Stakeholders in the nation’s maritime industry and concerned environmentalists from diverse backgrounds have raised concerns about Nigeria’s commitment to decarbonization and pollution control within its maritime domain.
The stakeholders who included industry experts, and environmentalists, in a chat with our correspondent lamented that Nigeria is not committed to the removal of maritime pollution and decarbonisation, even as they noted that Nigeria is a signatory to the MARPOL Convention, which is the main international instrument for preventing pollution from ships.
Nigeria has, however not ratified all the annexes of the convention, and there are concerns about the enforcement and compliance of the existing regulations.
The stakeholders lamented that Nigeria has a high dependence on oil and gas exports, which account for 93% of its total export revenue. They pointed out that the production of oil and gas in Nigeria has been linked to steep societal inequalities and environmental disasters, such as oil spills and gas flaring that have caused severe damage to the marine ecosystems and the livelihoods of the local communities in the country.
Capt. Alfred Oniye Secretary-General of the Merchant Seafarers Association of Nigeria (MESAN) and a prominent security specialist, informed that Nigeria has one of the highest rates of energy poverty in the world and suffers from chronic power cuts.
He stated that there are still many barriers to the development and deployment of clean energy sources, such as lack of infrastructure, financing, policy support, and public awareness.
He added that Nigeria also faces a serious problem of plastic pollution, which harms the environment and human health. He urged the Nigerian government to launch a campaign and crack down on plastic bags and bottles in the country, and educate the public on the three Rs: reduce, recycle, and reuse plastic materials.
Reminiscing on the recent “World Maritime Day” 2023, he said it was an important occasion to raise awareness and action on the environmental challenges facing the maritime sector. He argued that Nigeria, as a coastal country with a large maritime industry, has a significant role to play in decarbonisation and pollution reduction.
“Nigeria announced that it will aim to reach net-zero emissions by 2060 at the COP26 climate summit in 2021. The government has also pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2030 when compared to “business-as-usual” levels. This pledge rises to 47% on the condition of international support
“Nigeria is a signatory to the MARPOL Convention, which is the main international instrument for preventing pollution from ships. However, Nigeria has not ratified all the annexes of the convention, and there are concerns about the enforcement and compliance of the existing regulations.
“Nigeria has a high dependence on oil and gas exports, which account for 93% of its total export revenue. The production of oil and gas in Nigeria has also been linked to steep societal inequalities and environmental disasters, such as oil spills and gas flaring. These activities have caused severe damage to the marine ecosystems and the livelihoods of the local communities in the Niger Delta region.
“Nigeria has one of the highest rates of energy poverty in the world and suffers from chronic power cuts. The country has a large potential for renewable energy, especially solar power, which could meet 59% of its energy consumption needs by 2050. However, there are still many barriers to the development and deployment of clean energy sources, such as lack of infrastructure, financing, policy support, and public awareness”
Speaking also, Mr. Babawale Obayanju, an environmentalist and ‘Climate Justice’ Campaigner with affiliations to Friends of the Earth Nigeria and Africa, stressed that the government has not really shown commitment to the removal of maritime pollution, he said achieving this goal demands not only political will and action but also a fundamental shift in lifestyle towards prioritizing homegrown products to reduce importation
Obayanju also expressed concerns about the government’s commitment to reducing Greenhouse Gas emissions while engaging in actions such as granting licenses for coal extraction and categorizing gas as renewable.
On his part Engr. Zakka Bala, Petroleum Engineer and an Oil and Gas analyst stated that not much has been done regarding commitment to reducing maritime pollution. He underscored the necessity of collective efforts to achieve a sustainable maritime industry in Nigeria. Bala called on the government to establish the necessary laws and infrastructure, enhancing the capacity of indigenous ship owners and vessels.
On his part, Captain Adetayo Saliu of the Merchant Navy Shipping Zonal Council sounded an alarm about the age and technological inadequacy of vessels currently operating in Nigerian waters. He argued that aligning with decarbonization goals requires a radical overhaul of the maritime fleet. Saliu stressed the need for enforcing regulations on vessel age, mirroring policies in countries where older vessels are prohibited from plying their waters.
Meanwhile, women in the maritime sector and other experts have expressed worries over Nigeria’s ranking in the top 10 countries for mismanagement of plastics globally. They informed that Nigeria ranks ninth globally among countries with the highest contributions to plastic pollution. Speaking on the theme, “Marpol at 50: Pollution From Ships, Africa’s Commitment To Clean Oceans, Seas, Inland Waters & Marine Environment,” the president of Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA) Nigeria, Mrs. Eunice Ezeoke, stressed the need for legislation and other innovative approaches to curb plastic wastes.
Ezeoke highlighted the activities of drilling companies as major contributors to water pollution, especially in the South-South region which records a high volume of the nation’s oil drilling operations.
Also speaking, the president of African Women in Maritime (WIMA) Nigeria, Mrs Rollens Macfoy, noted that pollution from vessels such as ballast water also has damaging effects, but stressed that there are laws and regulations to address the menace.
According to Macfoy, domestic wastes, including all plastics and every other non-degradable waste that is not properly disposed of, find their way into the waters, thereby destroying aquatic life and also endangering water transportation.