Business is booming.

OPINION: Between lure of int’l gas market and meeting domestic needs 

By Ebele Agozie

The raging war between Russia and Ukraine has disrupted global demand and supply chain and in the process, triggered the scarcity of certain goods and services. The consequence is increase in prices of such goods and services.

The war has therefore worsened the already bad economic situation in many countries, particularly in African.

One of the most sought after products, especially in Europe is gas which had hitherto been largely supplied to many European countries by Russia.

The conflict’s impact on gas supply from Russia has made it imperative for many European countries, and the EU as a block to look elsewhere to beat the shortage of the product.

This search has made them to turn their attention to African countries that have gas in commercial quantity in what oil and gas experts have dubbed the ‘gas rush’.

A recent visit by some U.S. and European envoys to Nigeria in search of cooperation in the secor seems to support the argument that Nigeria’s gas deposit is being explored for Europe and U.S. markets.

Mathew Baldwin, EU Deputy Director on Energy during his visit to Nigeria told the media recently that the EU can no longer count on Russia for its gas supply.

He said it is important to build new partnerships with countries like Nigeria, to source more gas at favourable commercial terms.

John Kerry, a former U.S. Secretary of State said the US is interested in Nigeria’s methane abatement and decarbonisation programme, with a pledge of $200m by U.S. to Nigeria and other countries for their clean energy initiatives.

In a response, Mr Timipre Sylva, Nigeria’s Minister of State for Petroleum Resources sought support for gas exploration in Nigeria though he explained that Africa’s contribution to the global emissions remains meager.

“We would also like to say that on the energy transition, we have certain realities that the world must consider.

“We have this number of people without access to electricity, but we don’t have the funding and the technology to achieve this transition,” he said.

Mr Nnimmo Bassey, Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation, an environmental think tank and advocacy organisation called for caution in Nigeria’s quest to quench Western countries appetite for gas.

“This gas rush in Africa is could be interpreted simply as another manifestation of colonial exploitation by the West.

“They ought to transit to cleaner energy but because of the war in Ukraine, they want to insist on using dirty energy and they are coming to Africa as the usual place for extraction and continuous pollution of our environment.

“And, because we are always asking for assistance and all kinds of support, we are unable to make strong demands from them.

“If we keep looking for huge funds coming from outside, exporting resources and importing the finished products, our independence will just remain flag independence.

“It is a big problem and we need to wake up to that because posterity will judge everyone and every government,” he said.

Dr Obiageli Anaghara-Uzoh an oil and gas management, petroleum taxation and finance lawyer called on the authorities to be pragmatic in signing any gas supply agreement with the West.

“We have it in abundance but it is not benefiting from it. Nigeria is largely a gas country, but the power sector, one of the major sectors of the economy has the problem of paying for gas.

“The best option is to strike a balance: while we take advantage of the exports, we should also try and nurture the domestic market,” she said.

She advised the government to be cautious while selling the gas and remember to give back to the poor.

“The government should be more focused and committed to developing Nigeria,” she advised.

Prof, Ibrahim Choji, Chairman Board of Trustees, Climate and Sustainable Development Network, advised that Nigeria’s leaders against being selfish in dealing with the gas demands from the West.

The organisation is an International NGO affiliated with pan African climate Justice Alliance.

“ Nigeria may well fall prey because of the possible financial and short-term benefits of exporting gas to these countries.

Amb. Freeman Oluowo, Coordinator, African Centre for Climate Actions and Rural Development said that Nigeria must put her governance system in a position to address the issues in the oil and gas sector.

“How can you talk about industrialisation and youth empowerment if you sell a large quantity of the gas that will generate electricity? It is important that while we sell, we should make adequate arrangement for the domestic consumption.

“Most developed countries use internal capacity building model; they first satisfy the needs of their citizens before selling to other countries,” he argued.

The Federal Government says is aware of the need to balance the demand for international trade and local consumption.

Speaking recently on cooperation between Nigeria and Portugal at the Presidential Palace in Lisbon, Buhari assured that Nigeria was already doing business in that field with Portugal without jeopardising local supply. (NAN)

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