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Nigeria to press First World on climate change

Growing chorus of African countries calls for pledges to a climate change fund at Copenhagen.

Nigerian ministers are currently holding discussions to formulate the country’s climate change policy. Environmentalists hope the so-called “National Adaptation Plan” will be released in time for Copenhagen.

Ubani also argued that — on top of the environmental problems faced by many West African countries — Nigeria was further hit by the conduct of Western oil companies in the Delta region, where his constituency is located. Nigeria is sub-Saharan Africa’s second-largest oil producer and the fifth biggest supplier to the U.S.

“The biggest problem we have in Nigeria is the oil groups, whether you’re talking about the rights of people or their environment,” Ubani said. “The biggest emissions come from the oil companies, and Nigeria is one of the few countries where gas flaring takes place.”

Shell, which part-owns Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), the largest private oil and gas company in Nigeria, says it is building facilities to “harness” gas rather than flare it.

Some argue that a shortage of money to combat climate change is not the main obstacle for Nigeria, sub-Saharan Africa’s second largest economy. Nigeria’s GDP per capita is $1,089, according to the IMF, as compared to Ghana’s $638 and the Democratic Republic of Congo’s $171.

Ubani acknowledged that some top Nigerian policymakers were simply blase about climate change initiatives, which they did not see as urgent. “People think it's an abstract issue, or something in the future. People like to live in denial — they did that with AIDS until the body count started to rise.”

Others say the problem is the opaque nature of what happens to Nigerian states’ funds. For example, while oil-producing states receive an additional 13 percent of the government’s oil revenues, making their budgets two or three times the size of those in other areas, it is often said that corrupt officials do not spend the cash where it is most needed.

As one official in the capital Abuja said: “Money is not really the problem in Nigeria. It’s how it is spent.”