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Monday, July 15, 2024

Experts urge Nigerian government and oil-producing communities to pursue inclusive energy transition

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Energy experts have expressed concern over the continued destruction of farmlands and pollution of water bodies by companies carrying out exploration activities in Nigerian communities.

Experts expressed their concerns during a dialogue to discuss Nigeria’s energy transition process on Friday in Abuja.

The dialogue was convened by the Africa Policy Research Institute in collaboration with the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Foundation, the Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), the Centre for Social Studies and the Development Agenda.

Supported by the Ford Foundation, the dialogue aimed to bridge the gap between high-level political discourse and its impact on communities hosting vital energy minerals for the transition.

‘Holding companies accountable’

HOMEF Executive Director Nnimmo Bassey, in his keynote presentation on Nigeria’s energy transition process, called on the federal government and oil producing communities to engage “transparently” with companies carrying out exploration and mining activities in their areas.

Mr Bassey said the commitment would ensure that companies take responsibility for the destruction of farmland and pollution of water bodies during such exploration activities in communities.

He said that as a country seeking to navigate the new energy transition process, Nigeria must address the root cause of the crisis in the oil and gas sector in its vicinity.

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He urged energy companies and governments to take “responsibility and accountability” for their exploration activities and to involve community members in company activities and their pending consequences on the community.

“To successfully achieve accountability and responsibility in this sector, there needs to be a clear conversation between government, energy companies and community members that specifies the role of each stakeholder and who can be held accountable for the negative consequences of exploration and extractive activities,” Bassey said.

Experts participating in the dialogue argued that Nigeria’s energy landscape was heavily marked by environmental degradation and socio-economic disparities.

They cited the Niger Delta, saying the region had battled severe environmental damage caused by decades of oil exploration.

According to them, the situation has led to the destruction of farmland, pollution of water bodies and significant air quality problems in the region, severely affecting the health and livelihoods of local communities.

“It is time to expand the Energy Transition Plan”

The event also featured a panel discussion moderated by Spaces for ChaSomenge Executive Director Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri.

Panellists included a senior official from the Natural Resource Governance Institute, Tengi George-Ikoli; the Vice Chairman of the Northern County of the Nigerian Liberal Congress, Ndieze Ikechukwu Agunwa, and the Energy Transition Office, Lanre Sasore.

Panellists argued that it was time for Nigeria to expand its Energy Transition Plan to accommodate the voices of communities and civil society organisations working to ensure energy democracy and adopt a more people-centred approach to energy resource procurement.

They believe that this would prevent the country from continuing to bear the brunt of climate change while at the same time suffering from the highest levels of energy poverty.

Ford Foundation President Darren Walker has called on communities to challenge the elite to take responsibility for their activities that have left the country with dire consequences.

READ ALSO: VIDEO: How an abandoned Nigerian oil community got tap water for the first time in decades

“There can be no justice without community input, to challenge the country’s elites and the global investment community to take responsibility and accountability for what we have done to create and contribute to the sustained challenges facing Nigeria’s extractive communities,” Walker said.

“It is time to speak to the elites at the global level – COP, G7, G20 and the like – and say, ‘You want us to accelerate clean energy and a green economy in our countries when you have helped create the problem we are facing now – what is your responsibility and accountability for this escalating situation?’” he added.

For his part, the Director General of the Nigerian Conservation Foundation, Joseph Onoja, stressed that it was necessary for the government to address the injustice and lack of inclusion of local people in the era of renewable energy.

“We must critically analyse the supply of energy minerals, mainly from areas rich in biodiversity that are destroyed to exploit their mineral forms, leaving the locals in the area without essential environmental requirements, especially since they are the ones affected by these exploration activities,” said Onoja.

“Therefore, when discussing justice in our new energy transition process, we must approach it holistically and look at the end from the beginning so as not to plunge from one scenario of injustice to another,” he said.

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