Paramount Rulers in Akwa Ibom State has called on the Federal Government to ensure inclusion of the voices and opinions of oil bearing communities in the country’s energy transition plans with a view to having a successful and just transition.
The call was made in Abak, Akwa Ibom State, by the Paramount Ruler of Etim Ekpo LGA, HRM Akuku Prof. Amanam Udo, during a Community Townhall on Energy Transition organized by Extractive360 in partnership with Spaces for Change (S4C) and support from Africa Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP), on February 9, 2023.
Speaking at the event which also had in attendance HRM Akuku Saviour Sylvester Udofia, Paramount Ruler, Abak LGA, HRM Akuku Joseph Okoh Ekot, Paramount Ruler, Ika LGA, HRM Akuku Amos Daniel Apkan Paramount Ruler Ukanafun LGA and His Royal Highness, Sylvester Okokon Ibanga, Chairman, Conference of Village Heads in Abak LGA, among several women and youth leaders, Akuku Udo decried that oil bearing communities have not been involved in energy transition decisions despite bearing the brunt of fossil fuel extraction.
He said “The government don’t understand the problems we are facing in the society. At the top of it is environmental degradation. People who live in the riverine area, whose source of livelihoods was fishing, what have they gained from fossil fuel extraction. Now they have not involved oil bearing communities in the transition decisions and we are the people bearing the brunt of the degradation. We will want to be a part and parcel of whatever decision they are taking with regards the transition to renewable energy.”
The royal father explained further that apart from the degradation of the environment, people in the Niger Delta deal with extreme heat weather and toxic air due to gas flaring.
“Everybody living in this area must have felt the heat. This is due to the effect of gas flaring. You get into your house and you can’t sleep. So for whatever decision is to be taken by the federal government, the oil communities should be part and parcel of such decisions because we are the people that bear the brunt,” he added.
According to him, if the country is to transit from fossil fuel to renewable energy, people in the Niger Delta need to know the modalities for such transition, what is involved and how it will affect them, adding that “With the type of corruption we have in Nigeria, some people who do not even understand the implications of this, will accept little gifts in the form of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) at the detriment of the entire community who bear the brunt. So whatever arrangement government is making, the Niger Delta region should be fully sensitised.”
Earlier in her presentation, Executive Director of Extractive360, Juliet Ukanwosu, explained that a research titled ‘Energy transition in Nigeria’s Oil-rich Communities,’ conducted by Spaces for Change and partners, revealed that the federal government did not make specific plans for clean-up, remediation or compensation of age-long environmental injustices occasioned by decades of fossil fuel extraction in the Niger Delta.
She added that the meeting was neccessitated by the to need educate communities on the transition to renewable energy. Which now begs the question of what will happen to communities in the Niger Delta whose environments and traditional sources of livelihoods have been destroyed, what alternative livelihoods can they have or what new jobs can they engage in?
Also speaking at the event, Executive Director of Spaces for Change, Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri, who was represented by the organisations Program Officer, Energy and Extractives Justice, Bonaventure Akuma, who explained that the global energy transition campaign is aimed at checking the effects of climate change, however, queried the fact that there are no provisions for environmental clean-up in the national transition plan.
“After the transition to renewable energy what happens to communities in the Niger Delta who can no longer go to their farms due the damages to the environment? How does the government intend to cleanup the environment before the transition? We are demanding that the cleanup happens before the transition, She said.
Ibezim-Ohaeri encouraged participants at the townhall to actively participate in the conversation as the meeting was organized to hear from them, collate their views and amplify it the best way possible.
Participants at the event, thanked the organizers for the opportunity, as many of them were hearing of the planned transition to renewable energy for the first time. They however, appealed for the engagement not to be one off, but occasional, to keep them abreast with governments decisions and plans on energy transition.