Partners United Podcast

Private Sector and Climate Resilience in Nigeria

August 17, 2022 Shehu Musa Yar'Adua Foundation Season 1 Episode 5
Partners United Podcast
Private Sector and Climate Resilience in Nigeria
Show Notes Transcript

Mr. Nnimmo Bassey and Professor Sofiri Peterside explore the responsibilities of the private sector in climate resilience and discussed how they might collaborate with other stakeholders to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Dr. Nnimmo Bassey [00:00:00]


Hello, listeners, welcome to another episode of the Partners United podcast on Resource Governance, today's episode is on the private sector and climate resilience. And I’ll be speaking with Professor Sofiri Peterside, an activist, scholar, sociologist, and political historian. He's of the Department of Sociology, University of Port-Harcourt, and also oversees the phenomena Center for Advanced social sciences. Welcome to the podcast, Professor Peter side.


Professor Sofiri Peterside [00:00:32]

Thank you, comrade. And thank you, every other person there.


Dr. Nnimmo Bassey [00:00:37]

Thank you for joining us. Let's begin the conversation. Even though companies are said to be generally strengthening their own climate change resilience, the private sector still feels that government should shoulder the bulk of the work, the burden of climate action. Now what can be done to ensure that the private sector goes beyond making pledges and statements and publishing responsibility reports and climate targets to take real action to help mitigate the impacts of climate change?


Professor Sofiri Peterside [00:01:18]

I agree that the climate is a global thing. But often times it is when human beings actually begin to, you know, take actions, that creates the problem. And most of those actions that are taking are taken by organizations, some of them not government, even though sometimes government agencies are involved. So, if by their own businesses and man's own quests for Survival, the environment have been affected, then it does means that the private sector also need to take some responsibilities in making sure that humans and actually adapts to that environment, I think that that is what ought to happen. But oftentimes, in our own country, everything is left for government, this business concerns, you know, actually don't play the role they ought to play. That, again, is a consequence of the nature of the state in Nigeria, because it is a captured state. Both international and local organizations and agencies have captured the state, particularly state officials. So, what private sector ought to do. You find out that, they shrink on their responsibility, because government officers and officials don't insist that those things happen. So I think that the private sector have a role to play in this whole problem that we see. Because the climate change itself is already become one of the significant, if not the most significant challenges for economies and for societies, within the last decade. And for some decades to come, it will continue to be. So that creates the problem of how we need to adapt to its impact, and what will be crucial in this process, particularly for human wellbeing. . The private sector should also get involved, particularly raising awareness of this imperative, this adaptation is very important. So I think against this backdrop, the private sector, there's that need for them to mobilize, you know, private sources of financing and using their own efficient market mechanism, in this regard. So I think that the private sector should play a very important role in this respect. And if we need to look at that, the risks are already there, In fact, the urban resilience conference actually have brought, which took place in September, last year, actually brought to limelight and laid emphasis on the consequences that long climate risks, in fact, are key concerns for executives, who worry most about pressure on the urban infrastructure, overcrowding, and all that. And that, of course, for the private sector, it is going to also increase its competitiveness, and improved employee health. And of course, that greater productivity and lowering absenteeism, these are some of the issues that should actually drive private sectors involvement in this whole matter. But of course, that work done have also shown that companies have a role to play in this regard, in adapting to this change in financing the adaptation of orders, and of course, and supporting others through their own products and services, and of course, resilience. So I think, let me explain this a little. When I say adaptation, and I say adaptation is complex and very expensive. What I mean here is that there's that need for the private sector to join in raising awareness. It is very important, because it's only the beginning of what we need to do for action, that adaptation, creating that awareness. And this will require trillions. And they cannot come from public sources alone. So that's why I think that mobilizing the private sector sources of financing, and using efficient mechanism, which the private sectors familiar with will be key, because by adapting its own operation assets to climate change, the private sector can also ensure business continuity, they can ensure business continuity, and protect those who actually depend on private jobs or infrastructure.




Dr. Nnimmo Bassey [00:08:30]

Thank you so much for throwing up so many important points. Coming back to corporate companies, private sector, and what they're doing in terms of climate resilience. Now, you also said that climate risk increases pressure on urban infrastructure, and could even affect and does affect the health of workers. So the private sector has real deep interest and should have deep concerns about ensuring that the environment is generally resilient and there's enough investment in adaptation. You also said that this requires trillions, and cannot come from public sector alone. But now, I want you to reflect on this. Some people believe that due to the heavy profit motive in the operations of the private sector, they have invested billions in climate denial, especially in the Global North. And this has slowed down with the climate negotiations and climate action by countries across the world. Now, what would need to happen to bring a shift from having the private sector not being, not delaying climate action, but actually being leaders or climate champions?


Professor Sofiri Peterside [00:09:42]

Now, honestly, Comrade, my take, I stand to be contradicted, is that the seeming attitudes, the unpalatable attitudes of the private sectors, in most cases, derived from the nature of the state, in our own kind of country, because the Nigerian state appears to be a captured state by the political elites, whose primary concern is just to exploit whatever situation they find themselves. And so that makes it difficult for some of them, who sometimes are critical stakeholders or shareholders in some of these organizations, or who depend on their own position, you know to accumulate wealth at the expense of our people. So I think it has a governance component. And there's a governance challenge here, because if government can wake up to their responsibility, because Jeremy Bentain has said, and I agree with him long time ago, that the preoccupation of those who occupy a political position should be how to bring happiness to the greatest number of the people. So until, in third world countries, those who occupy this position realize that those positions need to be deployed to bring happiness to the greatest number of the people. That is the only extent. And to that extent, they can put pressure on corporate organizations who operate in their domain, to obey rules or regulations, and also play an active role in revitalizing and sustaining a good environment for the operations. So I think that, in certain respects, it is also a governance issue. That's what I think Sir. 


Dr. Nnimmo Bassey [00:11:42]

All right, so you talked about capture states and governance challenge and the need for governments to wake up to their responsibility to ensure that they bring happiness to the greatest number of people, I'm sure our listeners will really say, Yes, this is what we need, we would need government to attend to our needs to focus on our challenges and bring about solution. So, my question is, what is the place of partnership between government, the private sector and civil society in building climate resilience and bring about the kind of change that we need?


Professor Sofiri Peterside [00:12:16]

You see, Comrade, in our country, the civil society are doing their best. And remember, that the civil society also depend, in certain respect, on international agencies for funding. And the civil society have also benefited from that national space based on the kind of work they have done, people like you and others have done in their respective countries in Africa. And so they get that kind of support. So, in our country, if not for the activities of civil society, who have become the watchdog of the ordinary citizens, things would have been so bad than, you know, than imagine. So it is activities of the civil society. And I also think that the civil society that's why I think that we should also play a role of civil society to people in making sure, if you know, people say the nature of the state will make it difficult.  That those who occupy political positions are those who actually understands because that is what it is because some of them see and turn their face the other way, things the environment and everyone gets degraded, what they are preoccupied is actually what they will get. Because in our country, Nigeria, for instance, government is a business actually, and that business is business for the political elite and their lackeys. So I think that will require to take interest in sector respecting what is happening, and who occupies what position in government. I'm waiting to see the Manifesto of the key political parties. I'm waiting to see their manifesto. And all of us in this country will see what interests they have taken in the environment, what interests they have taken in environment, because that is not actually in the public discourse at the moment. So because we need to know what the agenda is for our environment. So I think that we have laws,, which you also have played key role, making sure that those laws are domesticated. It is the will power to actually implement the laws that is the issue. And that is, where is the problem? Some people don't bother. They can sell the country. Well, I don't quarrel with some of them. Because a Swiss writer once wrote that democracy is a word that grumbles meaninglessly in an empty stomach. So that's why, in our own lifetime, you can see, you have what is called stomach infrastructure in our lexicon, so that has become part of our lexicon. So I think that it is those who are in government, governance that should be about the people. And environment is about the people. So if you don't, then it creates, challenges. And it is even worse in our country. Now, in every part of our country, you have in the northeast you have in the northwest, you have in the southeast insistent crisis between herders and farmers. And these guys are perpetually on the move, because of environmental factors to areas where they can get in all these pastures for the animals. So we have been seeing that kind of crisis, it's happening everywhere, then in the Niger Delta region. Oh, that one. Now, it's also the problem of governance, where you see artisanal refining, in everywhere, you wash your clothes, and keep outside. I was head of the faculty of social sciences research team on the End Soot, and the university wiped in but I presented the faculty in that thing. You now see the kind of challenges that we have in our area. So I think these are issues that require urgent attention. And so citizens need to take responsibility, they need to take responsibilities in what is happening, and take interest in those who occupy this position. Otherwise, the Nigerian state is a captured state and to the benefits of the governing political elites, comrade.


Dr. Nnimmo Bassey [00:17:18]

Okay. Now, that is very clearly put. And this also raises new alarms. Because really, when we look at the political events going on around us, we are seeing people looking at government Governance and politics as transactional relationships, you know, selling their consciences and acting without any serious conviction. So, I agree with you that we should all demand that the political opposition present their manifestos to the public, so that we know their positions on climate change weigh their positions on ecological issues, and see exactly what they will do to restore the state of our environment. And stop the degradation that we're seeing. So what I learned from what you just said now is that there is a big gap between the people and those in governance structures. And there is a mistrust between the people and politicians and leaders now, and there's also a mistrust, especially in Niger Delta between the people and the corporations who are polluting the environment. What do you think is the way forward? How can these gaps be breached? Is the burden on the victims? Or should it be equally shared by those in political power and those who are leading the private sector?


Professor Sofiri Peterside [00: 18:41]

Honestly, Comrade, you just hit the nail on the head. It's a collaborative effort. It is a collaborative effort, because those in government have key role to play. Even those in the private sectors who are at the commanding heights of their organizations also have a role to play. Then the citizens also should be the watchdog making sure that those in power, deploy that power to bring happiness to the people. And also making sure that corporate organizations also act in tandem with international standards, and not to have different standards. There’s an international standard. There is a domesticated kind of standard, that do not pay very serious attention to global practices, when in the countries where they operate outside their own home countries. And so that's why it requires  a coordinated front, coordinated from a three pronged approach, both the international organizations, both the government, and of course, the citizens who are most affected by the activities that degrades the environment, and makes it very uninhabitable for those who will emerge in the future. And I think that that is what is required, that kind of three prong approach, synergy between government that is political power here, and international corporate organizations. And of course, the citizens, we must, the citizens must be vigilant, because all it requires for those who are occupying commanding heights in these organizations to do things and do it properly, requires a vigilant citizenry that hold people accountable, whatever position they occupy, hold them accountable for the actions that they have taken and inactions, of course, in making sure that environment is sustained, so that the future or the future generations are not compromised by the activities of those who are operating at the moment. That's my take comrade


Dr. Nnimmo Bassey [00:21:13]

The conversation has been very rich, unfortunately, time is always a constraint. We would like you to tell us about the role that the private sector can play in mobilizing funding for renewable energy projects in Nigeria, I know you alluded to this earlier on, but let's just conclude by having you talk a bit more about that. And then secondly, considering the role of multinational corporations in the devastation of the Nigeria environment especially the Niger Delta, would it be right to say that we have an outsized expectation from this sector? 


Professor Sofiri Peterside [00: 21:49]

Honestly, Comrade, we can't discuss the situation in our country, environmental issues without private sector, particularly the multinational corporations in our country, because they have created these problems. And of course, they also have the capacity to actually address this problem. And so that's why I think that they should actually lead in this fight to make sure that our environment, you know, is not completely degraded, we already have challenges at the moment. But because of the activities, and if not for the international community, it would have been worse, because what I see here, since the state have been captured, so there is private, in their own country, where they operate in, they maintain standards. But here since people are prepared to sell their own persons, it doesn't matter whether everybody dies, then they operate like that. So I think that, like what Usman Dan Fodio wrote a very long time ago, conscience is an open wound, only truth can heal it. And I think that if they have consciousness, these operators, then they will know that what they're doing is not correct. We as citizens must insist, they apply the same standards they apply in their home countries in our own country. And of course, for our elites, the political elites, they do not take these issues very, very serious, because if they take it very serious, there are a series of reports which you comrade, you know, some of them you led in our country, the UNDP report and all those reports. They are just there in the cupboard nothing is done or has been done fundamentally. Their interventions are very cosmetic. When somebody comes into office the first one year, two years after that they don't even care about the environment. We begin to hear about stomach infrastructure constructing flyover everywhere, not even minding the consequences, the drainage system and all that. So if there is flood those wonderful houses, you know, become oceans themselves. So I think that is what is very, very important. Now the private sector can lead in this process, they can lead because if they do business, here, then they have also responsibility to make sure that they also do things properly. Some of them will tell you that they are making fundamental contribution, at least I know, in the educational sector, the tax funds, and all that, but they should also take part in addressing very fundamentally, this adaptation of the environment to the Imagine environmental challenges, it requires funding like I stated earlier, requires funding, and that funding is huge. That funding is huge. I'm not saying that they should just take 100% responsibility, but I think that they should also take some responsibilities, and make sure also, that since  some of them joint partnership with government, are there discussions? They also want to know, they should know what government is also doing. If they're doing something because it requires, you know, a combined approach, it shouldn't just be government alone, it also shouldn’t be the private sector alone. But there's must be some element of synergy and regular discussions and conversations and assessment of milestones achieved by both the government and the private sector. But I think the private sector should take the lead, because, the management of whatever fund that is available, shouldn't be left at the whims and caprices of government alone, because for them, experience has shown that they will just swallow the money, sorry for using that word, because they will. So that's why the partnership, there should be a partnership, and proper channel of funding and management of the fund. I think that will be, my own take on that. And of course, you know that the banks can also fund through banks and investors should fund both private and public adaptation, they should fund that. That's my take on this issue. 


Dr. Nnimmo Bassey [00:26:43]

Thank you so much. That has been an intense conversation. I just would like to remind our listener of what you just said concerning Usman Dan Fodio that conscience is an open wound, only the truth can heal it. We are all living witnesses that climate change does not discriminate about who it hits. So everybody has a role to play. We have been speaking on issues around the private sector. Everybody has a role to play, like I said. It is in the best interest of businesses that the private sector be building climate resilience into their business strategies. It is in the best interest of political leaders to ensure climate resilience in the nation. Otherwise, how will the people survive the onslaught that is still coming. We have been very privileged to have this conversation with Professor Sofiri Peterside, who is an activist, a scholar, a sociologist, and a political historian. I really thank you for being a part of this podcast. Please do join us in the next episode of Partners United podcast on Resource Governance. 


Sofiri Peterside [00: 27:54]

Thank you, Comrade. 


Dr. Nnimmo Bassey [00:27:56]

It has been wonderful. Thanks a lot for being with us.