Amaechi Okonkwo, Port Harcourt.
As part of the activities marking this year’s World Environment Day, the Environmental Rights Action ERA has charged the Federal Government to establish a $100-billion naira clean up and remediation fund for the clean-up of the entire Niger Delta to restore the environment and sustain rural livelihoods.
The environmental advocacy group said the establishment of the fund would be a demonstration of the Federal Government’s seriousness on environmental protection.
In a press briefing in Port Harcourt Wednesday on “Air Pollution and Energy Transition From Fossil Fuels to Renewable Energy Sources for Nigeria, Dr Godwin Ojo, Executive Director, ERA/FoEN also demanded that the Federal Government should set a 2030 deadline for an energy transition which he described as inevitable in the long run.
“We encourage the Federal Government to dedicate a percentage of the national budget for research, development and production and supply of Renewable energy systems to improve solar energy access that is currently low in Nigeria“, Ojo said adding that government should immediately divest public finance, loans and subsidies from fossil fuel exploitation and channel such resources to invest in renewable energy access for all”.
Ojo who reasoned that Nigeria had committed herself to implement the Paris Agreement of 2015 unconditionally yet has no policy on transition to renewable energy called for an urgent decentralisation of energy production and supply system through an energy democracy transition model that allows communities and individuals to be co-producers of energy as well as suppliers and end users.
This vision, according to him can be achieved through mini-grid, feed-in tariffs, and off-grid systems to promote environmental sustainability and generate green jobs that are environmentally friendly.
He challenged the Federal Government to be courageous “to ban diesel and petrol generator sets in the Ministries, Departments and Agencies and use the funds to provide solar energy systems for offices. It (government) should also set a deadline to halt the importation and use of diesel and petrol cars and other means of transportation so that Nigeria will not be a dumping ground for obsolete cars from industrialised countries”.
Contending that Nigeria can survive without oil despite her heavy dependence on the resource for over 80% of its revenue receipts, the Executive Director ERA/FoEN, said ” In spite of the estimated US$600-billion from oil revenue in the past decades, about 99% of Nigeria‘s 200 million population remain in abject poverty, lacking basic social amenities and are victims of serious energy poverty”.
He added: “Nigeria‘s oil dependence has led to the shrinking socio-economic opportunities arising from failure to diversify the economy from the oil sector to a return to agricultural boom and a net exporter of food in the 1960s/70s. The oil and gas and sector is also fueling corruption, massive environmental degradation and a weakening of environmental laws and non-compliance”.
On the nagging issue of the cleanup of the polluted Ogoniland, Dr Ojo stated that in the past four years, the government scored near zero for its poor environmental protection record even though the cleanup of Ogoni has been touted as an environmental legacy project of the President Mohammadu Buhari‘s government.
He explained: “First there is a lack of acceptable key performance indicators for the cleanup. Although 16 contractors have been reportedly mobilised to site in December 2018, the Key Performance Indicators have not been made public by HYPREP indicating a lack of transparency and accountability of the process. The cleanup contract awards have been corrupted as political patronage for politicians to enrich themselves at the detriment of the poor impacted victims of the oil and gas pollution”. The government should pay greater attention to this legacy project to properly clean up Ogoni, restore public confidence and redeemed it’s a dented image, he stated.
His second reason is that “Nigeria lacks a holistic approach to environmental protection and sustainable development. It has failed to put in place a National Environmental Action Plan that will specify a framework of action to deliver on set national targets measured by clear indicators on an annual basis.”
“Thirdly, the government continues to pay lip service to the clean up of the Niger Delta. As part of civil society groups’ Environmental Agenda- setting, we demand that the Federal Government put in place a framework for clean up of all polluted Niger Delta that has been the source of protests and violent conflicts. As a conflict resolution mechanism, the Federal Government should delineate the Niger Delta as an ecological disaster area and declare an environmental state of emergency to focus on the Niger Delta and gas flaring.”