By Ebere Agozie
As the Russia-Ukraine war continues, the global supply chains have been disrupted which have triggered an unprecedented jump in the scarcity of goods and services and an equally massive increase in commodity prices.
The war in Ukraine has worsened the economic situations of many countries, including in African countries.
However, one of the commodities being sought after by, especially, the European countries, is gas which nature has graciously generously endowed some African countries with.
This scarcity of gas has led the EU countries to look for ways of meeting the gas demands of its people outside their region, and one of the regions where this beautiful bride was found is Africa, leading to what is today known as the ‘gas rush’ in the continent.
This rush for gas in Africa might sound like a good opportunity for the continent to strike good deals and make quick money for their development, but some have described it as another form of ‘colonial exploitation’.
Recall that the US and some European envoys have recently visited Nigeria seeking to partner with them in both financial and technical assistance.
Mathew Baldwin, EU Deputy Director on Energy during his visit to Nigeria told the media that the EU can no longer count on gas coming from the Russian Federation but seeks to build a new partnership with countries like Nigeria, to obtain more gas and LNG on good commercial terms.
John Kerry, a former US Secretary of State said the US is interested in Nigeria’s methane abatement and decarbonisation programme and noted that his country has pledged $200m to Nigeria and other countries for clean energy initiative.
In response, Mr Timipre Sylva, Nigeria’s Minister of State for Petroleum Resources sought their support for gas exploration even though he insisted that Africa’s contribution to the global emissions is meager.
Sylva who agreed on the need to work together on global gas emission reduction insisted that the “lesser evil” is to provide energy to Nigerians by utilising gas.
“We would also like to say that on the energy transition, we have certain realities that the world must consider. Our reality is that we have this number of people without access to electricity, but we don’t have the funding and the technology to be able to achieve this transition,” he added.
Sylva said that Nigeria needs to bring a major amount of capital to the table with the technology to help it move faster to the clean energy economy so the citizens can benefit from cleaner air.
Ironically, the call for assistance in gas exploration by the minister did not go down well with some Nigeria oil and gas and environment experts.
Nnimmo Bassey, Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation, an environmental think tank and advocacy organisation wondered why Nigeria should be happy to feed the European’s appetite for gas rather than hold them accountable for global warming, since they created the problem.
“So this gas rush to Africa is simply another manifestation of colonial exploitation by the west.
“They ought to transit to cleaner energy but just because of the war in Ukraine, they want to insist on using dirty energy and they are coming to Africa as the usual place for extraction and continuous pollution of our environment.
“And because we are always asking for assistance, and all kinds of support, we are unable to make strong demands. The two don’t go together.
“If we keep looking for lots of funds coming from outside, exporting resources and importing the finished products, our independence will just remain flag independence. It’s a big problem and we need to wake up to that because posterity will judge everyone and every government”.
Dr Obiageli Anaghara-Uzoh an Oil and Gas management, petroleum taxation and finance Lawyer said the situation Nigeria finds itself in is like someone in a stream bathing but is blinded by the soap suds.
“We’re in abundance but are not benefiting from it. Nigeria is largely a gas country, but we find that the power sector, which forms one of the major sectors has the problem of paying for gas.
“We have a country that is more after the money to be made from the export because, feeling that the price of supply of gas to other countries will be higher than what they would get domestically, they will prefer to sell to foreign buyers.
“The best option I would advise is to strike a balance: while we take advantage of the exports, we should also try and nurture the domestic market, so we are not left strangled out of what God has blessed us with”.
She advised the government to exercise some discipline while taking the yield and to also give back to the poor of the society.
“My advice is to stop selling ourselves short to foreign companies and nations all in the bid for wealth, because at the end of the day we’re killing ourselves or at best, putting ourselves at risk.
“The government should be more focused and committed to developing its own country and to tell the foreigners that enough is enough”.
Professor Ibrahim Choji, Chairman Board of Trustees of the Climate and Sustainable Development Network, an International NGO affiliated with pan African climate Justice Alliance said that the issue of succumbing to the money from gas rush boils down to greed and poverty.
Choji a Professor of Environmental Sciences added that many countries are tempted like Nigeria to fall into the trap of the expected money from the gas while neglecting the needs of its citizens.
“Because of the possible financial benefits, the short-term benefits of exporting gas to these countries, Nigeria may well fall prey.
“You know the repercussions, and they are not even short term. All we are pursuing is politics. I don’t think this gas rush is very good for our country.
“Let me do a short analogy; we know how much we are suffering in this country. The poor man suffers most. He is saying that its better get the little he is seeing now because he’s not sure of what he’ll get later”.
Amb. Freeman Oluowo, Coordinator, African Centre for Climate Actions and Rural Development said that Nigeria must put her governance system in a position to be able to properly address the issues in the oil and gas sector.
“Energy poverty in Nigeria is a challenge and Africa and Nigeria are worst hit, and this hinders the development of the small-scale businesses which in turn contributes to the high percentage of unemployment.
“How can you talk about industrialization, youth empowerment if you sell the gas that will generate electricity? Its only access to electricity that can drive social development.
“Most developed countries use internal capacity building; they first satisfy the needs of their citizens before selling to other countries.
“You must first sit down and look inwards and ask yourself what is it that we can do on our own, without foreign help, that will help us improve our environmental governance”.
Afterall, self-preservation, we all know, is the first law of nature.
Africa, should wake up.