Nigerian Professor Argues For Coal Industry Revival

General Muhammadu Buhari (Photo from Chatham House, London / Creative Commons)

Albert Obanor, a professor at the University of Benin, said to an audience of the Nigerian Institution of Mechanical Engineers, on June 27, that Nigeria needed to revive its coal industry to prevent power shortages.

Obanor specifically singled out President Muhammadu Buhari and recommended using coal as an alternative to natural gas, which is not a reliable source of energy.

The country’s infrastructure for natural gas is poor, despite holding the largest natural gas reserves out of all African countries.

Nigeria, aside from crude oil, is one of the top exporters and producers of natural gas. It heavily depends on natural gas for revenue. Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Company Limited, comprised of government officials and leaders of foreign firms, estimated at least $85 billion was made in the past 15 years because of natural gas exports.

Russian officials recently expressed interest in the country’s oil and natural gas.

Valeriy Shaposhmikov, a Russian diplomat, told journalists last month companies like Gazprom would invest in Nigeria’s energy reserves to provide thousands of jobs:

An important area could be oil and gas sector – a major Russian oil and gas company Gazprom could be involved in developing pipelines infrastructure and protection system, an oil company Lukoil is coming to work here. There is interest in the development of the solid mineral resources.

Obanor defended suggestions to privatize the energy sector and even called for a security force to defend pipelines from vandalism. The latter may refer to Boko Haram, the terrorist group in the country.

As noted by University of Edinburgh professor Ayodeji Bayo Ogunrotifa, Boko Harama came from elites in the north who implemented Sharia law to impose order:

The shoddy way in which Sharia law was politically implemented coupled along with dwindling socio-economic situation culminated in the formation of Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad (also known as Boko Haram) in 2002.

During the early 20th century, Nigeria was known for its production of coal, but it later abandoned it for crude oil. Journalist Brooke Hyde of The Guardian noted in an article, on September 13, 1985, that coal “has not been seen as a priority by successive Nigerian governments.”

Recently, Milhouse Engineering & Construction, an American firm, announced a deal to provide energy for Nigeria using the country’s coal. Wilbur Milhouse III, the president and CEO of the firm, said the partnership would be mutually beneficial for both:

By creating a safe, efficient energy source from Nigeria’s valuable stores of high-quality coal, the government can cultivate an environment that is appealing to major corporations and investors, and a growing middle class. Our approach will bring relief to hundreds of thousands of Nigerians and create jobs and contracting opportunities for local businesses.

Buhari recently dissolved the board of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, the state-owned oil firm, as a part of his plank in reducing corruption in the oil sector. With low oil prices and a corrupt oil bureaucracy, alternative energies such as coal may be a choice for Buhari.

Coal remains the dirtiest fossil fuel compared to oil and natural gas. Angel Gurria, head of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, warned governments should “think twice, or three, or four times” before constructing any coal plants as it can damage the planet further.

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Brandon Jordan

Brandon Jordan

Brandon Jordan is a freelance journalist in Queens, NY and written for publications such as The Nation, In These Times, Truthout and more.