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Experts task Nigerian govt, oil-producing communities on inclusive energy transition – Premium Times News

By Chinagorom Ugwu

The experts want the Nigerian government and the communities to “transparently” engage with companies carrying out exploration and mining activities to take responsibility for the destruction caused in their areas.

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

The experts expressed the worry during a dialogue to discuss Nigeria’s energy transition process 22 May in Abuja.

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

The Ford Foundation supported the dialogue to bridge the gap between high-level policy discourse and its impact on communities that host vital energy minerals for transition.

‘Hold companies accountable’

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

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

He said as a country looking to navigate the new energy transition process, Nigeria must address the root cause of the crisis in the oil and gas sector in their environment.

He urged energy companies and governments to take up “responsibility and accountability” for their explorative activities and engage community members in the company’s activities and its outstanding consequences on the community.

“To successfully achieve accountability and responsibility in this sector, there is a need for clear conversation between the government, energy companies, and members of the community that spells out the role of every stakeholder and who can be held accountable for negative consequences of the exploratory and extractive activities,” Mr Bassey said.

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

They cited the Niger Delta, saying the region had battled severe environmental damages from decades of oil exploration.

According to them, the situation has led to destruction of farmlands, pollution of water bodies, and significant air quality issues in the region, which have gravely affected the health and livelihoods of local communities.

‘It’s time to broaden Energy Transition Plan’

A panel discussion moderated by the Executive Director at Spaces for ChaSomenge, Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri, was also held during the event.

The panelists included a senior officer at the Natural Resources Governance Institute, Tengi George-Ikoli; the Vice-Chairperson of the North County of the Nigerian Liberal Congress, Ndieze Ikechukwu Agunwa and the Energy Transition Office, Lanre Sasore.

The panelists argued that it was time for Nigeria to broaden its Energy Transition Plan to accommodate the voices of communities and civil society organisations working to ensure energy democracy for a more people-centred approach to sourcing energy resources.

This, they believe, would prevent the country from continuously bearing the brunt of climate change, while suffering from the highest levels of energy poverty.

The President of the Ford Foundation, Darren Walker, asked communities to challenge the elite to take responsibility for their activities that have left the country with dire consequences.

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

“It is time to speak up to the elites at global levels – COP, G7, G20, and the likes, 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 now confronted with – what is your accountability and responsibility to this growing situation,’” he added.

On his part, the Director General of the Nigerian Conservation Foundation, Joseph Onoja, stressed that there was a need for the government to tackle the injustice and non-inclusion of locals in the renewable energy era.

“We must take a critical look at the sourcing of energy minerals primarily from biodiversity-rich areas which are destroyed to harness its mineral forms, leaving the locals of the area without the essential environmental requirements, especially because they are the ones impacted by these exploration activities,” Mr Onoja said.

“Therefore, in discussing justice in our new energy transition process, we must approach it holistically, and look at the end from the beginning so we don’t plunge ourselves from one injustice scenario into another,” he stated.

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