Nigeria is largely dependent on the sale of fossil fuel to grow its economy and fund its annual budget. As the world's attention shifts to cleaner alternatives occasioned by climate change, big spenders on the Nigerian crude are seeking cheaper and in some cases greener alternatives.

The reliance on crude oil sales, which amounts for about 90 per cent of Nigeria's foreign exchange earnings has led the government to pay little or no attention to the development of renewable energy or other viable sectors with the potential to create employment for Nigerians. The National Bureau of Statistics in its 2018 report put Nigeria's unemployed population at 20.9 million.

For a country that is 90 per cent dependent on crude revenue, what is the future of jobs tied to Nigeria's oil sector?

Nigeria's largest oil buyer, India, has found cheaper alternatives in Iraq causing its imports from Nigeria to fall in August by 18.3 per cent, which amounts to 764,500 barrels of crude oil drop as its prices rose.

"The demand for crude is decreasing and so almost weekly, people are laid off in this industry.

“It so much that the oil companies do not allow us unionise so that we cannot ask for benefits," says Timini Price, an oil rig worker in Delta State.

When asked if he thinks Nigeria's reliance is sustainable, he simply says, “It cannot last. Even the government knows but greed will not allow them create options for us.

“I've seen a lot of greed in oil, oil money is sweet but at the end of the day if people don't have jobs again, will it still be okay? I don't think so.”

In March 2018, thousands of oil workers picketed oil service companies over their harmful labour practices, an effect of dwindling oil revenue.

Leader of the group, Bank-Antony Okoroafor, told oilprice.com, “It is difficult times for the oil firms, not just the service firms but also oil firms that are facing the headwinds in the oil market.

“Some of them are finding it difficult to pay for jobs delivered by service firms.

“So, they owe us. We don’t go to war with them because we know what the industry is passing through.”

The distress in the industry, regardless of the cause shows that the world is changing in its attitude towards fossil fuels and Nigeria must evolve if it must provide jobs for its unemployed youths.

When one door closes, another opens

With Nigeria's unique geography location near the equator, the country has the potential to generate solar energy, wind energy as well as hydro-power, which it can in turn sell to regional and continental neighbours to generate revenue.

This potential for transitioning on its reliance on fossil fuel also has the capacity to generate at least 52,000 jobs per annum, analysts believe.

Goke Adenuga, a climate change activist, said the growing loss of jobs in the oil sector can be a win for the climate and economy.

“One lesson Nigeria can learn from very populated countries such as Brazil, India and China is the use of decentralised renewables as a way to create jobs while also providing solution to the country's electricity problems.

“It also benefits the planet because more sustainable ways of generating energy can be explored.

“I'm sure you can see how Nigeria's weather system is changing, the rains no longer come when they should and we are experiencing warmer temperatures.

“It would be the greatest achievement of any government in Nigeria to deviate from fossil fuel.”

While Nigerian oil workers continue to lose their jobs over changing oil markets, it is clear that the only way to survive the drought about to hit the Nigerian economy is to begin a targeted transition, which will create cleaner and renewable energy, provide revenue for the country as well as jobs for its young people.

This article was written with the support of Climatetracker.org as part of the 2019 Climate Tracker Data Journalism Fellowship

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