Opinion: Oil found in Borno, but don’t you cheer

by Alexander O. Onukwue

Let’s set the economic record straight: Crude oil is losing its value globally as more nations explore the options of renewable energy. It may have varied uses to the different countries from whom we make the money, but the real big players are looking away.

The 2017 budget has been estimated on the hope of raking in $42 for every barrel produced but in 2050, Oil may not be worth more than $20. For a nation that should have long-term economic plans, it would make no sense to bank our future on the carbon resource.

But let us assume oil is still of value and that Borno state has rich deposits which could be a considerable source of increased revenue to the nation. Let us be optimistic that the ongoing efforts to bring rebirth to the North Eastern region progress smoothly and that the normalcy of livelihoods is restored. We can add to our hopes the possibility of peaceful agreements between the Government and the Oil people to initiate and take off exploratory activities in the region.

Only one thing left to discuss, then: who sticks out for the environment? Because as we have seen already, the dollars that come with crude oil have usually come with detrimental consequences to the lives and survival of the inhabitants of the local environment.

To explain the degradation that occurs due to poor hydrocarbon fluids management in Nigeria is not rocket science; as a matter of fact, everyone of us who owns a power generating set is a culprit. Your generator is bad, giving off overused – usually dark – engine oil. Do you immediately change it? No. It still can last for some days, right? Meanwhile, the oil, falling in drops, soils the surrounding area of the generator’s usual location. Do you bother to clean it off? “Uhhm, the ground will suck it or it will evaporate”. We have always had that subconscious belief that the earth will take care of it all.

Well, it does not quite happen that way. The environment in Ogoni land, for the past decades, has pretty much shown us what the consequences of the take-and-trash culture. For all the money made from the oil, very many families are actually worse off in those regions today than their parents were before the drills came into town.

So then, what are our real options in Borno? Should we dig it up anyway and hope that since it is not a wetland environment like the Riverine areas, it would absorb better? For a state that has been the harbour for the exchange of fire and aggression between the antagonists and the Nigeria Government, resulting in dire natural resource scarcities, land pollution and a largely disorientated population, it would be my opinion that the razzmatazz that comes with the Black Gold would be too much to absorb. It is encouraging to have seen the intervention initiatives of the so-called Buhari Plan focused primarily on rehabilitation and restoration, to form the basis on which the creation of jobs would thrive.

Those jobs should not have to be in the oil sector. Again, the economic future of oil is set for the twilight. This period after the passing adversities of the region could be a good time to give the people a fresh motivation, a new goal to strive towards. What else but Renewable Energy? Capacity building in harnessing wind resources to generate off-grid electricity would be a step in the right direction. Not everybody can be involved in the Oil industry but everyone can be taught to be involved in some form of Renewable Energy generation.

The North East – and Borno in particular – needs a new lease of life and seeking it in oil, a resource in economic depreciation, would be pouring old wine in a sagging skin. We should do better.

Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

 Alexander is a Pollution Control Technologist and an Environmental News analyst. He tweets @OnukwueNG

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