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The environmental toll of Nigeria’s power grid collapse

The lack of political will on the part of the Nigerian government to tackle these cancerous issues will thwart the nation's 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

There is no gainsaying that the threshold upon which a systematic and pragmatic nation thrives is predicated upon the stability of its politics, power generation and its responsiveness to addressing climate change.

Globally, international communities have, through enactments of various and relevant international instruments, ensured that each state adopts a democratic system of government and is committed to conserving energy to reduce, to the barest minimum, carbon-generated emissions that accelerate the adverse effects of climate change on humankind. Nigeria as a sovereign state is fully subscribed to most of these international legislations.

Nigeria has had a chequered political history since independence. The military controlled power from 1966 – barely six years into independence – to 1999 with a short-lived return to democracy between 1979 and 1983; and since 1999 till date, the polity is occasionally being heated up and thrown into a political turmoil that plunges the country into the edge of a precipice, but, fortunately, state actors always find a way to salvage the situation.

In the build-up to the 2015 general election, reports predicted Nigeria’s break up after the election as a result of irreconcilable differences among the major ethnic groups. However, by refusing to cling onto power and concede defeat after the then chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega announced the result which was in favour of Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC), former president Goodluck Jonathan averted the looming danger.

Politics is not an isolated concept. It cuts across every industry or sector, including energy, climate change and other related matters. To reiterate, politics, energy and climate change are the thresholds of the growth and development of any nation. Unfortunately, in Nigeria, there is a lack of political will on the part of the state actors to create an enabling environment where these three pillars of building a successful economy can thrive interdependently.

As an oil-rich nation, Nigeria depends so much on its oil and gas industry to generate energy for its citizens, leading to the depletion of energy. It is worrisome that despite being one of the largest producers of crude oil in Africa and in the world at large, Nigeria is still experiencing setbacks in its energy generation to the extent that Nigeria’s global energy index forecast in the last five years remains at 2.2 per cent, which shows how poorly, weak and economically-disadvantaged the nation has been in power generation.

In 2022, the power grid in Nigeria collapsed eight times, regularly resulting in widespread blackouts. The crashes had a great toll on the economy: several small, medium and large-scale businesses were forced to shut down and many business owners relocated to other countries where there is a guaranteed power supply to set up their businesses. Suffice it to say that due to the epileptic power supply in Nigeria, citizens have resorted to alternative sources of power: generators and solar. Advantageous as it may seem, the use of generator sets, on the flip side, harms the environment. Apart from causing noise pollution, it also causes air pollution which results in deplorable climate conditions. 

Last year, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) forewarned of ravaging floods and advised all states of the federation to put measures in place to curtail same, but the warning was disregarded. About 15 states, including Bayelsa, Kogi, Rivers, Benue, and Delta were affected by the flood scourge. While several Nigerians were rendered homeless, many lives were lost and some economic losses were recorded. Gas flaring, the burning of unwanted natural gas during oil extraction, is another prevalent issue that impacts the climate and environment negatively. Experts say it contributes to global warming by releasing CO2. Yet, Nigeria is among the top ten gas-flaring nations in the world.

The lack of political will on the part of the Nigerian government to tackle these cancerous issues will thwart the nation’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs are a call for action by all countries – poor, rich and middle-income – to end all forms of poverty, promote prosperity, and address a range of social needs including education, health, social protection, and job opportunities while tackling climate change and protecting the planet’s natural resources.

Consequent upon the disastrous effects of climate change and global warming, the writers, while recognising the efforts of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to the implementation of the SDGs though no impressive milestones have been reached, implore other relevant stakeholders, state actors and the incoming government to leverage on the precedent of President Buhari in achieving the 2030 Agenda. We hope that the government will implement the takeaways from the Climate Change Conference (COP 27) held in Cairo, Egypt last month as the world continues to make relentless efforts to save our planet.

We also recommend a constitutional amendment of Chapter II of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) to make the enshrined fundamental objectives and state policies enforceable in similitude with Chapter IV of the Constitution. The amendment will empower every Nigerian to seek redress in the court of law whenever their political, socio-economic (as regards power supply) and environmental rights are infringed upon. 

Oluwapelumi Osadola, Esq is a legal practitioner in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. Email: osadolapelumy@gmail.com. Salvation Izeoma is a 400-level student at Rivers State University. Email: izeomasalvation@gmail.com.

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