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Exploiting Nigeria’s Vast Bitumen Deposit

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Iriele is a small community situated in Ondo State and the indigenes have high demands for development. Over the years, they have dreamt of the day when bitumen would be exploited, creating job opportunities, infrastructure and economic prosperity. The people of this town consider bitumen as a God endowed heritage which should be harnessed immediately to create jobs, deliver infrastructure and reduce the hardship they face daily. Those dreams have not become reality up till now, denting their hopes and leaving them frustrated as the indigenes of these towns wait endlessly for the government to attract the needed investment.
In the light of the foregoing, is the wider debate about Nigeria’s rich mineral reserve and the failure of the government to properly utilise the wealth of the nation to the betterment of lives of the citizenry. This belief is voiced by majority of the ordinary people in this bitumen bearing community including border communities like Agbabu and Ilubirin.
Nigeria is the sixth largest bitumen deposit in the world with most of the reserve found in Ondo State. However, there’s a wider debate about Nigeria’s rich mineral reserves and the failure of the government to properly utilize the wealth of the nation to the betterment of lives of the citizenry.
This belief is voiced by majority of the ordinary people in this bitumen bearing community including border communities like Agbabu and lIubirin. They have argued that since Nigeria’s crude might no longer generate sufficient revenue to run the nation’s economy, there should be an alternative to fall back on. In the perspective of these pro-bitumen agitators, bitumen is a guaranteed option as Nigeria re-defines its roadmap to economic recovery.
A lawmaker representing the Irele-Agbabu State Constituency in Ondo State House of Assembly, and one of the key proponents of bitumen HonourableAfolabi Iwalewa, thinks that the wobbly situation of Nigeria’s oil is a wakeup call for the exploitation of bitumen:
“ Any moment from now, crude oil will fade off. Look at what is happening now with the talk of oil theft. Every state is crying now, even the Federal Government is crying that it is not getting what it used to get from oil. What is the Federal Government doing, and why can’t we find another alternative? If crude oil is not going to fetch us what we project (in terms of revenue), why can’t we switch over to bitumen?”
Another standpoint of Honourable Iwalewa’s pro-bitumen advocacy is that the non-exploitation of the resource is causing people in these communities a lot of trouble because they have to cope with the reality of spill ravaging precious farmlands where bitumen is found so close to the surface that a simple shovel can excavate the glossy black substance.
Bitumen is found in tar sands, which is also a combination of clay, sand and water. A heavy black viscous substance, oil-rich bitumen is extracted from tar sands, which is then refined into oil. The bitumen in tar sands cannot be pumped from the ground in its natural state; instead tar sand deposits are mined, usually using strip mining or open pit techniques, or the oil is extracted by underground heating with additional upgrading.
In essence, it involves a complex process that will certainly disrupt their lives and livelihoods beyond what they can imagine. This is what the people of the bitumen bearing communities in Ondo State are calling for when they appeal for the exploitation of the resource in their soil.
Taking a closer look at the experience of Canada, the biggest producer of tar sands globally, shows that exploitation has actually resulted in serious damage to the local communities and the environment. The clearing of vast area which is a component of the mining process is responsible for the Canadian moon-landscape we see in Alberta, Canada, where large forest with pristine trees that sprawled across its landscape now looks more like a waste land ravaged by the exploration of bitumen.
In spite of all of the warnings pointing at the dangers of venturing into tar sands exploitation, especially the apparent impacts of livelihoods of ordinary people due to the far reaching implications for the environment, including the lands and water bodies, the people in the bitumen bearing communities have inclined to brush these opinions aside.
Olofun of lrele, Oba Olarenwajulebi, the octogenarian traditional ruler of the Irele community, for instance, criticizes talk of possible environmental hazards if bitumen were to be extracted in the area. He brags about of what his realm would look like if development were to prevail, using bitumen as the tool.
“If development were to succeed the way the people of this area want it, this town would have looked like Lagos. I say so because bitumen will provide a lot of employment for all the youths in this area, not in Irele alone, but all over the Southern senatorial district and even in the whole of Ondo State. The bitumen deposit here is a very huge one. It is the second largest in the world, according to the survey conducted by some experts,” he enthused.
And on the Canadian experience he explained: “In Canada, they do it in Calgary, and I have been there. They don’t drive away communities, and they replenish the soil. Where they mine the bitumen, they mix the soil with some chemicals, and restore it for the farmers to go back there and farm. And when those people were working here, I talked to them and they told me that even if they have to relocate some communities, they will have to build some fine buildings for them, and that the exploitation won’t affect much of their lands. It is something that they will dig from the ground; and it won’t affect us adversely.”
There’s no doubt that the allure of jobs, development and the improvement they envisage that bitumen development would give to their communities has strengthened their resolve to continue campaigning for the exploration of their God-given wealth. Any attempt to make the pro-bitumen agitators to consider the consequences is usually met with cold shoulders.
However, a geologist at the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Ondo State, Professor Peter Odeyemi offered a much more balanced picture of the realities on the ground. Odeyemi, who was a member of the defunct Federal Government’s Bitumen Implementation Committee (BIC) made a poignant observation when he noted that the mere presence of a resource does not necessarily translate into commercially viable deposits.
“The first thing is that how much is there? We don’t know! We need to carry out further work in that area in the first instance. Secondly, exploration can be carried out by an oil company because bitumen is a hydro-carbon but also there are difficulties (technical difficulties). If an oil company is going to carry out an exploration there, there is an interest, financial one. This company will calculate how much it’s going to get. It will also look at certain technical issues and the ease of exploitation. This is so because although both of them are hydro-carbon, one is easier to exploit than the other.
Also,how will you exploit without exposing the soil to direct rain fall impact, denudation, erosion and degradation. So they have generation of enlightened professors and everything. The place is highly enlightened and the environmental issues are potent here like in Europe. If you look at the Niger Delta, the people just welcomed oil companies with open hands not knowing that oil companies are devils. They are only interested in profits. They are not in any way interested in environmental sustainability, in flora, in fauna and even in the development of the people,” he said.
He continued: “Our problem is not bitumen; our problem is corruption. What do we do with the money we have been getting from oil? The one we are exploiting, what are we doing with it? The people are getting poorer; there is no electricity, water, healthcare, and education. This is despite the fact that we are making trillions of dollars. So, if we now exploit bitumen and add another trillion, we are just going to multiply the corruption,” Odeyemi concluded.
There is no doubt that the exploration of bitumen will have a heavy toll on the environment of Iriele, and neighboring Agbabu and IIlubirin Communities in Ondo State. Water will be polluted, farmlands destroyed, large expanse of forest will be brought down and communities destroyed. Is this kind if cost these communities are willing to pay or are their alternative development paths that communities can take that will have more sustainable economic impact? As the federal government plans to diversify the economy, and explore mining of solid minerals as an alternative, there’s no gainsaying that the environment must be protected even as the nation seeks improved economic fortune.
Inwerogu wrote from Lagos

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Returning Nigeria’s Textile Sector To Good Old Days?

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In the 1970s and early 1980s, Nigeria was home to Africa’s largest textile industry, with over 180 textile mills.
The Cotton, Textile and Garment (CTG) sub-sector, employed close to 450,000 people that translated to more than 25 per cent of the workforce in the manufacturing sector.
But today, only 25 textile factories are operating, and they function at below 20 per cent installed capacity and engaged less than 20,000 people.
The fortunes of CTG sub-sector started dwindling in the 1990s, as a result of  some challenges faced by cotton farmers, ginneries and textile firms.
Farmers and processors were confronted with low quality seeds, high  cost of production, poor access to finance and smuggling of textile materials into the country.
Statistics recently released by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), showed that textiles worth four billion dollars were smuggled into the country annually.
But there is renewed vigour by the present administration, to revive the CTG through CBN’s intervention.
In order to boost the CTG sector, the Federal Government had given directive to some agencies and uniformed organisations to patronise local textile industries.
The present administration through the CBN is targeting engaging 300,000 farmers to achieve 450,000 metric tonnes of cotton in 26 states in the next three years.
The bank is to achieve this through its Anchor Borrowers Programme, which had already commenced with the cultivation of 200,000 hectares of hybrid cotton seeds to be distributed to 200,000 farmers in 26 states.
Part of the strategy is also to import 6,000 metric tonnes of improved cotton seeds, while additional 2,000 metric tonnes of cotton seeds had been sourced locally.
The data released by the bank indicates that “total expected yield at the end of the current season is 302,440 metric tonnes. The distribution of inputs to cotton farmers was launched in Katsina on May 6.
Twenty ginneries in seven states- Borno, Gombe, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Niger and Zamfara were selected to participate in the CBN’s financed cotton project.
According to CBN, ginners are to sell their lint to textile factories with the ultimate objective of producing textiles to meet the needs of the members of the uniformed services.
The CBN governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, said the funds to operationalise the ginneries, had been approved and to be disbursed through the Bank of Industry.
Emefiele said about N19.18 billion had been approved by the bank to fund nine ginneries across the country.
The approval is to enable them retool their processing plants, while they are to access the funds at single digit interest rate.
President Muhammadu Buhari, on his part, lamented the closure of textile factories especially in the North, and assured that his administration would revive the sector.
“We promoted policies that will support local industries such as import restrictions.
“We introduced programmes that provided affordable and accessible capital for both large and cottage industries.
“We also introduced Executive Orders that encouraged the procurement of Made in Nigeria goods and services.”
According to him, his administration will not allow Nigeria to return to the days of exporting jobs through the importation of food and clothing items,  which can be produced locally.
He said: “We will not allow Nigeria to return to the days of exporting jobs through the importation of food and clothing items which can be produced locally. We owe this to the over 200 million Nigerians.”
According to the President, the textile and garment sector has the potential to create millions of jobs, and will therefore, remain one of the priority sectors for the administration.
Referring to his recent directive to all government uniformed institutions to use locally produced garments, President Buhari said unbelievable number of jobs will be created when the military, police, para-military organisations, including the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), fully patronise local industries.
He, therefore, urged state governments to key into this policy for their schools, hospitals and other institutions.
In the same vein, Mr Isa Aremu,
the General Secretary, National Union of Textile, Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria (NUTGTWN), lamented the closure of hundreds of textile factories, which used to employ “millions of workers, more than the workforce of the Federal Government in the 70s and 80s.”
He, however, commended the textile-friendly policies of the Buhari-led administration, such as the interventions by the CBN and the Executive Order on the use of local garments by uniformed organisations, among others.
Aremu stressed the need to tackle the high incidence of smuggling of textiles, in order to protect the sector as well as boost job creation.
The activist said the recent signing of MoU between the CBN and some major stakeholders was a gradual effort of lifting the sector from the state of hopelessness to hope.
Aremu noted that the effort made by the CBN was commendable and would be supported by his union, and appealed to other relevant groups and indeed all Nigerians to do the same.
Alhaji Salman Abdullahi, the President,  Cotton Ginners Association of Nigeria, commended the CBN for its commitment to  revive CTG sub-sector.
Abdullahi said when the stakeholders’ meeting was convened sometimes to work out ways to revive the sector, he thought it would be like similar gatherings in the past, that did not yield any positive result.
He pledged that members of his association would live up to expectation, by ensuring quality production.
Dr Arome Salifu, an economist, said the step taken by Federal Government was a welcome development.
According to him, for any economy to thrive, a critical component like manufacturing sector must be given priority.
“The CTG is a critical component in manufacturing sector, therefore, the apex bank has taken the right step in the right direction by choosing this component to support.’’
Salifu said that this kind of investment was needed at this time because of its jobs creation potential.
He called for involvement of critical stakeholders, like civil society organisations, in the monitoring and evaluation of the project to ensure judicious use of funds.
Sumaila writes for News Agency of Nigeria.

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Nigerian Navy And Quest For Proficiency

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“The battlefield is an unforgiving classroom. It is a theater where success and survival in real combat is dependent on hard work during exercise of all nature.”

The above saying is by Rear Adm. Oladele Daji, the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC) at the opening of ” Small Arms Firing Exercise (SAFEX)”, organised by the Western Naval Command, Lagos in October 2019.
The quest for proficiency has in recent times seen the Nigerian Navy engaging in trainings and even bilateral relationships with the Navies of other countries.
Constitutionally, the Nigerian Navy personnel are used to handling big weaponry mounted on warships, but due to the numerous security challenges, there has been an increase in their involvement in internal operations.
The Navy has big guns onboard warships like the 127MM and the 40MN but to tackle internal security issues, arms like FN Rifle, AK47 and Shooter `n’ Gear (SnG) are needed.
Due to their increased involvement in internal security, the Navy has continued to train and retrain its personnel through SAFEX to enhance their proficiency as well as enhance operational efficiency.
To become proficient in small arms handling, the Western Naval Command, from Oct. 17 to Oct. 19, organised SAFEX for its personnel at Owode, Nigeria’s border community with the Republic of Benin.
No fewer than 400 officers participated in the exercise which entailed shooting weapons such as FN Riffle, AK47 and SnG from 100m and 200m radius respectively.
However, speaking at the opening ceremony, the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC) Western Naval Command, said the exercise had given them opportunity of identifying marksmanship for inter-command and inter-service competitions.
“I enjoin everyone to take advantage of this unique opportunity to enhance their weapon handling proficiency and knowledge.
“I implore you all to remember the marksmanship principle as you approach the firing point, this will help in ensuring that you hit the bull,” he said.
He also thanked the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) for making the exercise a reality.
“This exercise would not have been possible without the timely approval of the Chief of Naval Staff to our arms and logistics request. So, I enjoin everyone to take advantage of this unique opportunity.
“Training all over the world is conducted to correct weaknesses and sustain strength. In achieving this objectives, training exercise will always be tough and physically challenging.
“This exercise therefore, will not be an exception considering the process you must have passed through right from the point of selection. I enjoin you all to apply yourselves during the exercise,” he said.
Major.-Gen. Olu Irefin, the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 81 Division Nigerian Army, Bonny Camp, Lagos, at the opening said that there was no gainsaying the complexities and fluid nature of contemporary security challenges.
He said that it was imperative for security agencies to not only to synergise their efforts towards attaining national security objectives but also to sharpen their skills in weapons handling.
“It is against this backdrop that the Nigerian Navy and by extension the Western Naval Command deemed it fit to hold the exercise,” he said.
At the end of the exercise, the FOC, represented by the Chief Staff Officer, Western Naval Command, Rear Adm. Muritala Bashir, implored personnel not to forget what they had learnt.
“I’ll like to urge us that whatever we have learnt from this exercise, please, let it register in our memories because these are the skills you will need to apply when the need arises.
“Apart from the skills that must have been sharpened, we should be able to go a step further at our individual time to see how we can strip and assemble these weapons.
“Because during operation, these weapons could disappoint. And it is not enough for you to drop the weapon and stop firing as a personnel, find out what the problem is, strip the weapon and assemble and continue,” he said.
On foreign relationships, the Nigerian Navy received six ships from other countries this year, exploring diplomatic ties for excellence with their foreign counterparts.
The ships include: the U.S. Naval Ship CARSON CITY, the French Navy Ship BOUAN, the Indian Navy Ship TARKASH and the Spanish CENTINELA and SERVIOLA.
The most recent one is the visit of Spanish Ship, ATALAYA, which berthed on the shores of Nigeria on Oct. 2 and departed on Oct. 5, for the strengthening of diplomatic ties between the Nigerian Navy and the Spanish Navy.
The Spanish Consular General, Mr Juan Anthony and the Commanding Officer of Spanish Naval Ship, Lt.-Commander Calvar, paid a visit to the Western Naval Command.
They were received by the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC) Western Naval Command, Rear Adm. Oladele Daji, for an exchange programme in training and also to boost bilateral relationships between both Navies.
These visits were aimed at strengthening bilateral ties between the countries to reinforce manpower capacity development through training and re-training of officers and men of the Navy.
While in Nigeria, series of training through naval exercises were conducted in line with the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Adm. Ibok-Ette Ibas’ mission.
The mission is to deploy a naval force that is well trained, organised and highly motivated to discharge its constitutional roles professionally and efficiently for the defence of Nigeria in ensuring her economic prosperity.
While leaving on Oct. 5, the Nigerian Navy, as part of its culture, performed passage exercise for the Spanish Navy ship with series of exercises.
The Nigerian Navy ship (NNS) EKULU, NNS NGURU and some NNSSBS boats as well as Nigerian Navy helicopters sailed with the ship on Passage Exercise for some nautical miles off Lagos Farwell Buoy.
Both Navies carried out several naval drills, including Opposed Vessel, Search Boarding, Seizure (VBSS), Fleet Manoeuvers, Communications and Helicopters operations.
The combined exercise saw Nigerian Navy personnel board the Spanish Naval Ship ATALAYA with their Spanish counterparts doing the same.
It will be recalled that few months ago, Spanish Naval Ships CENTINELA and SERVIOLA visited Nigeria and conducted similar exercises.
Oremule writes for the News Agency of Nigeria.

 

By: Modupe Oremule

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Mitigating Climate Change Effects Via Legislation

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Undoubtedly climate change is one of the biggest threats facing humanity today. Environmental experts also say that Nigeria is vulnerable to the effects of climate change because of the country’s low response capability.
They cautioned that climate change and global warming, if left unchecked, would cause more adverse effects on livelihoods of most Nigerians who are already living in abject poverty.
According to an environmentalist, Oyeniyan Olagunju, Nigeria is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and must, therefore, as a matter of urgency take steps to reduce vulnerability, build resilience and adaptive capacity.
Olagunju said that while climate change constitutes environmental threat of the 21st Century, the current experience, alongside its adversity, has left Nigeria with no better option than to seek immediate measures to adapt and mitigate impacts.
According to him, climate change has negatively affected Nigerian economy, with various observable impacts, ranging from significant reduction in agricultural productivity to increase the morbidity and mortality rates.
“The energy sector is not left out, because climate change has impacted the hydropower plants which are sources of electricity for the country.
“Others like the transportation, tourism and manufacturing sectors are affected which in turn pose threat to the overall economy,’’ Olagunju said.
He said that a study conducted by the Department for International Development (DFID), confirmed that climate change would cost Nigeria between six and 30 per cent of its GDP by 2050, with estimated loss of between 100 billion dollars and 460 billion dollars.
“Currently, the erosion of low-lying coastal and non-coastal regions of Nigeria results in persistent buildings collapse, with attendant loss of lives.
“Of important concern also are the drying lakes in Nigeria, especially the Lake Chad, which is at the junction of Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria and Niger, as a valid reference point,’’ Olagunju said.
A recent report by the Institute for Public Policy Analysis and Management revealed that by 2020, Nigeria stands to lose 11 per cent of its GDP to climate change in absence of an aggressive climate policy to sustain the social and economic development in the country.
Rep. Sam Onuigbo, the lawmaker representing Ikwuano /Umuahia North/Umuahia South Federal Constituency of Abia State, in the House of Representatives, said that there was need to domesticate global instruments, in order to combat the effects climate change in Nigeria.
Onuigbo expressed worry over the absence of a legal framework on climate change, which he identified as critical for the conservation of nature and protection of the country’s natural resources and environment.
He also expressed dismay that the Climate Change Bill, which he sponsored while he was the Chairman, House Committee on Climate Change, during the 8th National Assembly, did not receive presidential assent after its passage.
“I have not given up on the Climate Change Bill because I have been able to rework it and represent it, and I am happy that the bill has gone through first reading in the House of Representatives,’’ the legislator said.
He expressed optimism that the reintroduced bill would receive presidential assent with a view to aid in mitigating the effects of climate change in the country.
“With the awareness that we all have shown in matters concerning climate change, ecology, and how we can work towards sustainable development, I am optimistic that this time there will be good advisers around Mr President.
“It is important to tell him why it is absolutely important to sign the bill,’’ Onuigbo said.
He emphasised that the bill still focuses on mainstreaming government actions and responses into policy formulation and implementation and the need to establish the national council on climate change.
The lawmaker said that besides proposing for a council, the bill also proposes an agency to drive efforts to checkmate the devastating effects of climate change in the country.
Onuigbo, who is also the Vice-President of Globe International (Africa), promised to work with other legislators to initiate policies and bills that would ensure reduction of ecosystem degradation and Green House Gas emissions.
Globe, is legislators’ organisation that supports parliamentarians to develop legislative response to the challenges posed by development.
Onuigbo, however, pledged to use his position to draw international and national attention to the strengthening of Globe in Nigeria, in order to provide added urgency to the country’s drive to protect the environment.
He said that President Muhammadu Buhari had made a commitment to the cause by signing the Paris Agreement on Climate Change on September 22, 2016, “and committing severally in many international discussions that Nigeria must address climate change issues.
“It is hoped that by the end of my tenure, natural capital governance would have been worked into government policies and financial permutations and projections.
“It is also hoped that more attention will be paid to renewable energy sources,’’ Onuigbo said.
He called for increased awareness to sensitise people to understand the need to do away with activities that impact negatively on the environment.
While pointing out the need to do away with non-degradable materials, Onuigbo canvassed for the adoption of improved agricultural systems for both crops and livestock.
A lecturer in the Department of Demography and Social Statistics, Federal University, Birnin Kebbi,Mr Abbani Yakubu, stressed the need for government and relevant stakeholders to extensively fund researches in climate change.
According to him, it is very necessary because climate change affects all.
“It impacts on our daily lives and affects food security, which the government is trying to achieve in the country.
“Research is very integral to solving climate change problems.
“We need to understand the extent to which it is affecting human lives.
“Efficient database management system on climate change occurrence and related events should be developed, in order to ensure effective and timely response to climate change incidents in Nigeria,’’ Yakubu said.
It would be recalled that the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said that the world must cut its carbon dioxide emissions to net zero by 2050 in order to prevent global warming of 1.5°C, or likely more, above pre-industrial levels.
In its 2019 seasonal rainfall prediction, the Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NiMet), said that it would be another hot year.
The mean annual variability and trend of rainfall over Nigeria in the last six decades, depicts several inter-annual fluctuations that have been responsible for dry and wet years or extreme climate events, such as droughts and floods in many parts of the country.
NiMet also predicted that, as a result of these climatic conditions, incidences of malaria and other diseases will be higher in areas with temperatures ranging between 18 °C to 32 °C and with humidity above 60 per cent.
“More worrisome is the increasing knowledge that the country will be subject to consistent changes in rainfall and temperatures in the not-so-distant future.
“Hotter and drier conditions would likely exacerbate droughts and heat waves and hamper agricultural production, particularly rain-fed agriculture, which many Nigerians rely on for their livelihoods,’’ a farmer, Mr Ndifereke Akpan, said.
While identifying that agriculture accounts for around 23 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product, Akpan said that progress could be hampered if the trend was not checked.
“Unless we take action, these trends are likely to jeopardize hard-won progress.
“Already, climate-induced conflicts are exacerbating fragile security situations, with flashpoints mainly in the middle belt of the country.
“Climate change, therefore, poses a significant threat to Nigeria’s development ambition of meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and could stunt and even reverse the progress that has already been made,’’ Akpan said.
With enforceable legislation in place, Nigeria will effectively mitigate the adverse effects of climate change and global warming.
Uwadileke writes for the News Agency of Nigeria.

 

Ikenna Uwadileke

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