the post 2020 framework.
In a recent statement by the minister of environment, the action pathway seem to still be in the moulding phase. This is because consultation on the Paris outcome is still on before its final inclusion in the 2017-19 budgets, in the first instance. The whole process will obviously take the long road to actualization and the long wait may lead to the familiar path of non-implementation.
Considering the fact that the use of fossil fuel contributes to the largest percentage of global green house gas concentration and the global outcry against the continuous dependence, Nigeria’s economic future is quite unsettled at this point. This is even as the global oil market is currently loosing form, with the possibility of the age of fossil fuel in sight.
The world is indeed ripe to move ahead to another phase of development by choosing renewable energy. This will not only salvage the future of our planet from the imminent destructive power of climate change but also open up a variety of opportunities to the world at large. So as this gradual shift opens, it is obviously a possible window of opportunity for Nigeria to diversify her economy and shift away from its current reliance on fossil fuel economy.
One of the reasons is to allow a total economic emancipation. The fossil fuel era has brought nothing but despair, inequality, corrupt practices, societal divide and marginality. It has also made the country assume the status of polluter-nation with regards to greenhouse emission. In every possible view, fossil fuel is not just the option for the envisaged future of Nigeria.
The future of this great nation lies in leading other African countries by engaging renewable energy as a path to sustainable future and ending the use of fossil fuel. This is where a balance between the planet’s safety and economic drive is assured. The time is indeed now to break free of fossil fuel.
Oni is the CEO/Founder of Green Impact International