What is good for the goose is good for the gander” is a popular aphorism. But it does not seem the Western countries believe in this saying, going by Nigeria’s finance minister, Kemi Adeosun’s claim that the countries are blocking Nigeria’s attempt to provide stable electricity supply to Nigerians. According to the minister, who spoke at a panel discussion at the International Monetary Fund (IMF)/ World Bank meeting in Washington DC, the Western nations and their multilateral institutions are denying the country and other African countries of using coal to generate electricity.
Adeosun pointed out the hypocrisy in the opposition to our use of coal thus: “Am going to point fingers at multilateral institutions and the west, a good example is the coal-fired power plant, we in Nigeria have coal but we have power problem, yet we’ve been blocked because it is not green, there is some hypocrisy because we have the entire western industrialisation built on coal energy, that is the competitive advantage that they have been using, now Africa wants to use coal and suddenly they are saying oh! You have to use solar and the wind (renewable energy) which are the most expensive, after polluting the environment for hundreds of years and now that Africa wants to use coal they deny us.”
We wonder why the finance minister is surprised that this is happening. But rather than throw up our hands in frustration, Nigeria should challenge those bent on developing at Africa’s expense. We all know that electricity is key to any developmental effort. Nigeria has been battling poor power supply for decades and now that the country wants to tackle the problem from all fronts, taking advantage of every available mix possible in the energy drive, we are being blocked by some countries. This is unfair.
As the finance minister rightly pointed out at the occasion, these are the same countries that built their industrial base on coal energy now pontificating to Africa that coal is not environment friendly. Yet, it is not that Nigeria is trying to do the abominable: South Africa has 93% of coal electricity generation, Poland (87%), China (79%), Australia (78%), Kazakhstan (75%), India (65%), Israel (58%), Morocco (51%) and USA (45%).
It was only in May that Britain was without electricity from coal since the world’s first centralised public coal-fired generator opened at Holborn Viaduct in London, in 1882, according to the Carbon Brief website which reports on climate science and energy policy. In 2015, 44% of Germany’s electricity production was generated from coal. So, what are we talking about?
It is not that we do not appreciate the fact that coal is about the dirtiest source of electricity generation. But it is also about the cheapest, which probably explains its widespread use in Europe which dubbed it affectionately as “the king coal” when it was used to power the electricity plants then.
Nigeria and indeed Africa has to let the countries and multilateral agencies opposed to our desire to use coal as part of our electricity generation mix know that we have so much right to our environment as much as they are entitled to theirs. They cannot now tell us not to use what they had used to generate power for more than one decade, and which has benefited them immensely.
Western countries cannot tell us to keep the rain forest which they had defiled over the years, without giving us an incentive in return. This might include helping us to develop our solar and wind energy which are more environment-friendly but are not within the reach of many developing countries.
Our position is that we should start the (coal) project first and then talk later. The Federal Government must define our national interest. If the West is not receptive to our idea, we can turn to the East. After all, as they say in international relations, “there are no permanent friends or permanent foes; but permanent interest”.
Source: The Nation