Whether it is to set up refineries, fix power transmission lines, achieve energy mix or minimize the burden of skyrocketing energy cost on citizens; an energy and infrastructure expert, Engr Olatunji Ariyomo, FNSE, has warned the country to pay attention to the knowledge of science, technology and engineering in the quest to attain energy self-sufficiency, reports, Isqil Najim.
Ariyomo, a Fellow of Nigerian Society of Engineers (FNSE), made this call as the Guest Speaker at the 2023 Annual Public Lecture organised by the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) Akure Branch, Ondo State. He spoke on the topic, “Energy self-sufficiency as an important key to economic development and sustainability.
Ariyomo lamented “the nation’s diminishing productivity and continuous reliance on imports” and that despite the abundance of natural resources which include crude oil, the country is unable to process its energy requirements but depend on importing refined products from nations that do not have crude oil. He also drew attention to the epileptic electricity supplies across the nation, and the persistent gas flaring.
“The economic complexity of Nigeria has seen her exporting what she has and then spending the proceeds to buy what she exported – after it has been figuratively adorned with cosmetics.” He said. He recalled that before the removal of fuel subsidy in May 2023, Nigeria was spending N400 billion per month on fuel subsidies which was the equivalent of $1.0 billion at the time.
The Guest Speaker observed that despite Nigeria’s energy challenges, “successive administrations continue to misunderstand and misdiagnose the Nigerian energy debacle.” For instance, on dependency on Oil and Gas, he posited that the problem itself is not the reliance on oil and gas but reliance on the importation of refined oil to meet national daily consumption.
He explained that the overarching solution thrown at the nation’s fuel conundrum has been a litany of marketing and price adjustment institutions that focused on importation, price arbitrage, and equalization.
According to him, ”Two significant solutions have been applied to mitigate fuel shortage in Nigeria since the 70s, namely: the massive importation of refined petroleum products and the construction of refineries with advanced technologies and parts imported from Germany, the United States, Russia, etc. Some of the refineries broke down and our men were simply unable to repair them.”
“We must deliberately pivot away from a ‘cash and carry’ mindset that has plunged us into a country that is rudderless and unthinking in its approach to solving critical problems.”-Ariyomo
Consequently, “prices of commodities in Nigeria are subject to international price metrics beyond their control, leading to attendant rise in the cost of living. The cost and prices of all fuel-impacted activities such as electricity, transportation, communication, production of goods, etc skyrocketed while heavy dependence on imports lead to capital flight”.
He recalled that “the government’s solution to address these was introduction of subsides. This was however to become a burden as it succumbed to inefficiency and corruption. Rather than subsidy mitigating the pain of the people, it aggravated it to the extent that at its peak, the country was committing a billion dollars per month to subsidy”.
He said that these two significant solutions of importation and procurement and installation of sophisticated refinery technologies bought from overseas, appear not to have achieved the desired objective even though they provide immediate relief in the short run. However, the two have also persistently produced undesirable outcome of “creating jobs in other lands and ferrying loads of desperately needed foreign exchange to other countries.”
Ariyomo, while commending the genuine aspiration to build local refineries in Nigeria, pointed out that the refineries we see operational in other countries represent just like the proverbial ‘flapping of wings by birds’ explaining that early ‘flying enthusiasts’ like Leonardo Davinci once thought the flapping of wings would help mankind to achieve flight. Engr. Ariyomo emphasized that imitating obvious solutions without an understanding of the key fundamentals is “unlikely to ensure that Nigeria permanently fixes its energy problems.”
According to him; “The real secret of refined products in the other nations is knowledge, technical know-how – organic ownership of the technology associated with and incidental to petroleum refineries. ” This is what those countries are selling to us”.
He stressed that “what those refineries are, for example, to US technicians, technologists, scientists, and engineers is what the palm oil refineries of old were to our ancestors. Our forefathers had commanding control of the technologies with which they refined their palm oil.” Hence, Nigerians should fix crude oil refining by acquiring the technical know-how and organic capability to locally fabricate, locally assemble, and locally install all components of refineries leveraging indigenous capability.
According to him, “Nigeria must stop seeing imports, or the race to build the biggest refinery procured with technologies controlled by its rivals as the compelling theme of its solutions. We must stop seeing crude oil itself as the issue. We must only see it as a means to an end.”
According to him, in addressing this challenges, we must look beyond just building of refineries but also at the acquisition of engineering and technical knowhows that will sustain and deepen the general economic development.
“We must deliberately pivot away from a ‘cash and carry’ mindset that has plunged us into a country that is rudderless and unthinking in its approach to solving critical problems.”
“If we were thinking right, rather than the sub-region (West Africa) becoming a threat that manifested as smuggling, we would have converted their legitimate need for fuel into an opportunity granting us a strategic national advantage to expand our market by evolving a fuel production plan that factored in every nation-state in West Africa as our legitimate destination for the sales of Nigerian fuels – at parity.’ He said.
He commended the recent effort of the Federal Government to initiate a gas flare commercialization programme to harness the wealth lost to gas flaring. He advised the Federal Government to rebrand and update the ‘Decade of Gas Plan’ to an aggressive 16-Year Gas Action Plan to maximize opportunities during the energy transition.
According to him, “If a country is building a refinery for you, you are its market, especially if you are also doing it with its loan. If a country is building a road for you, you are its market, especially if you are also doing it with its loan. If a country is building a power transmission infrastructure for you, you are its market, especially if you are also doing it with its loan. You simply provide needed revenue assurance for its future, with interest!”
The real secret of refined products in the other nations is knowledge, technical know-how – organic ownership of the technology
He explained that “If we have commanding control of the technical wherewithal to locally fabricate, install, and manage our refining processes, we would automatically have expanded the economic value chain inherent in the entire petroleum product management process. We would be able to ensure that the entire West Africa and beyond now represent our market thus ending the half-a-century-long experience with regional smuggling of Nigerian subsidized petroleum products.”
In concluding, he said that, Nigeria’s pursuit of energy self-sufficiency is not just a matter of economic growth; it is a vital step towards ensuring the nation’s long-term sustainability and resilience. With the right strategies, investments, and a collective commitment from government, industry, and civil society, Nigeria can unlock its full potential and provide a better future for its citizens.
Earlier in his address, the President of the Nigerian Society of Engineers, NSE, Engr Tasiu Saad Gidari Wudil, represented by a National Executive member, Engr Dr Abdulrasheed Babalola commended the Branch for choosing theme that addresses the critical national need. He said that energy is fundamental for social economic development and poverty eradication in Africa. He warned that the present power crises afflicting Nigeria will persist unless the government diversifies the energy sources in domestic, commercial, and industrial sectors and adopts new available technologies to reduce energy wastages and to save cost.
He said that Energy plays the most vital role in the economic growth, progress, and development, as well as poverty eradication and security of any nation. and that the sustainable economic growth crucially depends on the long-term availability of energy. He therefore tasked the engineering professionals to evolve both to meet the challenges of the Energy self-sufficiency and to continue to provide the technology needed for a stable and robust economy.
Earlier, the Chairman the Akure Branch of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) Engr. Stephen Bolawole Alada, said that his administration focus is on capacity development of members. He highlighted some of the approaches and programmes the Branch has conducted toward achieving the goal.
The event was well attended with Engr. Ali Alimasuya Rabiu, FNSE, FASCE, FAeng, MFR ,the Immediate past president of council for regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) gracing the occasion. Others are: Engr. Dr. Abdulrasheed Babalola, FNSE, FNSChE who represented the President of Nigerian Society of Engineers, Engr Tasiu Saad Gidari Wudil, FNSE, Engr. Okodugha Dauda Aluyah, FNSE, FNICE, Vice Chairman Asset, Management Board of , a Distinguished National Exco, Guess of Honour, Engr. O. E. Akinyeye, MNSE, Federal Ministry of Mines and steel development, Ondo state, Chief Host, Engr. Raimi O. Aminu, FNSE, FNICE, honorable Commissioner for Lands and Infrastructure, Ondo state, past Chairmen of the Sunshine Branch among others.
Engr Kamila W Maliki, FNSE, Engr Olatunji Ariyomo, FNSE, Engr Ali A Rabiu, FNSE and Engr Okudugha Dauda ALuya, FNSE in a group picture
His Majesty the Owa of Ogbagi Akoko Oba Victor Adetona and Oba Oniyan of Iyani Akoko at the event with Engr Olatunji Ariyomo
Former COREN Registrar, Engr Kamila W Maliki and Engr Olatunji Ariyomo, the Guess Speaker
Representative of NSE President, and a National Exco member, Engr Abdulrasheed Babalola at the event
Engr Prof Oba Adebisi Akinola, Dean School of Engineering Olusegun Agagu University of Science and technology Okitipupa along with wiife and Engr Olatnji and Akure Chairman
Engr Dr AbdulRasheed Babalola with Engr Ariyomo at the event