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By Dennis Mernyi
THE quest for full development of a Bio Energy Industry Policy, a deliberate initiative by government to develop a low carbon economy has become imperative because of its anticipated positive impact, particularly in reducing over-dependence on importation of refined petroleum products.
This is aside other economic values such as job creation, increased agricultural activities, rise in revenue earnings, among others.
It is, indeed, in pursuant to the initiative that the Federal Government in 2005, came up with a programme for the diversification of the economy through mainstreaming of an Automobile Biomass programme.
The programme packaged by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) was gazetted on June 20, 2007, and approved by the Federal Executive Council. After series of consultations with stakeholders, concerning the steps required to ensure that the Biofuels Policy aligns with best practices, Biofuels off-take guarantee and a host of other requirements were considered.
Acknowledging the strategic stake of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), the Petroleum Ministry mandated the Agency to serve as the coordinating secretariat to provide a platform for the review and update of the first version of the Nigerian Biofuels Policy.
Done with the draft document as directed, the Agency has submitted it to the Ministry for onward presentation to the Federal Executive Council for approval.
But, since much is needed to be done to drive the policy, PPPRA recently organised a stakeholders’ policy review and capacity building seminar for all stakeholders in Abuja, to compare notes so as to persuade the government to ensure speedy and timely implementation of the policy in the country.
At the instance of PPPRA as the driving force, the stakeholders resolved that the Bioenergy opportunity in the country is a profitable venture through which Nigeria’s agro industry will be linked with the Oil and Gas industry for enhanced development.
They also resolved that the utilisation of Biofuels second and third generation feedstock, which is confirmed to produce more than 300% of the current feedstock which include sugar cane, cassava, sweet sorghum, oil palm, Jatropha should be explored, adopted and utilised for Biofuels production.
Stakeholders further agreed that, in order to ensure the hitch-free implementation of the Bioenergy Industry Policy in Nigeria, the government should identify and empower relevant value chain industries to drive the Nigerian Biofuels industry from the drawing board to a viable industry programme.
The decision of the Stakeholders, endorsed on their behalf by Mr. Victor Shidok, the the acting Executive Secretary of PPPRA urged the Ministry of Petroleum Resources to put in place necessary mechanisms to ensure the sustainable development of the Bioenergy industry in Nigeria.
Also, to initiate a piece of legislation to drive and develop and drive a relevant incentives regime, to ensure the government support required to steer the Nigerian Bioenergy industry for timely and profitable achievements.
They resolved, too, that Bioenergy production should be used as a catalyst for the commercialisation and industrialisation of Nigeria’s current subsistence agricultural and agro allied industry. Cultivation for feed stocks should be used for the production of biodiesel as well as a means of curbing desertification and erosion.
Infrastructure to prepare the business environment for effective start up and sustainable profitability of the Bioenergy industry should be facilitated and given concerted attention.
Funding of the initiative also got required consideration as the need for a public private partnership funding in collaboration with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is expected to put in place relevant procedures and processes for the utilisation of funding opportunities currently available within various ministries, departments and agencies for the funding of the Nigerian Bioenergy industry.
The PPPRA’s role in coordinating and facilitating the Bioenergy industry was further stressed as the agency is expected to continue with awareness creation on the benefits of Bioenergy industry and advocate the implementation of Biofuels projects to ensure the success of the industry in Nigeria.
As the downstream sector regulator, PPPRA should continue to drive Biofuels exploitation in Nigeria.
Mernyi writes from Abuja.