Worried by the growing rate of the carbon footprint in the Niger-Delta environment due to oil exploration, Ògíamẹ̀ Atúwàtse III, the Olú of Warri Kingdom has called on the developed countries to fulfill the Paris agreement of remitting $100 billion per annum to developing countries.
According to him, the Nigerian government can earmark a sizeable portion of the fund, if given, to extractive communities like Iwereland and her neighbours in the Niger Delta that are affected mainly by hydrocarbon emission.
Atúwàtse III further said that the Nigerian government must also take a bold stand globally to ensure that developed countries live up to their responsibility as agreed in the Paris Accord, by fulfilling their pledge toward climate finance for developing nations.
Delivering a special remark at the Public Policy Forum on a ‘Just Transition in Nigeria: Opportunities and Risks,’ organised by the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Foundation, Olú of Warri said that the Niger Delta region has borne the brunt of over 60 years of oil exploration in Nigeria, and reaped comparably little of the benefits.
According to him, the Niger Delta people welcomed the Just Transition Declaration signed by developed countries at the COP26 in Glasgow, which includes a commitment to developing countries and emerging economies, in achieving a just transition to clean and resilient growth pathways.
He, however, said that communities had lost their lands and livelihoods while activists have lost their lives resulting in decades of crying for the healing of the Niger Delta environment.
“We should not politicise the fight for lower carbon emissions, ecological preservation, and biodiversity restoration of the Niger Delta Region, as this fight has become critical to the survival of the Nigerian populace,” he said.
Continuing, he said: “As the world catches up to the impact of detrimental global energy practices and excessive consumption, there is an increased urgency to protect the earth and the future of humanity. There is a global cry for just transition, for the health of people and the environment. In 2015, the UN’s International Labour Organisation advised that ‘a just transition for all towards an environmentally sustainable economy needs to be well-managed and (should) contribute to the goals of decent work for all, social inclusion, and the eradication of poverty.”
While pointing out that the transition from oil to renewable energy and net-zero emissions must be just in both words and indeed, the Olu of Warri said that without prioritising justness, Nigeria risks further harm to the people and communities.
He said that justness demands that Nigeria pay attention to the people and the communities that have been most affected, by preparing them for the long-term impact of climate change.
“Secondly, it demands that we transition every Nigerian by ensuring equitable renewable energy access, creating viable and sustainable livelihoods in alternative energy industries, and rehabilitating our environment. This is the just transition that all Nigerians deserve,” the Olu of Warri said.
After over 60 years of supplying the world with vast energy resources, he said, it is also the just transition the Niger Delta deserves.
He said that Iwereland, one of the world’s wealthiest hydrocarbon-producing zones per square kilometer, which hosts Okan Filed, the oldest offshore field in Nigeria, has suffered the ills of Nigeria’s hydrocarbon dependence for the past 60 years.
He urged the Nigerian Government to keep Nigerians at the heart of its just transition, adding that the success of the nation’s Energy Transition Plan will depend on how people-focused, the implementation is.
“Therefore, the government must work closely with stakeholders beyond planning and policy-making. We can speed up Nigeria’s just transition by adopting a place-based approach that aligns the implementation of the national energy transition plan with community strategies like Iwereland’s Economic Master Plan.
“Government must work with individual communities to address energy poverty and other risks while identifying their unique opportunities and creating strategies to take advantage of them justly and equitably. This will require strong leadership at the sub-national level, particularly in the Niger Delta where most of the transition resources will come from,” he suggested.