Sunday, 09 January 2022 06:21

Open letter to Buhari’s successor on why Nigeria’s energy crisis should be declared an emergency

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Olarinre Salako Olarinre Salako

Dear in-coming President,

In 2007, President Umaru Yar’Adua took on the responsibilities of the energy ministry and appointed three junior ministers to support him in the role. Odein Ajumogobia was named junior minister for petroleum, Fatimah Ibrahim for power, and Odusina Emmanuel for gas. Unfortunately, they could not achieve much before Yar'Adua died of illness at a hospital in Saudi Arabia.

One good thing about Late Yar'Adua's approach is the merging of petroleum and power ministries, even though he manned the subsections by politicians who were not energy professionals. Really, petroleum and power should never have been separated into different ministries. Petroleum is just an energy source. Electricity is an energy vector. Both petroleum and electricity are elements of energy. Running both ministries of power and petroleum under a ministry of energy will enable significant synergies within the value chains of the energy sector of the Nigerian economy. It is the best practice globally.

Watching the last Channelstv interview of President Muhammadu Buhari has made me conclude that his administration will also fail to significantly improve electricity supply in Nigeria, just like his predecessors. Buhari was asked a question about electricity supply, and he responded with his successes on road and rail infrastructure.  

 Buhari failed to make any reference to the Siemen's Electricity Project. Siemens, contracted by Buhari through his understanding with the immediate past German Chancellor Angela Merkel, had proposed to raise Nigerian electricity supply to 25,000 MW by 2025. Details of the proposal are contained in the 68-page White Paper titled “Electrification Roadmap for Nigeria”, the final version of which was dated November 14, 2018. The project timeline with various expected milestones to address generation, transmission and distribution, were clearly stated on page 22 of the White Paper. It is disheartening to observe that 38 months later, nothing tangible has been done. This is a clear indication that 25,000 MW by 2025 is a mirage, except something drastic is done.

As the next Nigerian President, my unsolicited and patriotic advice to you is to review the Siemen proposal for immediate provision of 25,000MW electricity upon your assumption of duty in 2023, to begin to power the Nigerian economy at an affordable and subsidized price per kilowatt-hour. This is among other things that should be done to facelift the Nigerian energy sector and get the country prepared, on medium and long terms, to play in the global energy transition market. 

To do so, Mr. Next Nigerian President, you should appoint an energy professional as Minister of Energy. Someone who will roll up his or her sleeves to lead the process of conquering all technical, social and administrative obstacles for the common good of Nigerians. Not a mere administrator or politician with no technical knowledge or personal awareness of 21st century energy technologies. Nigeria, at this stage of global energy transition, cannot afford an administrator with only a second-order or third-order knowledge of technical requirements to lead her energy sector. For many years, politicians, mostly lawyers, have dominated leadership of the Nigerian energy sectors, at the federal cabinet, and they have failed significantly.

The Minister of Energy should be supported by three Directors/Permanent Secretaries. Each for: (1) Fossil & Related Fuel Technologies (Coal, Oil and Natural Gas, Blue Hydrogen, Biomethane, Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage, etc.); (2) Non-Fossil Energy Resources (Solar, Onshore Wind, Offshore Wind, Nuclear); and (3) Power Generation, Transmission and Distribution.

Coal should be taken away from the Ministry of Solid Minerals. Coal should be seen, first, as a fossil fuel, and be considered as part of the energy mix for electricity generation, and when economical, used with the Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage (CCUS) technologies. The CCUS technological development is growing globally. 

Nigerian government investment in petroleum resources should be limited to the upstream sub-sector, especially now that NNPC is a limited liability company. The moribund petroleum refineries should be sold to private investors who will revamp and put them to better use. There should be a way of resolving the associated labor matter with the new owners of the refineries. The proceeds of sale should be invested in electricity generation, transmission and distribution, and clean energy development.

Nigeria’s vast natural gas reserves, estimated at 187 trillion cubic feet, should be leveraged for significant global share in the energy transition, especially in blue hydrogen production. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, for instance, is now exporting natural gas to blue hydrogen producers and fuel-cell electric auto-makers (e.g., Hyundai, Toyota) in Asia, while the Kingdom receives back the captured CO2 for local enhanced oil recovery. Most oil producing nations are now diversifying into other energy resources. Many of the international oil companies (e.g., BP, Shell, Total) are now operating as energy companies, investing in blue and green hydrogen, solar and wind energy to generate and sell electricity. Many of them now have charging station businesses for electric vehicles, especially in Europe and North America. They are utilizing revenues from oil and gas for investment in clean 

energy. 

Nigeria must have correct estimates of her various energy resources, and seek collaborations, especially with the international energy companies, operating in her petroleum industry for the past 6 decades, in developing these resources to position Nigeria as a leader in the global energy transition. The Minister of Energy and the 3 supporting Directors/Permanent Secretaries (who are also professionals - scientists and engineers) must work together as a team in an agile fashion to drive the Nigerian Energy Sector, for Nigeria to maximize her potential.

As the next President, you need to give the energy ministry team highest priority and attention, supporting them with necessary political-will-power and determination to achieve necessary changes and progress. You strive to meet this team as frequently as possible for briefings.

 Any bureaucratic bottleneck or outdated laws, or court cases, that will create a cog in the wheel of progress must be quickly identified and speedily handled by the President and his Attorney General. If and when necessary, past actions, laws and regulations seen as obstacles must be set aside by executive order for the common good. For instance, Buhari recently blamed the poorly executed privatization of distribution (disco) by his predecessor as responsible for his administration's failure in providing electricity. Such an excuse is untenable in an emergency situation, which the Nigerian energy sector should be considered. Buhari failed to tell Nigerians any executive actions by his administration to address the situation. A poorly executed process of privatization by a previous administration should be addressed by all means possible, by a determined current President for the sake of the common good. That is the duty of such a president.

Mr. Next Nigerian President, Nigeria has great potential to be a leader in the imminent global energy transition. But she has to first conquer her inability to provide affordable and constant electricity supply to power her micro- and macro- economics. No country can develop without affordable and constant 

electricity supply. For instance, commercial agriculture with complete value chains (e.g., from Cocoa farming to Chocolate production) can only be possible with affordable and constant supply of electricity. As the next President, you should not make a mistake of asking Nigerians to go into commercial agriculture without showing significant efforts in providing affordable constant electricity supply. Just because Nigeria is underutilizing her arable lands, according to Buhari, does not mean Nigeria can increase agricultural outputs significantly, with attendant value chains; without adequate provisions for electricity to convert raw farm-produce to market ready products. It is only through this approach, and involvement of the private sectors, especially in the electricity transmission, that Nigeria can create a lot of employment opportunities and reduce insecurity drastically.

On a final note, Mr. Next Nigerian President, the global energy transition to abate climate change is imminent. Therefore, while providing immediate energy needs, especially electricity from energy mix, a certain percentage of oil and gas revenues should be invested in long-term development, and capacity-building, of clean energy resources. Unborn generation of Nigerians will forever be grateful to you, if you lay the foundation for clean energy development.

The reviews of various approaches and plans should start now. Set up a team for this now. Make it part of your electioneering campaign activities, such that implementation can start immediately, from May 29, 2023.

 Mr. Next Nigerian President, please kindly accept the assurances of my highest esteem.

 

Sincerely yours,

Olarinre Salako,

North Dakota, USA.

08/01/2022