Potentials for Bio-fuels in Nigeria
Deep social discussions with a never seen before “friend” and fellow Nigerian environmentalist met on twitter @DoksP, made me realize how interested the Nigerian government is in developing bio-fuels as energy alternative in Nigeria. During the discussion, he shared with me a major policy document produced by the Nigerian government on their readiness to also integrate bio-fuel production into the downstream oil sector as part of the incentives to drive attraction to the idea of energy alternatives, a subject with extremely low popularity in Nigeria. The document that was produced in 2007 [4 years ago] made provisions for the regulatory framework for the establishment and functioning of the bio-fuels energy commission, the aspect that I personally feel may be the major flaw of this laudable idea considering the vulnerability of establishing commission to politicization in Nigeria and the potential to draw up unnecessary bureaucracy and the general lack of trust in governance in Nigeria.
Bio-fuels are derived from natural carbon fixation on wastes from households, restaurants, livestock and other organic matter with potentials as energy source [biomass]. Bio-fuel is an energy alternative that has added so much value to nations economically, and investments in bio-fuels have improved the image of such nation as progressive and innovative, as nations that are ready for the future where innovation is important for development. A few minutes research made me realize that some nations have taken major steps in their effort to trade bio-fuels as commodity across international borders, and I had to imagine the chains of opportunities meaningful investment in bio-fuels could bring including job creation and local economic development that Nigeria desperately needs. Also looking at the role of bio-fuel development within the concept of building a green economy [socio-economic ideology inclusive] as slightly mentioned earlier, nations that has seen the need to gradually shift bio-fuel production to the mainstream will also enjoy great opportunities to build social equity [comes with the holistic package of building a green economy] and improve the standards of living of its citizens [opportunities Nigerians also despirately need]
Coming back to take a better look at the potentials for bio-fuels in Nigeria, with the belief that investments in bio-fuels will open opportunities for economic and social development, I will start with the critical analysis of the policy document with the intention to highlight its weaknesses and strength.
As described in the policy document, the government has the intention of dividing implementation process into two phases, where the first phase caters for the integration of bio-fuel use into the downstream oil sector in order to establish solid market use of the product, and to also add some market value to the product. This aspect again shows some good intention, but a little confusing considering the lack of clear specifics on the intended bio-fuel production and use [i.e. type of bio-fuel, quantity and brief anticipated results/clear forecast]. The first phase of implementation also became more confusing with the too early role of importation while the document disappointingly ignores the very numerous local sources of raw material for bio-fuels. This role given to importation also goes against the main goals of the increasing calls for and use of bio-fuel globally which includes reduction of waste/recycling, local economic development, development of the green energy sector from the grass-root, energy independence amongst others.
The impressive second phase of the bio-fuel implementation programme that will run concurrently with the first phase strongly identifies with the need to engage the agricultural sector and investments will be private sector driven [though am not sure if there is any policy support for bio-fuels in the agricultural sector, and a still not sure on how the private sector will be engaged]. Going on further to study the policy objectives, it’s so clear that the Nigerian government has seen the potentials in developing bio-fuels, and they are ready to optimize the little opportunities they have seen in the bio-fuel project. The government has been able to identify the potentials for job creation, rural and agricultural development even though this policy document was designed in isolation from what is obtainable in the Nigerian agricultural sector as “the early stage” of this project.
It’s also important to consider the fact that the approach outlined in the document if not well designed may threaten the nation’s food security leading to poverty and more under-development.
Where I have my reservations on the policy document on this bio-fuel project is the plan to attract foreign investments into the intending Nigerian bio-fuel industry. This aspect of the document indicates the vulnerability of the plan for bio-fuels to dangerous capitalists or let’s says capitalists without conscience. Bio-fuels got the attraction it has now because it’s one of the products that drives sustainable development in societies and achieving sustainable development in the new global world [driven by capitalist interests] is all about giving souls to societies and breathing life into dead conscience of emerging capitalist societies. So basically, a bio-fuel project is something that should give a lot of preference to social development with strong objective to enhance energy independence and grass-root economic development in Nigeria.
On a last note, the plan on bio-fuels in Nigeria as presented in the policy document has failed to properly define all inclusive stakeholders that could have given the document a strong point as a project developed for the good of the masses. Though I have not condemned the approach explained in the document because it is very valid too considering the fact that the project needs to survive in the global economy driven by capitalist theories and practises. But the plans on bio-fuels should expand to the grass-root with the intention to save the environment and drive sustainable development too.
Please follow the writer on twitter @SusNigeria