Monday, December 5, 2016


I have been reading former Secretary General of the OPEC Abdalla Salem El-Badri’s interesting piece, Security of energy supplies inextricably linked with demand. That piece, published in the ‘G-7Germany: The Schloss-Emma Summit’ of June 2015, has said that questions regarding energy security, often have four ready answers. They are issues of reciprocity of supply and demand of oil, foreseeable time horizons, the universality of oil security across all time zones and seasons, and the need to use the security which oil is supposed to provide to enhance dialogue and cooperation.

We will deal with the exposition of these terms right after we examine the theme and focus of a certain high level ministerial meeting which took place on December 1 2016 in Abuja. It was convened by the collaborative effort of the Nigerian and Ghanaian governments and the UNEP, to examine the ‘negative consequences of the use of high sulphur fuels’, and attempt to adopt a realistic approach to adapting the use of clean fuels by 2020 so that our environment becomes safer. But there is indeed a background to that meeting. Briefly, certain Swiss traders, the infamous Trafigura and Mercuria et all are alleged to be behind the massive and deliberate production and importation of dirty fuels into West Africa. Via a curious method known as blending, they mix all kinds of concoctions to come up a kind of fuel which is about 1000 times higher in sulphur content than any other kind of fuel accepted anywhere. Already, four Nigerian cities, Aba, Umuahia, Kaduna and Onitsha, have been designated as the most air-polluted cities there are. Air pollution was not happening only in Nigeria. Upon realizing that the fuels being imported into Ghana had 1000ppm sulphur content, the authorities made a symbolic gesture of sending back a container laden with dirty air in jerry cans back to Antwerp, and backed up their resolve this November 2016 by insisting on taking into Accra only fuels with 50ppm sulphur content. Togo and Benin are hesitant to make the move, and that is because their fuels come from Nigeria, and there is no way they will be insisting on getting fuel from Nigeria if Nigeria is not doing anything about those dirty fuels from Europe.

But part of the recommendations taken by Nigeria, Ghana, Togo Benin and Ivory Coast at that Abuja meeting included the fact that as a region, they would all have to take a stand and insist on fuels with 50ppm sulphur content. For the Nigerian end, things are still a bit intricate. The Nigerian government said that by July 2017, that resolution would be enforced. A very good move but the difficulty stems from the fact that nobody is certain whether this is just a promissory note because Nigerians are not sure that this July 2017 date has been exhaustively discussed at the higher echelons of government, with relevant stakeholders and the Nigerian public. That apart, the meeting resolved inter alia, to give refineries waivers to implement upgrade to enable them meet the proposed 50ppm by 2020. In addition, ministers in the sub-region resolved to work together for uniform refinery standards against vehicular emissions by the magic year 2020. 


How all of that is going to happen, even by the year 2020 I cannot understand. I’m certain that 50% of the persons who made these proposals may not have really seen what our refineries look like. Well, I have. It was the Warri Refinery – a prototype of the Port Harcourt and Kaduna - and this was way back in 2008. Near the refinery, I saw a foundry with piles of rusting metal. I was later to understand that the flurry of activity which was going on then was because certain humongous sums had been voted for turn-around maintenance, TAM, of the refineries. From 2008 till date, there has been no significant change from what I saw there then. Are these the refineries that would be granted waivers to meet the plan for fuel efficiency by 2020?

Therefore what the former OPEC sec gen meant by reciprocity of supply and demand of oil, foreseeable time horizons, the universality of oil security across all time zones and seasons, and the need to use the security which oil is supposed to provide to enhance dialogue and cooperation is that for countries like Nigeria, Togo et all to have oil insecurity, they must begin to look to a future of clean energy and without oil. There is an excerpt from an article, Will Nigeria Survive the EU Energy Union, published with the Nation newspaper on June 11, 2015. In that article, I had said that three senior members of the European Union, EU, sat down in Brussels to brainstorm the idea of an Energy Union within the EU. One of them, Maroš Šefèoviè reportedly told his comrades: “Today, we launch the most ambitious European energy project since the Coal and Steel Community. A project that will integrate our 28 European energy markets into one Energy Union, make Europe less energy dependent and give the predictability that investors so badly need to create jobs and growth.

When they arose, they issued a communiqué like the Abuja meeting did.  The core of that communiqué was that the EU by 2030 – about 16 years from today and ten years from the date wherein ECOWAS set to develop a low sulphur fuel roadmap – Europe would have cut greenhouse gas, GHG, emissions by at least 40%. They will also boost renewable energy and improve energy efficiency by at least 27%.  By February 2015, a Southern Gas Corridor to develop the establishment of liquid gas hubs with multiple suppliers in Central and Eastern Europe would be developed. Since most of Europe would soon depend absolutely on renewable energy – solar, biomass, wind and hydro power for their electricity needs, part of the plan of the EU Energy Union includes a full implementation of existing legislation and market rules to integrate these renewable into all European markets, and a promotion of more research into renewable energy production and the decarbonisation of the transport sector. ECOWAS should take notice.

 Etemiku is communications manager, ANEEJ.