By: Sonny Iroche
September 04, 2021

Due to the ever present threat of global warming and the need for clean energy in keeping with the provisions of the Paris Climate Accord, signed in April 2016 by 190 countries, including Nigeria to attain Net-Zero Carbon emission by 2040. In preparation and as a precursor to achieving the aims and objectives of the Accord, most developed economies have commenced actions, ostensibly to reduce to the barest minimum, their economic reliance on fossil oil as a source of energy. While the reliance on fossil oil might not come to an end abruptly, as it still remains one of the cheapest sources of energy in the foreseeable future. However, weighed against its adverse impact on the environment and global warming, more environmentally friendly sources, such as renewables, electric and sundry energy sources have become preferred priorities over fossil oil. The big rhetoric is Nigeria ready for the burden of history?

The first salvo of the gradual withdrawal from Nigeria’s crude oil business was thrown by Shell Petroleum Development Company- the pioneer oil exploration and exploitation company in Nigeria, which commenced its operations through its first oil findings in Oloibiri in 1956. Over the years, Shell has been embroiled in several litigations with local communities, to the extent that the Board of Shell, due to several reasons, ranging from the downgrade of the world crude oil business, restiveness in the exploration communities to huge legal fees/ compensation as a result of the environmental degradation from its operations, decided to pull out of the country.

History seems to be playing nostalgia all over again, as Shell being the pioneer exploration company in Nigeria, is again, the pioneer to disengage from the country, after almost 65 years in Nigeria’s energy sector. There is no gainsaying that other International Oil Companies (IOCs) are likely to follow suit. Should all the major IOCs withdraw their operations from Nigeria, as envisaged in a couple of years time; what would be the likely consequences on the economy of very weak countries like Nigeria, whose economy is about 85% reliant on proceeds from the sale of crude oil?

With a burgeoning youth population and in tandem with Malthusian theory, poorly educated youth population, high unemployment and a continuous emigration of some of her most educated and talented youthful population to Foreign countries that offer better opportunities and quality of life. Nigeria would definitely be in a most unprecedented and unenviable situation as a country of an estimated population of 200 million, with very weak governance structure across board, dearth of infrastructure, health care, massive corruption, kidnappings, terrorism, insecurity and religious intolerance and uprising.
Nigeria’s future, to say the least, is bleak. And the unfortunate and pathetic aspect of these sad developments, is the lack of purposeful and credible leadership, both at the Federal and State governments.

Further, the likely unsavory and adverse consequences of the effect of reduced importance of fossil oil in the world economy, coupled with the lack of clear economic direction of government, are, but not limited to the following:
• drastic reduction in foreign currencies accruable into the Federation accounts
• sharp increase in the Misery Index, as reflected in unemployment, which is currently put at 33% and inflation at about 18%
• stagflation, a combination of hyperinflation and lack of economic development
• unprecedented social unrest, increased crime rate and violence across all regions of the country, as never witnessed before.
• threat to Nigeria’s sovereignty and existential threat to the much touted “indivisibility of Nigeria”, due to frustrated army of unemployed youths and separatist agitators.

What should any serious governments which fall within the looming quagmire of countries like Nigeria, faced with such pending challenges ought to be doing and quickly too, as a mitigation to the impending destabilization of their entire Macroeconomics, social and political systems ?

First, and most importantly, is for government to come off its high horse, and to sincerely engage the citizens and to listen to the cries of all nationalities that make up the supposedly, federating units of Nigeria. And to do and be seen to be taking the necessary steps at addressing the concerns and assuage the fears of Nigerians.
Secondly, bring an end to the fractured and polarized Nigerian State, by a) restructuring the country to its original Federation structure b) cause a review and/or enactment of a truly People’s Constitution. The military imposed 1999 Constitution(as Amended), no matter how many times it is amended, is unable to reflective the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerians. And if not set aside, for a people’s oriented constitution, the 1999 Constitution shall remain a major source of tension, friction and an albatross to the peaceful coexistence of the various Nationalities that make up Nigeria.
Thirdly, it is foolhardy to have the misconception that any one ethnic group can dominate Nigeria. It is a lie we don’t believe any more. It has never worked and it would not work. Let us avoid the unsavory route to Kigali and now is the most auspicious time to jaw-jaw. And to put our resolutions into action, whilst there’s still little time left.

The President of such a pluralistic country like Nigeria, should banish the idea and thought of being and remaining a president of only a particular religious and/or regional parochial interests. This is the 21st Century. Such mentality is not in line with today’s thinking.
Forthly, earnestly drive and incentivize other non-oil income generating export products as against heavy reliance on crude oil.
Fifthly, rejig both the Federal Executive Council and the Presidential Economic Advisory Committee, to position these two critical bodies, to proffer solutions that are capable of placing Nigeria, where it ought to be. Man these critical committees, with men and women, who are courageous enough to look the president straight in the eyes and tell him, Mr President- “This is not good for Nigera”.

Nigeria being a signatory to the Paris Accord, does not appear to have put any systems in place, in order to actualize the Accord, considering that 2040, is a little less than 20 years away . Like other serious countries, Nigeria, should have by now, initiated a Commission charged with research and insight to start to put in place in the next 10 years, the path to decarbonization; to simulate the challenges, the cost, build and train human capacity with the set of skills needed, and the opportunities to help the country through the transition period from current fossil oil to Net-Zero clean energy. Nigeria, like most signatories to the Paris Accord has been given ample notice and lead time; to transit; let us not in our usual negligence and lackadaisical attitude, wait until it becomes too late.
We should start now to dream for the next generation.

Sonny Iroche
September 04, 202