More: Stop further oil exploiation, embrace renewable energy
By Codratus Godson/Port Harcourt
Environmetal activists and those regarded as friends of the earth have susted up their books of action and have made three straight demands that may define the relationship between Nigeria and the oil region. At a two-day training workshop at Visa Karina in Port Harcourt, the groups led by Environmental Rights Action (ERA) and Friends of the Earth Nigeria (FoEN) took positions they said would reshape the future of Nigeria.
The Executive Director of ERA/FoEN, Dr Godwin Uyi Ojo, spoke volumes
Environmental Rights Action (ERA)& Friends of the Earth Nigeria (FoEN) have launched environment youth camp for 2018. This is to provide the training, the knowledge and the empowerment to confront environment issues in Nigeria today and for the future. There are a lot of such issues that need to be resolved. We need the youths to be part of resolving them. There is the issue of energy access, they are already discussing a post petroleum economy. These are high sounding words to our present youth. We need to prepare them for the energy transition, from fossil to renewable energy.
When the environmental action started a campaign called ‘leave oil in the Soil’ almost 20 years ago, people were almost laughing at us. Today, there is a global campaign on de-carbonisation; the need for energy transition to renewable energy, to clean energy. This is important.
Already, we are building schools’ env clubs, to create a feel of solar and other gadgets to the youths. More importantly, we want to identify some youths that may be business oriented to equip them for entrepreneurship in the renewable energy sector. This is the objective of the camping for 2018.
Many of our youths are directed already and some are misdirecting themselves. We need to first bring them at par. The eroding social values of Nigeria to be corrected and only then can they see that they have God-given potentials to explore. This conference is to help them find this. Some will be doing environment monitoring, some will be driving advocacy or entrepreneurship. We allow the water to flow and find its level.
We want to set up clubs in schools and put a process of tracking the youths and ensure that we follow their progress. The few areas we have already done this, we find they are highly enthusiastic and active. In schools where we have the clubs, we have solar equipment in schools in Delta, Bayelsa, Lagos,. So these gadgets are for demonstration and they have come to understand renewable energy, etc. We want to create the knowledge and empowerment required.
The Leave Oil in the Soil campaign has found expression in the Paris Agreement toward global decarbonisation in 2030 in cars, electricity supply, etc. This our effort here is geared towards reducing carbon emissions. The Nigerian Government has pledged 20 per cent carbon emission reduction within the Paris Agreement, unconditionally. We do not see much programmes in place; we don’t see how they will realize this without involving the youth and other strata of the society.
I think Nigeria is far behind. We are yet to put the laws in place, there is no climate Change Agency or commission. We need laws, we need institutions. Proposals have been made but they are yet to pass the law at the National Assembly. We are therefore calling on the FG to put the right framework in place. The ministry that is required to put in place the structures and required protocols for climate change. One of them is the Climate Change Guild before the National Assembly. We want them to pass it as soon as possible.
Many people are talking about how much money should be available for stealing and misappropriation. Nigeria has enough money to survive and they did so in the 1960s. Oil money is a mere addition. Every person can survive without oil. The question is, how prepared is Nigeria in the event that oil is exhausted. Then the question is answered because oil is a finite resource. It will surely be exhausted. The concern is how the world will live away from dirty energy such as oil, coal, gas, and move to renewable energy.
The environment impact of oil is devastating. You can imagine the amount that was taken from a small Ogoni in the days of oil there. Now, the UNEP Report is requesting that an initial sum of $1Bn be set up as environment fund for clean up for the first five years. This is a clean up that is supposed to last for 30 years. So, you can see the monumental impact; the social impact, the social cost, the environment pollution and deaths that have occurred. They are unquantifiable in monetary terms. This is where the ERA is calling for $100Bn Clean up and Restoration Fund to be set up for the clean up of the entire Niger Delta region.
It is true you may have immediate gains of oil proceeds but when you weigh the costs and benefits it is bound to be negative.
We as an advocacy group, we try to signal things that are wrong or things that should be done. We felt it is not in talking alone but we also walk the talk. That is why we have started an environmental camp for youths that way that we catch them young. Hopefully, these ones will ignite their schools and then the knowledge that they are gaining here will be replicated in communities and schools.
Environmental knowledge should be in the curriculum of schools. What is important is for us to teach this important phase in schools in schools so they can be in a position to identify the problems and be part of the solutions.
The devastation of the Niger Delta that the oil majors have caused cannot be corrected in a lifetime. That is monumental damage. So, they have given to Nigerians a very monumental economical debt by destroying the fishery, etc. the critical thing they should do is clean up, first and foremost. Any other thing remains palliatives and mitigation that do not go to the root of the problem.
We condemn the divisive approaches of the oil companies in Ogoni. We believe the Ogoni people are capable to find solutions to their problems. The foundation that Ken Saro Wiwa laid is paramount. We strongly believe that when oil returns to Ogoni, it will lead to more damage than any form of benefit.
That is why we are asking that the Ogoni people be compensated for leaving the oil in the soil. Ogoni, the first community to leave oil in the soil, should be compensated. It is a sacrifice. Leaving oil in the soil is not about the resource and its momentary value. It is about the carbon volume released to the atmosphere. This cumulatively on a global scale, is leading to a severe pain to the survival of the planet. The world is beginning to find solutions and see how to leave the oil in the soil. We are looking at how this can be implemented in Nigeria, where the UNDP and other EU countries agreed to pay some amount in order that oil would be left in the soil. Unfortunately, some money realized did not measure up, but those are the kind of things you can do for communities if you are talking about survival of the planet.
There is money in Nigeria, everywhere. There is so much that can be created outside oil and gas.
Tammy Tuasi Steven, Goi Community, Gokana, Rivers State
My impression about what has happened here today is, if we actually learn about renewable energy and apply the skills that we acquire, it will help us in so many ways. If am able to make a gadget that will supply light, kerosene would no longer be needed because people would now rely on electric cooker. Gas or generator would no longer be needed. The noise made by generator would no longer be there. There lots of benefits to Nigeria if renewable energy comes into place.
They teach us some of these things in school but here is detailed and deep. Yes, youths are now taking over the pollution business, I will not support it. My love remains with the environment because bunkering is not helping. It rather creates problems to those living in the communities, especially the Ogonis. If it can be stopped, it will be good for all.
Rejoice Michael, Rivers State
The exercise here today is very important and we enjoyed it. We have great interest to learn about the environment and we relate with it in a sustainable way. We have to learn and reach others and how to take action. We the youths are comfortable with the idea of moving to renewable energy.
* Kep persons who would be featured next include: Barr Comrade Austin Osakwe of
the Foundation for Good Governance & Social Change with his classical versus cyclical theories of corruption; and Mike Karikpo, programmes director of ERA who has warned of how soot is a big threat to infants in the port Harcourt because of their undeveloped chests and inner organs.