As part of measures to battle global warming, Nigeria, a signatory to the Paris treaty, may ban petrol and diesel vehicles within the next decade. President Muhammadu Buhari signed the Paris agreement earlier in the year to reduce greenhouse gases emissions. Experts said petrol and diesel vehicles are leading causes of pollution across the world.
Indeed, the country is also a signatory to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, which has made compulsory reduction of pollution before 2030 a priority.
The level of pollution in a country like Nigeria, where major cities are already regarded as the world’s worst in terms of air quality, has been projected to rise following the adoption of green vehicles in other countries. Green vehicles are those not powered with petrol or diesel.
If Nigeria that depends greatly on revenue from oil is to ban the use of petrol and diesel vehicles, it amounts to suicide if nothing crops up to take the place of oil in the national revenue matrix. The country’s finances shall steeply dip such that budget implementation to execute projects and programmes for the development of the country will be near impossible. In fact, energy analysts are worried that the prevailing drive to shift from fossil fuel could reduce Nigeria’s oil earning by half in the next 10 years.
But the nation is still capable of weathering the storm. While the mining of minerals accounts for only about 0.3 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Nigeria, the Managing Director, Epina Technology Limited, Prof. Eguakhide Oaikhinan, said an exploding market for batteries to replace oil could turn mineral resources such as lithium, graphite and cobalt into new sources of revenue for the country.
Already, there is surging demand for batteries which are made up of raw materials like cobalt, graphite and lithium found in high deposits in the northern part of the country. The lithium-ore battery market is expected to grow at a 21.7 per cent rate yearly in terms of the actual energy capacity required. It was 15.9 GWh in 2015, but would hit a whopping 93.1 GWh by 2024.
Oaikhinan said: “Minerals containing lithium ore can be found mainly in the northern part of the country, particularly Nasarawa State. Graphite is available in Kaduna State. If these minerals are characterised and processed for industrial uses, we can see a shift gradually from a crude oil-dependent country to a more competitive industrialised nation.”
The reality is defined by moves by buyers of Nigerian crude oil, including India, Netherlands, Italy and the United Kingdom to explore other sources of energy even as they set deadlines to reduce the use of petrol and diesel vehicles in their territories.
Against plans by France, U.K., U.S., India and Norway to ban the new sales of petrol and diesel cars, the Director General, Agency for Automotive Development, Aliyu Jelani is sounding optimistic. He says the Nigerian government is ready to lead the citizens away from depending solely on petrol and diesel vehicles.
Jelani, the designer of General Motors’ Chevy Volt, who was appointed by the Federal Government in a drive to turn Nigeria to an automotive manufacturing hub, said players in the national automotive policy must shift attention to green vehicles. He said government would encourage investors, particularly Nigerians in the diaspora, and friends of the country across the world, to invest in green revolution.
But some of the stakeholders who spoke to The Guardian, were pessimistic about the readiness of Nigeria to go green. They argued that the country lacked basic infrastructure, especially electricity supply, to support electric vehicles.
The Co-founder, Sustainability School Lagos and associate lecturer, Centre for Petroleum, Energy Economics and Law (CPEEL), University of Ibadan, Dr. Olufemi Olarewaju, said the country did not have a future in oil anymore. According to him, one of the direct consequences is that there would be drastic reduction in the demand for crude oil.
“We were worried that oil was going to finish, now we are sure that oil is going to remain in the ground. With the new aggressiveness of automobile manufacturers, there is going to be a sharp demand in battery storage. We will have sharp demand for clean energy automobile. There will be significant reduction in demand for oil and that will obviously affect our economy,” Olarewaju said.
Apart from the anxiety over revenue shortfall, Olarewaju urged policy makers to develop a proactive end-of-life policy that will mitigate looming environmental pollution as Africa, particularly Nigeria, has been projected to become a dumpsite for phased-out petrol and diesel automobile products.
He said: “There have been discussions on end-of-life policy for automobile. But I am not aware if we have such a policy in Nigeria, so that makes it difficult for us to know what to do with these vehicles that come to places like Nigeria. We are facing a converging from waste perspective, which is an environmental issue and convergence from revenue perspective.
“The next thing we need to begin to look at is how to convert the challenge to an opportunity. We are incapacitated. We cannot stop or influence the global trend. We need to move the economy to non-oil. We need to look at the opportunities of the green energy itself. We can win in two ways; by contributing to climate change issues, which may affect Africa more than any other part of the world. We can also look at it from the economic diversification point. Private and public sectors need to get curious in investing in clean technology as an added component of what we are trying to do in economic diversification.”
The Managing Director, Stallion NMN, which assembles Nissan, Infiniti and other brands in Nigeria, Parvir Singh doesn’t see the feasibility of his company importing green vehicles into Nigeria unless enabling infrastructure is created.
Considering the poor state of electricity supply in Nigeria, Singh expected the country’s journey to green vehicles to begin from the point of stable power supply. Electric vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf and BMW have been introduced in South Africa.
The Director General, Africa Clean Energy Summit, Dr. Victor Fodeke, said the country required a holistic plan that would enable the introduction of green vehicles into the country.
“We cannot ban petrol and diesel vehicles in Nigeria. We need to look at the technology and infrastructure necessary for them. We need to put our national circumstance into consideration,” he said.
While Volvo announced it would stop the production of internal combustion engines vehicles, stressing that every car it makes from 2019 onward would be an electric motor, India’s Power Minister, Piyush Goyal, said only electric cars would be operating in the country by 2030.
Though UK-based IHS Markit said electric and hybrid vehicles currently account for only three per cent of global auto sales, the country has announced a plan to invest about £3 billion to cut illegal levels of air pollution. UK’s Environment Secretary, Michael Gove said the country would halt the sale of diesel and petrol cars and vans by 2040.