Kozo community, a
coastal habitation in Bodo, Gokana Local Government Area of Rivers State, once hosted over four thousand persons that earned their livelihood, predominantly from the natural treasures of the area.
The teeming inhabitants of the community were mostly fishermen and women who eased out their daily existence on the natural ambience of the area which satisfied their craving for game and stalking for survival.
This was indeed their most cherished possession and inheritance.
Today, the once thriving rural economy and communal living are almost extinct. The barest shred of human existence in the coastal settlement is gone. The inhabitants have been rendered homeless and have migrated out of their abode in search of alternative means of livelihood.
No thanks to reckless oil exploration and exportation in the area which have brought colossal damage to the natural environment and left the displaced inhabitants in a state of misery.
A visit to Kozo community recently revealed the extent of devastation of the natural environment. There was visibly no sign of life but desolation. The sprawling cracks where the fishermen launched their daily expedition was laden with thick layers of crude oil. The mangrove reserve that harboured the sea shell food was completely burnt off.
A former inhabitant of Kozo community, Peter Ledisi, who now lives in Bodo Town, in Gokana Local Government Area, of Rivers State told The Tide correspondent that he was born in Kozo community and grew up in the area until the sad experience of oil polution displaced his family.
Ledisi, who is 35 years old said his parents took care of him and his siblings through the proceeds of fishing but today life has become so difficult for the family as their means of livelihood is destroyed.
“That place you see (Kozo community) used to be our home for the past decades, we grew up there and pursued life with happiness, we were contented with what nature provided for us through fishing, every growing child enjoyed fishing there because it provided fun for us and filled our desire and passion for game and we also made money from it. Today, we have been displaced out of our home by oil pollution. Life is so difficult for us”, he lamented.
Another displaced inhabitant of Kozo community, Miss Tornubari Sakpugi disclosed that life has become very unbearable for her as a result of the environmental pollution of their natural home.
Sakpugi, a fish seller, said her business has collapsed as her customers can no longer go on their fishing expedition due to the pollution of the rivers.
“I used to buy fish in higher quality from fishermen and sell. The business helped me a lot and I was able to provide for my needs, but today, things are very hard for me. It is a terrible experience for you to move out of a place where you earn a living without any alternative means of livelihood, we want the polluted area to be cleaned so that we can return home. They are talking about UNEP report, but we are not seeing a development, the damage is too much, we are suffering”, she declared.
The story of Kozo community is similar to that of other oil bearing communities in the Niger Delta. These communities suffer wanton depletion of their natural resources through oil spillages and gas flaring. The land, plants, animals and marine life are badly impacted through the resultant pollution, making life meaningless for the inhabitants of the affected areas.
Fishermen at some major water fronts in Port Harcourt also have similar story to tell.
Iyalla, a fisherman who resides at Ibadan water front in Port Harcourt told The Tide correspondent during a visit to the area that fishing business is no longer lucrative compared to the past.
Asked the reason for the decline in the business, he said the rivers have been contaminated with spilled crude oil from bunkering.
According to Mr Iyalla, years back, fishermen did not have to go to the deep sea before they were rewarded with good catch.
But today, he said they have to paddle through hard and wander up sea amidst wreckages of boats and badges and sometimes return home with little or no catch. He explained that illegal refining of crude oil and bunkering activities smear the rivers with wasted crude, making bloated dead fishes to float on top of the rivers. He added that; “ the fishes that we catch these days are tasteless because of the polution of the rivers”.
Experts have however identified this ugly trend as an indication of the total cost of aquatic life which is the hallmark of coastal habitation.
A Chemical Engineer, Dr Ujile Uwajiogak said the burning of our natural reserves, especially through the “cooking of crude oil” put the life of the present generation and that of posterity at risk.
Speaking in an interview with The Tide, the Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering at the Rivers State University disclosed that it takes over 50 years for a polluted site to regain its lost reserves. Using the experience of the Civil war as an example, the university teacher said, the bombing of oil facilities in the Niger Delta during the war left in its wake devastating effects on the creeks and coastal channels of the region.
He said after 50 years of the war, nothing has grown in the impacted sites and the flourishing mangrove forest is replaced by palm that has no economic value.
“The indulgence of criminal elements in the cooking of crude oil is very destructive to our ecosystem and also has health implications. Research has shown that illegal bunkering will increase cancer in the region. What is the sense in taking a few components of the product and wasting the rest on aquatic life? Our environment was preserved and bequeathed to us by our forebears, but today we are destroying it, uninitiated to the wonders and possibilities of western technology, they lived longer and happier than the present generation, the average life span of a Niger Delta person today is 50 years, this is indeed pathetic”.
In the views of an Environmental Sociologist, Dr Steve Wodu, human insensitivity to the protection of his natural environment has worsened problems of environmental degradation. To him, some of man’s actions towards his environment are tampered insanely on ignorance or deliberate obstinacy billed to ruin existence. “Otherwise what will be the rationale behind indiscriminate burning of natural energy reserves or bad sanitation habits such as littering of wastes and lack of care of the natural surrounding,” he asked rhetorically.
Dr Wodu, postulated that a new era of prosperity can only blossom when we begin to treat our environment with the same sanctity with which we treat our very life.
In his view, the Director of the Institute of Conflict and Gender Studies, University of Port Harcourt , Prof Fidelis.
Allen, said a blighted environment portrays the nakedness of our civilisation and turns man’s dream into despair. Prof Allen, who is an environmental crusader, called for a more holistic approach towards the restoration and preservation of the natural environment.
According to him, only through such holistic approach and sound environmental awareness campaign can the ethical violation of environmental rights be curtailed and sustainable environmental growth attained.
To achieve a better objective in environmental management, he said, “the exploitation of resources, the direction of investment, the orientation of technological development and institutional change should be in harmony to enhance both present and future potentials to meet human needs and aspiration”.
He called on multinational companies operating in the Niger Delta region to carry out their activities with a sense of social responsibility by adopting international best practices and save the Niger Delta environment from destruction.
He described the Ogoni clean-up exercise as critical to the eventual remediation of other impacted sites in Niger Delta communitees and called on all affected stakeholders to expedite action to make the clean up exercise a success.
Also, a group known as the Ogoni Youth Federation frowned against what it considers the deliberate delay in the implementation of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) Report in Ogoni land. National Coordinator of the group, Comrade Legborsi Yaamabana, who spoke with The Tide in an interview blamed Shell, for the non implementation of the UNEP report, stating that the company was rather concerned about resumption of oil exploration activities in Ogoni than the restoration of the despoiled Ogoni environment.
Comrade Yaamabana called on Shell to provide potable drinking water in Ogoni land and carry out medical programme in the area to save the people from various strange ailments associated with environmental pollution.
Comrade Yaamabana also called for a national environmental policy that would specifically address the environmental problems in the Niger Delta and other parts of the country.
He said such policy must take into consideration that solid waste management is an important aspect of environmental planning, which must be prioritised rid our society of indiscriminate dumping of industrial waste.
Realising the importance of the natural environment, the American novelist, Henry Beston warned: do not do dishonour to the earth lest you dishonor the spirit of man. The implication of Beston’s warning is that by destroying his natural environment, man sets to consume himself in an escapable catastrophe, the possibilities of which are too obvious to be ignored.
However, the production and consumption of energy is today a major indicator of modernisation process. Our modern civilisation is fuelled by the energy sector, particularly oil and gas and this involves exploratory activities with attendant pollution problems and significant local and global implication.
It is therefore suicidal to see that the very natural ingredients that nourish our lives are washed away in the name of technology or industrialisation. It is left for us therefore to heed to Beston’s warning or perish.
Periscoping Nigeria’s Economy @ 61
Three days ago, Nigeria celebrated its 61st Independence Anniversary without much fanfare. Apart from the annual ritual of gathering dignitaries at the Eagle Square, Abuja and in every state capital of the country to mark the event, there was no much enthusiasm and euphoria reminiscent of the October 1, 1960 Independence Day.
Like the governor of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Wike, noted in his Independence Day broadcast, last Friday, there’s not much to be excited about this year’s independence celebration except, perhaps, the fact that “we have remained independent and managed to struggle with our existence for all these years”.
At independence, Nigeria was, no doubt, a great nation with great potential in both human and natural resources. It was a rich and the largest economy in Africa.
Today, given several negative economic indices about the country, can Nigeria truly pride itself as the giant of Africa, again? This is a one million dollar question many Nigerians, including economists and financial experts, may find difficult to answer in the affirmative.
Nigeria may, indeed, take its first position in terms of population, and human/natural endowments in Africa, it is doubtful if it can proudly pride itself as the most progressive economy among its peers, today.
Indices have shown that while many countries that were either at par or trailing behind Nigeria 61 years ago such as Malaysia, Singapore and Ghana, are responding positively to the emerging trend in the global economy, Nigeria appears lethargic, growing at a pace slower than the rate of expansion of its population.
In 1960 for instance, Nigeria’s population was 45.1 million, today, it has grown above 200 million. Yet, only a little above 10 per cent economic progression has been recorded in the last 61 years, to keep up with the population expansion.
It is a sad irony that a country which was once the pride of Africa is, today, one of the poorest countries in the world, with 40 per cent or 83 million of its total population living below the poverty line of less than $1 per day and N137,430 ($381.75) per year, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) data, last year. And if the World Bank’s income poverty threshold of $3.20 per day is used, Nigeria’s poverty rate is 71 per cent.
It is also a sad commentary that 61 years after attaining independence, Nigeria’s economy which was once strong enough to feed the nation and the rest of Africa is now in tatters, gasping for breath. High inflation, massive unemployment, convulsed social infrastructure and unprecedented debt burden have continued to push more Nigerians into “dehumanising misery and abject poverty”, as Governor Wike rightly noted.
As many businesses are closing shops, many companies are relocating to neighbouring countries like Ghana and South Africa, leading to massive loss of jobs by Nigerians. Twenty seven per cent of Nigeria’s labour force (over 21 million Nigerians) are currently unemployed, according to statistics. Meanwhile, the nation’s currency – the Naira, has practically lost its value as a US dollar which was at par with the Naira in the 1960s is now exchanged for N580.
The grim picture about Nigeria’s economy, inconsistent growth trajectory and poor standard of living have ended up widening the income inequality, increasing the poverty rate and fuelling social tension in the country.
Worst, the Covid-19 pandemic has further worsened Nigeria’s economic growth. As with most other economies around the world, the sharp drop in Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth is largely due to the slowdown in economic activity after the country resorted to a lockdown back in April, last year, to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
The accompanying steep drop in oil prices amid a drop in global demand also left Nigeria drastically shorn of earnings given its dependence on the commodity as its biggest revenue source.
For context, the United States slashed its Nigerian crude oil imports oil by 11.67 million barrels in the first five months of 2020, compared to what it bought in the same period of 2019. In fact, in the second quarter of 2020, local oil production dropped to its lowest since 2016, when Nigeria endured a full year of negative growth.
President Muhammadu Buhari himself acknowledged this economic asphyxiation in his Independence Day broadcast when he said “the past eighteen months have been some of the most difficult periods in the history of Nigeria. Since the civil war, I doubt whether we have seen a period of more heightened challenges than what we have witnessed in this period”.
Meanwhile, in spite of several assurances to turn around the fortunes of Nigeria’s economy, the latest economic data shows that the Nigerian government has continued to fall far short of projections in its Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, created in the aftermath of the 2016 recession. From manufacturing, agriculture, solid minerals, oil and gas to service sectors such as aviation and banking, the economy has been like a motion without movement.
Although the economy is not lacking in policy statements and blueprints by successive administrations, positive attitude towards policy implementation appears to be the major albatross militating against its growth.
Save for the telecommunication sector which has emerged as a catalyst for the nation’s economic growth for the past two decades, virtually every other sector is comatose. Power supply is epileptic, aviation industry has continued to wobble with muted ambition, maritime activities are crippled by ports congestion and piracy, trade and investment sector is bitten by the bug of Nigerian factor, the banking industry is feeding fat on a bleeding economy, while the oil and gas sector which has remained the mainstay of the country’s economy for years is shrunk by steep drop in oil prices amid a drop in global demand.
Since 2005 when President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration liberalised the telecommunication sector, the sector has continued to provide a scaffolding for Nigeria’s broader economic growth. It has emerged as an unbeaten player in the nation’s economy for the past one decade, contributing geometrically to the GDP. Its contribution has almost doubled from 8.5 per cent in 2015 to 14.7 per cent, today.
The NBS latest GDP data shows that the ICT sector grew by 6.47 per cent in Q1 2021, making it the fastest growing sector of the nation’s economy. From a subscriber base of 2, 271, 050 and GDP contributions of 0.85 per cent in 2002, today’s growth has surpassed all projections. Yet, experts say the potential for further growth is huge.
But here appears to be the end of positive stories about Nigeria’s economy. Most other sectors are still finding it difficult to stand on a sound footing. One of such sectors is power. Despite being unbuddled more than a decade ago, the sector has been that of motion without movement over the years. Today, Nigeria’s installed generating capacity is merely 12,500 megawatts (MW) compared to South Africa’s 58, 095 MW, while the electrification rate still lags at 45 per cent, making the sector the missing link in propelling the economy of the country.
It is a sad commentary that a less endowed country like Ghana celebrated one year of uninterrupted power supply more than 10 years ago, whereas Nigeria that prides itself as the giant of Africa has not enjoyed one week of uninterrupted power supply since independence.
Many energy experts have called for a review of the privatisation contract in the face of persistent blackout enveloping the country. For instance, an energy economist at the University of Ibadan, Professor Adeola Adenikinju, lamented that a decade after the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) was unbundled and sold to 11 distribution companies (DisCos), Nigeria is still experiencing epileptic power supply amid high tariff.
The aviation sector is not better either. It is one sector that evolves with ambitious developmental policies since independence. One of such policies under the Muhammadu Buhari administration is code-named “Aviation Roadmap”. The policy has components that include a new national carrier, airport concession, aircraft leasing companies, Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility and aerotropolis. Till date, none of these projects has been delivered.
The national carrier, for instance, after its launch in London in 2018, ran into a storm of public criticisms and had to be “temporarily” suspended by the Federal Government. However, there is an indication that the new airline – ‘Nigeria Air’, may hit the sky in 2022.
Similarly, about three years ago, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved the concession of four major airports in the country namely Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano. Till date, the facilities are yet to get the requisite patronage from the private sector.
President of the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Ben Nnabue, sometimes ago, took a swipe at the aviation sector.
He said that whereas a state government like Akwa Ibom has since successfully launched its airline (Ibom Air) without any fanfare, “our country has woefully failed in its attempt to birth a national carrier after over 10 years of labour and colossal financial waste”.
He continued: “The proposed aircraft leasing company, national aircraft Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility and aerotropolis development, all flagship programmes of this federal administration, have all suffered paralysis, despite massive support from all stakeholders and informed Nigerians.
“They all followed the same path; bitten by the bug of hidden agenda, suffered the ailment of ill-motive to death, presently in the coffins of infidelity to the national cause, and awaiting to be buried in the grave of onemarism”.
Nnabue also described the airport concession as a travesty, aimed at draining the nation’s treasury and called on the Federal Government to put a halt to it.
Many stakeholders, however, believe that the aviation sector has retained a good measure of stability under the Buhari administration. According to a member of the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI), Olumide Ohunayo, the sector has sustained safety standards, retained Category-One rating, got good approvals from the Federal Government and received a palliative during the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said the only drawback was the non-implementation of the aviation roadmap components which he believes, can still be achieved before the Buhari administration winds down in 2023.
Another sector capable of revving up the engine of the nation’s economy is trade and investment. Unfortunately, like many other sectors, it is bitten by the bug of the Nigerian factor.
While the sector could be said to have recorded some modest achievements in recent times, many experts believe it has not done well in promoting investment inflows into the nation’s economy.
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Pan African Development Corporation, Odilim Enwagbara, said that the sector has not been business-friendly to young entrepreneurs who could have possibly impacted their God-given skills on the economy.
According to him, “The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment has failed to pursue a nationalistic economic policy, trade diplomacy that would have protected Nigeria’s trade relations interest”.
He called on the government to “invite all small scale business owners to come together with their technical notch that can promote rapid economic development”.
In the area of agriculture, while it is convenient to say that the sector has been a consistent driver of the non-oil sector contributing 22.35% and 23.78% to the overall GDP in the first and second quarter of 2021, it is instructive to note that the impact of investment in the sector is yet to be felt by Nigerians, as the cost of food items in the market is currently getting out of the reach of the common man in the country. No thanks to the twin evil of insecurity and Covid-19.
As it is usually mouthed by every successive administration at every independence anniversary since 1960, Nigeria cannot truly be said to have been stagnant without recording some economic milestones in the last 61 years.
Under the present administration, for instance, some modest achievements have, indeed, been recorded especially in the area of oil and gas, maritime, transport and aviation, among others. The recent passage and signing of the Petroleum Industry Act, 2021; the launching of the NLNG Train 7, and the Deep Blue projects; the introduction of the Electronic Call-Up System and the launching of the Digital Economy are all efforts in the right direction by the Buhari administration.
But how these lofty initiatives intend to deepen the nation’s economy and make Nigeria go beyond a never-ending potential for becoming a great nation to a truly great one remains to be seen.
By: Boye Salau
Nigeria Petitions OPEC+, Demands Quota Increase
The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, said he has petitioned the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its partners known as OPEC+ for an increased oil production quota for Nigeria.
Sylvia revealed this at the Gastech 2021 conference in Dubai, according to S&P Global Platts.
According to him, the country already wrote the group for an increment in its quota.
He said: “We’ve put request on the table, and we expect that to be looked at.
“We have capacity for more production than we are producing right now. Unfortunately, we are constrained by the quota.”
The Minister said the country’s full production capacity of about 2.2 million barrels per day should be reflected in a revised quota, saying that the country’s production struggles is due to technical problems from re-tapping reservoirs that had been shut to comply with the stringent OPEC+ cuts of the past 17 months, adding that production struggles would soon be fixed.
He said output could rebound to around 1.7 million barrels per day by November and two million barrels per day by the end of the year.
“We had some issues from shutting down the reservoirs,” he was quoted as saying by S&P Global Platts.
“When you shut down a reservoir, to restart it, sometimes there are challenges,” he added.
Content Policy Saves $2bn In NLNG Train 7
Nigeria was saved the sum of $2 billion dollars from the ongoing Train 7 of the Nigeria liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) project as a result of using Nigerian firms, says the Executive Secretary, Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), Mr Simbi Wabote
Wabote, stated this last Friday, shortly after receiving the award of African Local Content Icon, from the African Leadership magazine, in Yenagoa.
The NCDMB Executive Secretary, who dismissed the assertion that the Nigerian content policy was costly, and a ploy by foreign interests who do not wish the country to develop, described the claim as blackmail, because experience had shown that the policy was more cost effective for oil firms.
“The Nigerian content policy saves costs, from the projects that the NCDMB have supervised it is clear that it is better for the International Operating Companies in Nigeria, but foreign interests at global levels erroneously say that local content is expensive.
“Before the move to increase the participation of Nigerians in the oil and gas sector, the participation was at about three per cent and previous administrations relied mostly on taxes and revenue and lost sight of the opportunities for Nigerians to get involved in the sector.
“From the oil sector where I am coming from, it is five times more expensive to pay an expatriate than a Nigerian, so how can they say that local content is more expensive ?
“ On the Train 7 project if you look at the cost provided by foreign companies, you have a wide gap of about $ 2 billion from the quotations of the lowest submitted by foreign firms and the highest from Nigerian companies, so local content is better as we ensured that quality was not compromised.
“From 2010 till now, we have come a long way, for instance NLNG had 90 per cent of the workforce as expatriates, but today 90 per cent of the workers are Nigerians with some even occupying top positions in foreign oil firms.
“I am thankful to President Muhamadu Buhari, who gave me the opportunity to practice local content in the public sector, by appointing me in 2016 and reappointing me in 2020,” Wabote said.
On the African Local Content Icon Award bestowed on him, Wabote said that it came to him as a ‘pleasant surprise’ adding that the ideals of the African Leadership Magazine justified his decision to accept the award.
Speaking earlier, the Managing Editor of the African Leadership Magazine, Mr Kingsley Okeke, noted that the process leading to the selection was transparent and independently conducted with nominations received from across the African continent.
“We found in the accomplishment and achievements of the Executive Secretary of the NCDM, a worthy character we must encourage and export to the rest of Africa.
“Our focus at the magazine is to spotlight the positive developments in the African continent and change the narrative and stereotypes by western media,” he said.
The Tide source reports that the African Local Content Icon Award was presented by Mrs Laura Hall, President-elect of the National Black Caucus in the U.S congress, at the headquarters of the NCDMB in Yenagoa.
Hall said that blacks in the United States, represented by the Black Caucus, also have a similar challenge with building local capacity to compete with their white counterparts in executing contracts in the U.S.
She said the caucus would collaborate and share ideas with the NCDMB on ways to increase the capacities of blacks in the U.S.
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