Oil and gas play­ers...

Business a.m. - - THE MONDAY INTERVIEW -

ing it, all of a sud­den, it vanished, so the young peo­ple in those com­mu­ni­ties are sus­cep­ti­ble, now it is a co­in­ci­dence that the so called Boko Haram cri­sis is also af­fect­ing the four Lake Chad coun­tries.

Like I said, Nige­ria has what I call three di­men­sional ex­treme ex­po­sure and high vul­ner­a­bil­ity, in the north, where there is de­ser­ti­fi­ca­tion, drought, there are a lot of climate refugees al­ready, peo­ple who are leav­ing those ar­eas be­cause of the in­se­cu­rity trig­gered and fu­eled by the loss of liveli­hood, so for the herds­men, where Lake Chad used to be some of kind of buf­fer, they find water and grass for their an­i­mals, so they don’t have to bother com­ing down south, but now that op­tion is gone, and the only way they can get this is move­ment to­wards the south.

Over the years, th­ese peo­ple have al­ways been mov­ing and th­ese clashes have been within man­age­able lim­its, but within the last decade, the move­ment feels like an in­va­sion. For ex­am­ple, as a farmer, if you are used to see­ing five herds­men in a year, at least you can iden­tify them and even build some kind of re­la­tion­ship with them, but in the last 10 years, you are see­ing 200. For peo­ple who don’t un­der­stand what is hap­pen­ing, they see it as an in­va­sion, and as long as you al­low th­ese cat­tle to move, they would de­stroy crops be­cause they can’t dif­fer­en­ti­ate. The Mid­dle Belt has been an ugly theater of vi­o­lence, in­creas­ingly ugly vi­o­lence, peo­ple are be­ing dis­placed in the south, there is sea level ris­ing in the south and com­mu­ni­ties are be­ing dis­placed. Nobody is re­ally track­ing th­ese events, the gov­ern­ment is not track­ing them so there is dis­place­ment in the south and north and ev­ery­one is mov­ing to­wards the mid­dle where there is a vi­o­lent strug­gle for food, fuel and fi­bre.

De­spite the fact the coun­try is al­ready fac­ing se­vere con­se­quences of climate change, why has the con­ver­sa­tion failed to garner the nec­es­sary at­ten­tion and how is your or­gan­i­sa­tion fight­ing to bring the con­ver­sa­tion to lime­light?

It is by en­gag­ing petroleum in­dus­try stake­hold­ers and the gov­ern­ment. We also need to in­vest a lot of money in what I call strate­gic climate change com­mu­ni­ca­tions, and take it to the street level. For in­stance, if ev­ery­one knows about the herds­men is­sue, politi­cians al­ways move in to use some of th­ese is­sues to cre­ate prob­lems and chaos, to win votes and so on.

The me­dia has the re­spon­si­bil­ity to ac­tu­ally dis­sect th­ese is­sues and put the proper in­for­ma­tion out there for the peo­ple. If you ask me, I would say the me­dia has failed in this re­gard be­cause what the me­dia has done or are do­ing is to con­tinue to al­low the gov­ern­ment set the agenda or the politi­cians to set the nar­ra­tive, the tone and depth of the con­ver­sa­tion, it should be the me­dia set­ting the agenda, and that is why we are hav­ing this prob­lem.

I also told the or­gan­is­ers of the NAPE con­fer­ence that for max­i­mum im­pact next time, be­cause what was dis­cussed was the cit­i­zens and what af­fects them, so the peo­ple need to fol­low the con­ver­sa­tion, so the least they can do is to make it a live event that can be streamed or broad­cast, so that mil­lions of peo­ple can fol­low the con­ver­sa­tion.

Th­ese con­ver­sa­tions are go­ing on, but in ho­tel halls, con­fer­ence cen­tres, where you have 100 peo­ple, ev­ery­day there are 100 peo­ple here and there across the coun­try talk­ing about this but hun­dreds of mil­lions of peo­ple are un­aware.

I’m call­ing for more in­vest­ment in strate­gic climate change com­mu­ni­ca­tions and that means any­where we are go­ing to be hav­ing th­ese con­ver­sa­tion, it has to be live, there has to be a de­lib­er­ate al­lo­ca­tion of re­sources where peo­ple can fol­low.

You are also into climate change data gen­er­a­tion and val­i­da­tion, and data gen­er­a­tion and val­i­da­tion is a key prob­lem in most in­dus­tries in Nige­ria; in­ad­e­quate data is a lead­ing prob­lem of most failed de­ci­sions, so how does your com­pany achieve this?

Climate change data gen­er­a­tion and val­i­da­tion is ac­tu­ally a com­plex ex­er­cise, but be­cause of tech­nol­ogy and ex­per­tise we have now with our part­ners, it is eas­ier to get that. But it is now for the off tak­ers, the gov­ern­ment, to open them­selves to en­gage­ment to get this data. There are hun­dreds out there gen­er­at­ing data but th­ese data also have to val­i­date from the grass­roots, what is re­ally hap­pen­ing on the ground, maybe from Nige­rian me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal agency, the indige­nous knowl­edge from the lo­cal peo­ple. We are try­ing to mo­bi­lize the lo­cal peo­ple to also tell their ex­pe­ri­ence with climate change and see if the univer­sal data from the satel­lite fits into their ex­pe­ri­ences, so with climate change, we have indige­nous knowl­edge and tech­nol­ogy.

Re­cently, we have im­proved on data gath­er­ing, the Nige­rian gov­ern­ment has tried, there is an im­prove­ment in the de­part­ment of climate change un­der the min­istry of en­vi­ron­ment be­cause I re­viewed two of their lat­est doc­u­ment that they were sup­posed to sub­mit to the United Na­tions frame­work con­ven­tion on climate change and for the first time, both doc­u­ments had raw, or­ganic data, bi­en­nial up­date re­ports.

The Na­tional Bureau of Sta­tis­tics is get­ting in­volved and other rel­e­vant agen­cies are get­ting in­volved, and tak­ing data gen­er­a­tion very se­ri­ously. For that, I’m aware that we have im­proved but we need to do more, and I think they are also work­ing on get­ting a na­tional climate change data­base, which can in­form de­ci­sion mak­ing for com­pa­nies and or­gan­i­sa­tions.

Data gath­er­ing and val­i­da­tion re­quires large amounts of in­vest­ments, to get the right and rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion, how does your com­pany go about this, do you fund your projects alone or do you have part­ners that pro­vide fi­nan­cial sup­port?

We have part­ners who have ex­per­tise in that, so what we do is to har­ness that and if we get off taker part­ners, and off taker part­ners for th­ese data could be na­tional gov­ern­ments, de­part­ments or agen­cies and most es­pe­cially the sub-na­tional gov­ern­ments, the state gov­ern­ments, be­cause on this climate change con­ver­sa­tion, the state either out of ig­no­rance have not re­ally been part of this, and I can tell you that out of the 36 state gov­er­nors, we don’t have up to three that have an ad­viser to the gover­nor on climate change, or a well re­sourced de­part­ment on climate change, and with what hap­pened in the U.S., Don­ald Trump said the coun­try was pulling out, but the peo­ple say they were in it. So that is the good thing about the United Na­tions frame­work con­ven­tion on climate change, be­cause they un­der­stood that en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues are is­sues that af­fect the peo­ple no mat­ter what the po­lit­i­cal authority thinks. So they cre­ated a win­dow for sub­na­tional gov­ern­ments, to par­tic­i­pate.

There is a whole new in­dus­try that has come out of all th­ese con­ver­sa­tions, it is the clean tech in­dus­try and it is the coun­try that has a han­dle on this, who is lead­ing on this that would be the global leader in the com­ing years, and you can see what China is do­ing in that space, elec­tric ve­hi­cles, while we are here say­ing how do we move for­ward out of crude oil, coun­tries are an­nounc­ing that we want to end in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gines.

We run a mono prod­uct economy, we are hop­ing on peo­ple to buy our crude, and those peo­ple are build­ing elec­tric ve­hi­cles. Is that not enough to get us think­ing, on how to di­ver­sify our en­ergy mix and our economy, on how to in­vest in the clean en­ergy tech­nol­ogy? The tragedy we are see­ing is that we would end up im­port­ing th­ese tech­nolo­gies, in­stead of in­vest­ing in re­search and de­vel­op­ment so that we can gen­er­ate and de­velop our own tech­nolo­gies, be­cause that is the fu­ture. This is the time for clean en­ergy, there is no stop­ping an idea whose time has come. And my mes­sage is that first, oil and gas play­ers need to un­der­stand how th­ese changes will af­fect their in­dus­try, then based on that, you would be­gin to know how you are go­ing to adapt be­cause the in­dus­try must adapt, if you wave it away and say it doesn’t mat­ter, then you are sit­ting on quick sand.

Con­cern­ing the coun­cil you rep­re­sent in Nige­ria, it works on re­new­able en­ergy in var­i­ous parts of the world; what kind of sup­port do they of­fer, fi­nan­cial, tech­ni­cal or man­age­rial, and how do they of­fer it?

The first thing we do is to bring the stake­hold­ers to­gether to have the con­ver­sa­tions, to build stake­holder con­sen­sus, po­lit­i­cal lead­ers, bu­reau­crats, tech­nocrats, in­dus­try play­ers, bring­ing ev­ery­one to­gether. For states or gov­ern­ments that are will­ing, we pro­vide ad­vi­sory and tech­ni­cal ser­vices. The other one is through con­sul­tants, where we are able to do pro­ject de­liv­ery. What the coun­cil does is aware­ness and con­sen­sus build­ing and ad­vi­sory ser­vices to gov­ern­ment and sub-gov­ern­ments. We don’t of­fer fi­nan­cial help on the coun­cil, be­cause we don’t have the re­sources to give, but like my con­sul­tancy, we can lead you to get fi­nan­cial sup­port, called in­ter­na­tional climate fi­nance.

Talk­ing about hu­man and tech­nol­ogy ca­pac­ity in Nige­ria, how much of a de­fi­ciency are we look­ing at be­cause hu­man ca­pac­ity build­ing and tech­nol­ogy de­vel­op­ment are the coun­try’s strong suit, be­cause we don’t have much in­vest­ment go­ing into this?

There is what is called re­search and de­vel­op­ment and we as a peo­ple and our gov­ern­ment over the years are not both­ered about it. To know how se­ri­ous we are is to look at what gov­ern­ment is spend­ing on ed­u­ca­tion. ASUU is cur­rently on strike and it means that the Nige­rian gov­ern­ment over the years has not re­al­ized the value of ed­u­ca­tion, and that pro­gres­sive so­ci­eties achieve and at­tain that sta­tus be­cause of their in­vest­ment in ed­u­ca­tion, in­no­va­tion and cre­ativ­ity. So it is an en­tirely new con­ver­sa­tion, on how do we em­power our cit­i­zens, our re­searchers? Look­ing at what se­na­tors are earn­ing, in com­par­i­son with what a pro­fes­sor is earn­ing.

We have tal­ented cit­i­zens, it is for us to har­ness this. Ev­ery day you see kids, Nige­ri­ans dis­play­ing what they have de­signed, but they end up there. The best peo­ple do nowa­days is to do a twitter thread, write on so­cial me­dia and that is it.

There is no se­ri­ous ef­fort to har­ness th­ese tal­ents. It is for our gov­ern­ment to in­vest in re­search and de­vel­op­ment and that is not hap­pen­ing. Nige­ria used to be lob­bied, peo­ple used to come to lobby in Nige­ria to get our crude, four, five decades ago but now, we go to mar­ket crude oil.

The Na­tional Bureau of Sta­tis­tics is get­ting in­volved and other rel­e­vant agen­cies are get­ting in­volved, and tak­ing data gen­er­a­tion very se­ri­ously

Re­new­able is mak­ing eco­nomic sense; it is no longer about sup­port­ing the en­vi­ron­ment. I did a re­search nine years ago, and the prob­lem has al­ways been an ini­tial cost, but th­ese tech­nolo­gies, once you ac­quire them, af­ter 5 years, you have re­cov­ered the cost and they have a life­span of 20-25 years, so imag­ine you make an in­vest­ment and in 4-5 years, you have re­cov­ered your cost, so for the next 20 years, you are on free elec­tric­ity, so if it is ag­gre­gated, you would see that it is far cheaper.

We have not also in­ter­nal­ized the external cost of fos­sil fu­els. How many peo­ple in Rivers State, for in­stance, with the soot epi­demic, have died, how many lungs have been de­stroyed? And like I tell ev­ery­one, en­vi­ron­ment is our com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor, the elites of this world and the com­moner, it is the same en­vi­ron­ment, the dif­fer­ence is that they have the power to change what is hap­pen­ing.

We need holis­tic ap­proach and we also need to change the mind­set in gov­ern­ment that we can’t do with­out crude oil, it is frus­trat­ing to see gov­ern­ment af­ter gov­ern­ment hav­ing that mind­set.

Since the gov­ern­ment is mak­ing the nec­es­sary ef­forts needed, how is the pri­vate sec­tor key­ing into re­search and de­vel­op­ment (R&D) to build clean en­ergy tech­nolo­gies in Nige­ria?

Ev­ery­thing rises and falls on lead­er­ship, in this en­ergy tran­si­tion, or in this global change man­age­ment, the role of the gov­ern­ment is key. If you are talk­ing about R&D, the gov­ern­ment has to cre­ate this. What the pri­vate sec­tor is do­ing is to im­port. I know pri­vate sec­tor play­ers who have de­vel­oped this lo­cally, gov­ern­ment has not gone to pro­mote them and even when those pro­grammes are avail­able, there is a dis­con­nect be­tween those who need and those who are of­fer­ing. There are a cou­ple of them but not on the scale we would like to see. Go to our re­search in­sti­tute and see the gap in fund­ing, see their tal­ents, but they don’t even have ac­cess to good roads. Th­ese are the peo­ple that are sup­posed to be the back­bone of our economy. We don’t have ac­ces­si­ble road to the Fed­eral Re­search In­sti­tute at Enugu. It is not in the cam­paign man­i­festo of the pop­u­lar po­lit­i­cal par­ties too. You can’t grow be­yond the think­ing of your leader, whether it is your boss. This en­ergy tran­si­tion would not be suc­cess­ful if we don’t get the buy in of the gov­ern­ment and get­ting the gov­ern­ment to do the right thing takes us to po­lit­i­cal economy and what the peo­ple should be do­ing.

We have a pop­u­la­tion that is largely ig­no­rant and we have po­lit­i­cal glad­i­a­tors who know about th­ese is­sues and can do some­thing about them, but have tied them­selves to this busi­ness as usual path­way, and the few voices we hear here and there are drowned off. That is why I said the best gov­ern­ment we have had on climate change has been since Buhari came in; the facts are there, at least we know that Pres­i­dent Buhari has been show­ing up any­where global po­lit­i­cal lead­ers are gath­er­ing to dis­cuss climate change and he has gone there with the prob­lem of Lake Chad, and other climate change prob­lems we have.

The Lake Chad prob­lem has been here, since the last 19 years, what did Obasanjo, Yaradua, Jonathan do? In 2015, the best thing Pres­i­dent Buhari did was to ap­point Amina Mo­hammed, be­cause the truth is, if you go to the states, many of the com­mis­sion­ers for en­vi­ron­ment don’t even un­der­stand. I’m not say­ing this in a deroga­tory way. I’ve in­ter­faced with them, I’ve been in this space for the last decade, ac­tively in­ter­fac­ing th­ese peo­ple, the cor­po­rate stake­hold­ers, in most of the states don’t un­der­stand it, the only time that we have had a min­is­ter of en­vi­ron­ment that un­der­stood that the en­vi­ron­ment is much more im­por­tant than the economy, that the economy is only a sub-set of the en­vi­ron­ment, the economy draws from the en­vi­ron­ment, and Amina Mo­hammed un­der­stood that. Even though her stay wasn’t up to two years, the foun­da­tions were laid. It glad­dens my heart that some of the things we have been push­ing for, she came and Nige­ria is one of the few coun­tries, I think the first in Africa to is­sue a green bond, I think the sec­ond tranche would be is­sued this De­cem­ber. But how about the states, who are the com­mis­sion­ers for en­vi­ron­ment in each states, are they fol­low­ing up on th­ese is­sues, do they know that it is the en­vi­ron­ment that drives the economy?

I met the gover­nor of one of the North-east states at an event last year and I com­mended him on what he was do­ing in his state, but asked that since his state has high ex­po­sure to the im­pacts of climate change, what was he do­ing about climate change and how to adapt and build re­silience? He said what is climate change? I’m not mak­ing this up.

Can you tell us some of the projects your com­pany is look­ing at for 2019?

For 2019, we are look­ing at har­ness­ing indige­nous knowl­edge. We are go­ing to map the ex­pe­ri­ences and ex­per­tise and bring it into the main­stream. We are also set­ting up a plat­form to say how do we bring the academia to solve some of th­ese prob­lems? We also have a pro­gramme that seeks to mo­bi­lize the lo­cal climate change de­vel­op­ers, bring them on a plat­form and get some kind of in­ter­na­tional sup­port for them. Th­ese are some of the plans we have for next year.

Also, op­er­at­ing a busi­ness in Nige­ria is very hard, but for a sec­tor like yours with lim­ited ex­po­sure, it is harder, what are the ma­jor chal­lenges you are fac­ing and how do you go around them?

The big­gest chal­lenge is meet­ing po­lit­i­cal lead­ers who don’t un­der­stand this is­sue. There are min­istries in Nige­ria to­day who don’t be­lieve in re­new­able en­ergy and state gov­er­nors who don’t know what the con­ver­sa­tion is about, so how are we go­ing to make progress?

So it is either you are talk­ing to a deaf and dumb man, or you are talk­ing to a man who is not even in­ter­ested and this is some­one who has the power to em­power mil­lions of his cit­i­zens us­ing re­new­able en­ergy. This is why it is very im­por­tant for us to con­tinue to pro­vide the plat­form and con­tinue to en­gage and build con­sen­sus, and get the de­ci­sion mak­ers to move for­ward. And this goes for cor­po­rate or­gan­i­sa­tions. Our ap­petite for in­no­va­tion is very low, both in pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tor. So, again we are open to work­ing to cre­ate a plat­form for this en­gage­ment and to also strate­gi­cally change com­mu­ni­ca­tions, and get as many Nige­ri­ans to fol­low the con­ver­sa­tion.

Do you have any other thoughts on Nige­ria, re­new­able en­ergy and climate change?

Yes, this en­ergy tran­si­tion has be­come an idea whose time has come and it is either you jump on the train and get to your des­ti­na­tion or you get crushed, if you are stand­ing in the way. So it is in the best in­ter­est of Nige­ria to em­brace th­ese con­ver­sa­tions.

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