...Redifining Journalism for Development

Breakthrough with Prof. MK Othman: Innovations, Global Use of Renewable Energy and Implications to Nigeria’s Economy


Prof Christopher Shoeneich is one of the erudite European still serving in Nigerian university as a professor with an absolute faith in Nigeria and its potential to be a great nation in the comity of nations.
By vocation, he is an environmentalist and professionally, he is a geo-scientist with several professors and PhD holders who passed through his hands and regard him as their mentor.
He has a unique feature for identification; his attire, a shirt tucked into a trouser-like a common white man but adds a Hausa – type of cap, which gives him a unique and uncommon look.
Being a scientist of geothermal energy, a vast and dependable source of a renewable energy, he always talks about the exhaustive nature of nonrenewable energy –, especially fossil.
Whenever a discussion centres on energy utilization, environment and similar subjects, Prof. Shoeneich can’t resist his usual assertion “In the next 40 years, Nigeria will have no petroleum products…” To many Nigerians, this statement is heavy and showcases a vivid picture of the economic implications to Nigeria.
It is really a wake-up call for Nigeria as the population increases at the rate of 3% and moving to become the Third World most populated country in the next fifty years.
On one hand, Nigeria is facing the dilemma of petroleum depletion; on the other hand, there is erratic nature of petroleum global demand and its unstable price making the nation’s economy gullible and undependable.
This is a serious issue of concern to the nation as petroleum oil production and prices remain the cornerstone of the Nigerian economy. To expatiate on this concern, one should look at the global trend on the consumption of the petroleum products.

The First innovation to reduce use of fossil fuel is the development of hybrid vehicles. The production of hybrid vehicles has exponentially increased thereby significantly reducing the use of petroleum products.
A hybrid vehicle uses two or more distinct types of power, such as internal combustion engine to drive a generator that powers an electric motor, as in the example of diesel-electric trains using diesel engines to drive an electric generator that powers an electric motor, and submarines that use diesels when surfaced and batteries when submerged.
Nowadays, hybrid automobiles are common in major streets of developed countries.  Second innovation is the current policy of many countries to reduce the use of fossil fuel in their environments.
The global concern on the use of fossil fuel is the greenhouse emission, which is believed to be responsible for global warming and climate change with its devastating effects on the environment.
This is why China, like many other countries, have set a target (year) for banning the use of vehicles operating on fossil fuel. China is the world’s second-biggest economy and one of the largest consumers of Nigerian petroleum oil.
The country has vowed to cap its carbon emissions by 2030 in order to curb worsening air pollution. According to a report from an online paper; www.bloomberg.com “The implementation of the ban for such a big market like China can be later than 2040. That will leave plenty of time for everyone to prepare.”-A quotation from Mr. Liu Zhijia, an assistant general manager of Cherry Automobile Co., the country’s biggest passenger car exporter that unveiled a new line for upscaling battery-powered and plug-in hybrid models at the Frankfurt motor show in Germany.
It was also reported that the sale of China electric car went up to 68% in August 2017 compared to the sale in August last year (2016). Quantitatively, China sold 55,000 cars, much higher than USA, which sold 14,000 cars within the same period of August 2017.
Already, statistics have shown that China has about 300 times more electric buses than USA.  Moreover, in 2019 every local or foreign carmaker in China has to produce at least 8% of electric cars, a requirement yet to be attained by any nation.
This means that China is on its way to 100% electrification of manufactured vehicles, possibly ahead of many nations. China plans to ban sales of new gasoline/diesel cars in 2030, exactly thirteen years to come.
Nigeria will lose China as one of its customers to the petroleum crude oil. China is not alone in planning to ban sales of fossil fuel vehicles. Austria, Netherland and Norway have all planned to ban sales of fossil fuel vehicles in 2025 while France and the United Kingdom planned to do theirs in 2040. Germany plans to ban the sales in 2030.
The euphoria of banning fossil fuel vehicles is gathering momentum in the United States of America. A report from an online paper indicated that the internal combustion engine’s days may be numbered in California, where officials are mulling whether a ban on sales of polluting autos is needed to achieve long-term targets for cleaner air.
Governor Jerry Brown was reported to express an interest in barring the sale of vehicles powered by internal-combustion engines, Mary Nichols, chairman of the California Air Resources Board was quoted in an interview stating, “The earliest such a ban is at least a decade away”. She added “I’ve gotten messages from the governor asking, ‘Why haven’t we done something already?’” Nichols said, referring to China’s planned phase-out of fossil-fuel vehicle sales.
“The governor has certainly indicated an interest in why China can do this and not California.” Embracing such a policy would send shockwaves through the global car industry due to the heft of California’s auto market.
More than 2 million new passenger vehicles were registered in the state last year, topping France, Italy or Spain. If a ban were implemented, automakers from General Motors Co. to Toyota Motor Corp. would be under new pressure to make electric vehicles the standard for personal transportation in the most populous U.S. state, casting fresh doubts on the future of gasoline- and diesel-powered autos elsewhere.
The Association of Global Automakers said consumers must be able to afford the cleaner cars that California says are needed to meet its climate goals.
The trade association represents Toyota, Honda Motor Co. and other overseas carmakers in the U.S. “We have been working with California on intelligent, market-based approaches to emissions reductions beyond 2025, and we hope that this doesn’t signal an abandonment of that position,” Global Automakers Chief Executive Officer John Bozzella said in a statement.
The implication of banning the use of fossil fuel to the economy in Nigeria is very obvious. The petroleum industry in Nigeria is the largest on the African continent.
Petroleum is the largest foreign exchange earner as the country gets about 90% of its revenues from petroleum products. However, the petroleum’s overall contribution to the economy is merely 9% (Wikipedia).
These two diverse contributions; 90% of the foreign exchange earning and a meagre of 9% to the overall economy have made the country petroleum oil dependent and extremely vulnerable economically. Although the petroleum sector is important, as government revenues and foreign exchange still heavily rely on the sector, it remains, in fact, a small part of the country’s overall diversified economy.
The handwriting on the wall is very clear to Nigeria, the diversification of the economy for earning of foreign exchange from other sectors is the only option for the development of the economy.
Agriculture is the number one candidate to diversify the economy as it contributes more than 40 % of the Country’s Growth Domestic Product (GDP). The GDP is equated to the total expenditures for all final goods and services produced within a country in a stipulated period of time. It is a good indicator of economic growth.
When Nigerian Agriculture is fully developed, the agricultural commodities will be exported thereby increasing foreign exchange earning.
In the same vein, the massive importation of agricultural commodities such as rice and wheat can be stopped. Currently, Nigeria spends a wolfing amount of 22 billion US Dollars annually to import agricultural commodities that could as well be produced locally.
Imagine the magic this staggering sum of 22 billion US Dollars can do to Nigeria, if wisely invested in Agricultural sector instead of food importation.
Therefore, Agricultural development will not only increase foreign exchange earning but will also reduce the use of scarce foreign exchange for food importation.
In conclusion, the global increase use of renewable energy and the continuous growing apathy for the use of fossil fuel provide a perfect opportunity to the administration of President Buhari to revolutionize agriculture for rapid economic growth.
This revolution will certainly meet the administration’ vision as defined by the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo “grow what we eat, produce what we consume”.

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