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Can Nigeria balance economic growth and environmental protection?

Nigeria under the leadership of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has taken a significant step by establishing a committee to oversee green economic initiatives. This move…

Nigeria under the leadership of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has taken a significant step by establishing a committee to oversee green economic initiatives. This move reflects the increasing recognition of the urgent need to address climate change. However, this initiative also embodies the inherent dilemma associated with climate action, particularly in a developing country like Nigeria.

Nigeria’s economy is heavily dependent on oil, with the petroleum sector contributing approximately 9% to the GDP but accounting for around 90% of export earnings and over 50% of government revenue. This dependency poses a significant challenge to transitioning to a green economy. The dilemma lies in balancing the imperative of economic development with the necessity of environmental protection.

The committee faces the task of diversifying Nigeria’s economy by promoting renewable energy sectors. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Nigeria has the potential to generate up to 207 GW of electricity from solar energy alone. However, harnessing this potential requires substantial investment, estimated at around $20 billion over the next decade. Transitioning to renewable energy could create up to 330,000 jobs, but this transition also risks job losses in traditional fossil fuel industries, which employ thousands of Nigerians.

Climate change exacerbates social and economic inequalities. Nigeria, with a poverty rate of about 40% according to the National Bureau of Statistics, must ensure that its green initiatives do not disproportionately burden the poor. The committee must design policies that are inclusive and equitable, ensuring that the benefits of green economic initiatives reach all segments of society.

One significant area of focus is agriculture, which employs about 70% of Nigeria’s labor force. Climate change has already had a profound impact on agricultural productivity due to erratic rainfall patterns and increased temperatures. Implementing climate-smart agricultural practices can enhance resilience and productivity. The World Bank estimates that adopting such practices could increase yields by 70% in some regions. However, the challenge is ensuring that smallholder farmers, who are often the most vulnerable, have access to the necessary resources and knowledge.

Political will is crucial for the success of any climate initiative. The Tinubu’s administration must navigate a complex political landscape, where vested interests in the oil and gas sector can influence policy decisions. Transparency and accountability in the committee’s operations are essential to build trust and ensure effective implementation of green initiatives.

In the past, Nigeria has struggled with the implementation of environmental policies due to corruption and bureaucratic inefficiencies. According to Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, Nigeria ranks 154 out of 180 countries. Strengthening institutional frameworks and ensuring that the committee operates transparently can help mitigate these challenges. Engaging civil society and the private sector in the decision-making process can also enhance accountability and support for green initiatives.

Technological innovation is key to addressing climate change. Nigeria’s current energy mix is heavily skewed towards fossil fuels, with renewables accounting for only about 0.3% of total energy consumption. The committee must prioritize investments in renewable energy technologies, energy efficiency, and sustainable infrastructure.

Solar energy offers a promising avenue for Nigeria. The cost of solar panels has decreased by 89% over the past decade globally, making it a more viable option for large-scale deployment. Furthermore, Nigeria’s Solar Power Naija initiative aims to provide solar power to 5 million households by 2023, potentially creating 250,000 new jobs. However, scaling up these efforts requires significant financial resources, estimated at $1.6 billion, and addressing technical and regulatory barriers.

Public awareness and behavioral change are critical to the success of green economic initiatives. The committee must invest in education and awareness campaigns to promote sustainable practices among citizens. According to a survey by Afrobarometer, only 28% of Nigerians are aware of climate change and its impacts. Increasing awareness through school curricula, media campaigns, and community engagement can drive behavioral change.

Incentivising sustainable practices, such as using public transportation or reducing energy consumption, can also promote a culture of sustainability. For instance, the Lagos State government’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system has reduced CO2 emissions by an estimated 13,000 tons annually by providing a more efficient public transportation option. Expanding such initiatives can further reduce emissions and promote sustainable urban development.

The urgency of addressing climate change is evident, with Nigeria already experiencing severe impacts such as flooding, desertification, and coastal erosion. However, the feasibility of implementing comprehensive climate policies is constrained by financial, technical, and institutional challenges.

The committee must set realistic targets and develop a phased approach to implementing green initiatives. For example, Nigeria’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% unconditionally and 45% conditionally by 2030. Achieving these targets requires mobilizing international climate finance, estimated at $142 billion over the next decade, and strengthening domestic financial mechanisms.


The establishment of the Tinubu committee to oversee green economic initiatives represents a critical step towards addressing the climate change dilemma in Nigeria. However, this initiative must navigate complex challenges, balancing economic development with environmental sustainability, ensuring equity and justice, garnering political will, fostering technological innovation, promoting behavioral change, and addressing the urgency and feasibility of climate action.

By leveraging Nigeria’s vast renewable energy potential, promoting inclusive and equitable policies, and ensuring transparent governance, the committee can drive significant progress towards a green economy. Ultimately, the success of these initiatives will depend on the collective efforts of government, civil society, the private sector, and the international community to create a sustainable and resilient future for Nigeria.

Oluwaseun is an environmental journalist and a Post graduate student of the International Institute of Journalism (IIJ)


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