Slow implementation of policies inhibiting gas sector growth, says Akai
Victoria Akai is the Director-General, Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI). In this interview with SODIQ OMOLAOYE, she spoke on the challenges hindering growth of Nigeria’s gas sector.
Why is the gas summit imperative at this time?
Domestic gas is a significant alternative to fossil fuels. It is very important at this point when Nigeria is having energy crisis because we really need to diversify our economy. You can see what is happening in Europe now is affecting availability of diesel and even petrol. That is the reason we feel as a chamber, there is need to sensitise all stakeholders on how we can leverage domestic gas.
The summit is being initiated by the Energy Trade Group of the chamber with the theme; “Building a Sustainable Gas Economy.” This is an important area of focus that must be given attention by stakeholders.
Also, the movement for energy transition is considered to be a global ideal. Within the context of save the planet movement, countries in Africa are working to device appropriate responses. Across African capitals, the debate is on, as to what energy transition should mean for the peculiarities of each country.
For Nigeria, the fossil fuel question stares us in the face. Even though Nigeria is not a major contributor to global emission, the country as a responsible member of the international community has its commitment to keep.
The current conflict in Europe has precipitated an energy crisis, which is clearly a lesson for us to ensure a speedy development of our gas resources and infrastructure.
The carbon reduction pledge made under the Paris agreement must be complied with. Unlike other countries without sustainable alternatives, Nigeria has an option and that is gas, a cleaner and green energy source.
Nigeria has a lot of gas and we must leverage all the alternatives. In addition to this, we see it as imperative to meet the local market demand for gas in the country.
Before we export anything, we need to feed the huge local market. Nigeria is currently exporting gas but there has been little emphasis on domestic gas. We must start looking inwards and focusing on how we will ensure that we have adequate gas infrastructure. We can run our economy as a gas based economy.
There is a need for both government and private sector to put infrastructure in place to ensure that we have an economy that is gas based as we have a huge gas deposit.
Why the apathy towards investment in the gas sector?
That is why the private sector is taking the lead in advocating investment in the sector. Gas is abundantly available in the country; yet, the infrastructure is not there. That is one of the reasons we are holding this summit, to hold government accountable to the fact that we need to provide infrastructure to develop the industry.
In monetary terms, how much do you think the country requires to bridge gas infrastructure deficits?
We cannot effectively put a figure on how much is required in this aspect, but we need to articulate the needs and how to transport the gas to areas where it is required. We need gas for power, industry and domestic use. There is a lot of emphasis now on how to integrate gas, especially cooking gas and liquefied natural gas for power.
Is the summit also looking at the issue of gas flaring?
The issue of gas flaring has already been dealt with by the Federal Government. The government has already put policies in place to stop gas-flaring, processes to award contracts and ensure a flare down campaign through the Federal Ministry of Petroleum. Companies are now engaged to identify locations where gases are flared and to integrate it into the economy for power use. Though, the implementation is slow but it is ongoing. We know the issues around the implementation of policies in Nigeria. That is why we are also carrying out this summit to advocate for the implementation of policies.
What do you intend to achieve in this summit?
Basically, the summit is to keep the discourse going. We are in a crisis now. The price of diesel is skyrocketing and petrol is relatively scarce but we have an abundance of gas. What exactly are we doing with the gas resources that we have? Where is the infrastructure and what can we do to improve the infrastructure to be more dependent on gas than petrol? By keeping the discuss alive with the presence of quite a number of government officials and letting them know the readiness of the private sector to come board to build more gas infrastructure.
Nigeria is one of the biggest gas exporters in the world but there is lack of focus on local consumption and that is what we are trying to bring to fore. We need to start the narrative on the need to build the infrastructure.
However, I want to commend the Muhammadu Buhari administration for crafting a gas agenda, which has now become the Nigerian response to the energy transition question.
The gas commercialisation agenda, the auto-gas initiatives and other policy responses have provided much needed answers for Nigeria’s need for energy transition.