23 March 2012, Sweetcrude, LONDON — Nigeria’s Access Bank has called on foreign financial institutions to rescue the country from its current energy crisis, which it said, was crippling the nation’s economic development and the realisation of its full potential.
It insisted that lack of access to electricity was a huge bottleneck for other infrastructure development, which affects the socio-economic well-being of the people.
The bank’s Group Deputy Managing Director, Mr. Herbert Wigwe, who made the plea in London, Thursday, at the opening of the Commonwealth Energy Summit 2012, also noted that the current crisis prevented enormous investment opportunities across the whole value chain of power generation, transmission and distribution.
Wigwe, who spoke on the theme of the summit: “Utilising Natural Resources for Global Energy Security,” argued that while energy issues in terms of security and efficiency cut across all the commonwealth countries, the experiences, particularly in the developing African countries like Nigeria, were very different and far more challenging.
According to him,”Africa, South East Asia, and the Caribbean face big bottlenecks in energy infrastructure development. There is a high level of industrialisation that exceeds their energy production, which is further compounded by poor and obsolete infrastructure and poor use of technology and other environment issues.”
He recalled that as far back in the late 70s when Nigeria experienced its oil boom, the people of the oil-rich Niger Delta, where he comes from, have continued to suffer from several health, safety and environment issues.
“Long before global warming, oil spill and gas flaring became international issues around the riverine areas. I used to see water contaminated with sooth of a minimum of six inches, and you will see the children and the elderly truly sick with various ailments.
“At that time, Nigeria was developing its oil resource, but the oil was being produced with so much gas flaring. So, there are issues around global warming, sustainability and health, because we have had several cases of cancer around the Bonny area due to the processes of producing gas.”
Wigwe challenges participants
Accordingly, Wigwe challenged the participants, particularly those in positions of authority, to put the various issues in perspective and to devise strategies for the development of renewable and alternative energy resources such as wind, solar, biofuels and a host of others.
He noted that though much more expensive, these renewable sources were far more cleaner and sustainable.
“As responsible citizens, we need to look at resolving the energy crisis through renewable means, as the rate of consumption of hydrocarbons and fossil fuel is much faster than their rates of replenishment,” he told the audience.
Against this, the Access Bank, a co-sponsor of the summit, insisted that Nigeria presented an excellent investment opportunity on all counts, adding that in view of its GDP growth rate, market size buoyed by huge population, the country was set to overtake South Africa in the next 15-20 years, if the energy crisis was resolved in a sustainable manner.
Earlier, Director General/Chief Executive of the Commonwealth Business Council (CBC), organisers of the summit, Sir Allen Collins, commended Nigeria for its support for the summit, adding that the Commonwealth exists to create opportunities that will encourage and promote investments among member countries.
He noted that more than ever, Africa, Asia and other developing regions were currently benefitting from a lot of investments from the developed countries, particularly in energy and natural resources.
United Kingdom’s Minister for International Energy, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Rt. Hon Lord Howell, on his part argued that there was a huge shift in energy in the entire global landscape.
He said the shift was both good and bad, bad in the sense that consumption was growing very fast and good because there was a new pattern of discovery and production of energy resources.
Accordingly, he said the Commonwealth presents a platform for the creation of equal opportunities, exchange of ideas and the sharing of technology, which can help member countries develop their economies under best global practices.