Saturday , 17 March 2018

Appoint technocrats, not politicians into energy, environment and other sectors, Distinguished Prof Hilary Inyang tells FG

Prof Inyang
What does the Nigerian National Order of Merit (NNOM) Award for Engineering and Technology means to you and your various interventions in Nigeria?
I am delighted and grateful to Nigerians, the Federal Government and the Merit selection panel for this excellence award. Being a diasporan who has lived and worked outside Nigeria, albeit on some Nigerian technological issues, I am especially pleased to have the opportunity to celebrate this award with my well wishers, immediate and extended family members, colleagues, collaborators and former teachers/patrons. I am the product of the efforts of so many people in very many places worldwide. Most of all, I thank God for his mercies. With humility and sincerity, I pledge to contribute to Nigeria’s sustainable development efforts, especially, on aspects that involve the development, extraction and investment of talent in programmes and projects that will improve the quality of life of all people.
In what areas will you continue to contribute to energy, environment and sustainable development of Nigeria?
During the past 20 years, I have made modest contributions to Nigeria’s efforts through engagements in the areas of policies and technical support systems, some of which have been used by the Merit-Board to justify the recent award to me. We have developed the framework for the expansion of renewable energy systems in Nigeria, particularly solar energy, and small-medium-scale hydro-electric power systems to support economic activities at all jurisdictional and spatial levels. This requires that universities, polytechnics and trade schools be more engaged in the training and retraining of Nigerians to enter into entrepreneurship and management systems in this sector to spur development and reduce unemployment. If requested by the Federal Government, I can develop the necessary technical guidance document to support the efforts of the relevant national and state agencies, and private sector groups to accomplish this.
As regards environmental systems, I plan to do more beyond the FCT Environmental Management Framework that I developed in 2011 with the financial support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); the Nigerian National Oil Spill Control Manual which I authored in 2012 under the auspices of the same UNDP and submitted to the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA); and both codes of standards and the Nigerian National Technical Guidance Manual for Solid Waste Management which I authored and submitted to Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Environment in 2009. You may know that upon the request of the Obasanjo’s Administration in 1999 while I was a Professor and Director at the University of Massachusetts Lowell in the US, I developed the technical framework for the subsequent creation of NOSDRA; unfortunately, none of the systems that I have mentioned above has been fully implemented. Lest I forget, as I indicated in my keynote address to the Nigerian Senate at its Annual Meeting/Retreat at Uyo, in 2012, the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs has the compilation of technical data bill of quantities, required clean-up systems, schedule of clean-up, costs, etc; for the worst oil spill sites in Nigeria (mostly in the Niger Delta). If implemented (and I have offered help to do so), the benefit/cost ratio will be quite high, and Nigeria will subdue most of the oil spill-related conflicts, occupational losses, and massive spreading of pollutants that continue to ravage so many communities. In the Niger Delta, there are even more serious energy and environment problems that demand urgent attention.
 [spacer height=”20px”]
What are the extent of damage and what can be done to tackle them?
The Niger Delta challenges are not unique to the region. They are experienced in virtually all oil producing regions. The case of the Niger Delta appears insurmountable because of lack of interest. Nobody takes responsibility even when it is obvious that his/her official work title/designation suggests that he/she should be responsible. Each erring officer tends to ascribe decision-making responsibility to the “Oga on Top”. There is what I may describe as a “concatenation of ogas” each of whom falls like a domino when confronted with a modest problem. I gave a full written rendition of Niger Delta pollution problems at well-attended Institute of Environmental and Humanitarian Law workshop in Port Harcourt in 2012. If your newspaper desires to do so, you can publish it in its entirety. It is not necessary to repeat parts of the solution here-in in detail except, to state that oil pollution can be addressed by equipping NOSDRA adequately and forgetting about moving its responsibilities elsewhere. Considering solid waste management, the Obasanjo Administration did well to initiate a National Solid Waste Management Programme that was intended to help Nigeria in very many ways. I was involved at a leadership level. Subsequent leaders of the Ministry of Environment and the Ecological Fund have abandoned the project inexplicably. In violation of continuity principle. New administrative leaders usually want to award new contracts and abandon existing ones’ I figure that this reckless mode of operation robs Nigeria of billions in naira of lost utilities each year and goes unpunished. On solid waste management, the Niger Delta programme can only work if the Federal Ministry of Environment meets its obligations as designed in that programme.
 [spacer height=”20px”]
Can you comment on efforts targeted at harnessing coal for commercial power generation based on your experience in Botswana and South Africa?
Unless Nigeria specifies and implements a renewable energy portfolio in excess of about 50 per cent (which is unlikely), it will not be able to meet its energy needs without harnessing coal. No country of Nigeria’s size and national economic development aspiration can or has been able to do so without using coal early in its development history. I know that international agencies will continue to discourage the exploitation and use of Nigeria’s coal resources as mitigation of global climate change continues to be a universal challenge. In spite of this interest, Nigeria should target clean coal technologies. South Africa which has Africa’s largest coal deposits in is the same boat. As you know, Botswana is a coal exporting country and has considerable experience in coal-mining. One of the reasons that I have accepted the new leadership role that I have been given in Botswana is to help diversify the economy of Africa’s most stable democracy through catalysis of innovation in mining and other technical systems.
 [spacer height=”20px”]
What bold steps can be taken to tackle illegal mining in some parts of the nation, especially the North?
Illegal mining of construction aggregates and solid metals is a problem all over Nigeria, not just in the North. It alters the hydrology of terrains and contributes to erosion and silting of surface water resources. As experienced in some states of the North, illegal mining also allows toxic pollutants to leach from exposed tailings and contaminate surface water and crops. Very many people have died as a result of these exposures. Other hazards that are less obvious are radon exposures and gamma radiation in the Middle Belt of Nigeria where some of the mined rocks contain radioactive minerals like radium and indium. Upon exposure and decay, they emit ionising radiation that can cause cancer, birth defects and other ailments in exposed individuals. As an institute Director at the University of North Carolina in the USA, I spent much money and other resources to study radiation. Some years back, I came to Nigeria to measure radiation from rocks derived from the Middle Belt and Abuja. I saw very dangerous levels. I was later to note that another researcher (Dr. MayenAdiukwu- Brown) had obtained similar results earlier. In response to the interest expressed by Nigerian Senators when I addressed the Senate at Uyo in 2012, I promised the Senate President – Senator David Mark, that I would come back to Nigeria and help the Government to address this problem.
 [spacer height=”20px”]
What have you observed as the major energy and associated environmental risks in Nigeria?
With respect to energy risk, I take it that you mean the risk of not attaining Nigeria’s targets in that sector. An energy system comprises two categories: transportation energy; and electric power supply system. For Nigeria, transportation energy means oil and gas, and their refined products at this time. Biomass needs to be developed for the future but there are some specific infrastructural facilities to be developed. It should be noted that biofuel pumping devices are different from petrol systems. The same is the case with tank farms. Besides, the raw materials for sustenance of biofuel production systems as business enterprises may not have the required supply chain stability. Farms that need to produce biofuel crops in the southern areas of Nigeria are spatially discontinuous and may not reach economy of scale. Wastes can be used but where are the systems for it in the light of my assertion about the abandonment of the Nigerian National Solid Waste Management Programme by the Federal Ministry of Environment and the Ecological Fund Office? As a matter of national expediency and prestige, Nigeria needs to build and operate about three refineries.
 [spacer height=”20px”]
Considering your role as a globally renowned scientist who has conducted research expeditions to many places, are there places that particularly stood out in your trip experiences?
Yes, there are many of such places and if I may add, interesting people that I have met in my expeditions. I was on a US technical expedition to Siberia and I almost drowned when I tried to swim across a lake close to the River Obb in Nishnevartovsk in 1997. Despite the extreme cold of Siberia, the villagers loved me there and never wanted me to return to Massachusetts in the US. I was amazed to stand at high altitude and look down on clouds during my 2003 expedition to numerous Chinese villages to measure mining-induced land subsidence. I marveled at that freakish and hair-raising circumstance. Despite a life in these expeditions and being named by my parents after Sir Edmund Hilary – the New Zealander who conquered Mt Everest, I still have great fear of heights. I remain grateful to the Geological Surveys of China and the Jiangsu Provincial Government that invited me to perform that research expedition.
 [spacer height=”20px”]
In a 2002 expedition to Brazil, I was impressed by the organization of the landless people in the favelas above the fantastic city of Rio de Janeiro and the fact that the camp for thousands was led by a 23 year-old girl. Upon my return to the United States, I was saddened to learn that the Brazillian Army later invaded that camp and many people, including the young leader with whom I discussed, was killed. Although the most beautiful village that I ever stayed in was near Belo Horizonte, Brazil, I can also recount seeing an anaconda snake in Brazil and running for my dear life while abandoning my research equipment. The serenity of Mauritius and the quaintness of Japanese villages also impressed me during my work in those places in the early 2000s. It was interesting to note the successful marriage between thousands of years of Japanese tradition and modernity in those villages, and I wondered whether that can be done in Africa. Also, I wonder how the Japanese could defeat the urge to use location-constrained proverbs to justify terrible actions as frequently practiced in Africa.
 [spacer height=”20px”]
I wept at the memorial erected in Nanjing, China, for the more than 10,000 Chinese who were slaughtered by invading Japanese forces in the 1930s during the now notorious “Rape of Nanjing”. I was later to accept the honour of my appointment as the first black Honorary Professor of a top Chinese University when I was selected for that role by Nanjing University in 1999. Prof. Shi Bin, my former Post-Doctoral Visiting Scientist at the University of Massachusetts has now assumed the position of President of Nanjing University, Suzhou. We continue to collaborate on image analyses of geomaterials and advanced sensing technology.
 [spacer height=”20px”]
In a serene compound located from the bustle of urban areas of Switzerland, I wandered around the graveside of Bernoulli, the early century hydraulics sage whose mathematical expressions caught my interest during my secondary school studies at Nigerian Christian Secondary School, Ukpom Abak in Akwa Ibom State. Memories of my late high school physics teacher who would have appreciated that environment blurred my eyesight. Courtesy of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) that selected me for a tour of European scientific establishments, I visited the ancestral home of Albert Einstein in Switzerland and noted that this Scientist for Ages, had very poor grades in records still kept there after his death at Princeton, USA in 1961, I leave it to the judgment of your readers. Who was wrong?, Einstein or his teachers?. Yes, passing through isolated plains of South Korea in 2012 which enabled me to assess the damages that typhoons can cause, I was not oblivious of the risk of another cataclysmic event that lurks – war between North Korea and South Korea that would drag in the United States.
 [spacer height=”20px”]
Why did you accept to play another new role as the Vice Chancellor of the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST)?
Well, I have served before as the first President (Vice Chancellor) of the African University of Science and Technology (AUST) in Abuja, Nigeria. If I have served in Nigeria, the United States and several other countries in various roles, capacities and durations, why not Botswana! More seriously, I was heading to China to lead an academic organization for five years when this opportunity came up. BIUST is a national initiative of Botswana to diversify its economy and enhance its continental leadership profile. You may know that it regularly wins recognition as the country with the highest per capita income and the best governed country in Africa. It devotes about 20 percent of its GDP to education. So BIUST plays a key role, not only within Botswana but internationally. Resources have been provided to catalyze and sustain its targeted role. For me as a pan-African, I cherish the leadership role that has been given to me to lead African Renaissance from a position of stability in Botswana. From there, innovation and intellectual awakening of Africa will diffuse out to other countries. You may know that I am the Vice Chancellor of BIUST with administrative leadership responsibility. The titular leader who was instrumental to creating the university and now serves as its Chancellor is Mr. Felix Mogae, the former President of Botswana who holds a post-graduate degree from Oxford University in economics and has won the Mo Ibrahim Good Governance Award for ex-Heads of State of African Countries before. I am happy to work with him.
 [spacer height=”20px”]
Will it not limit you to Africa and affect your ability to play more roles at the global level?
I have no such consideration. Coach Mourinho of Chelsea Football Club of England was at Porto Football Clubin Portugal and Real Madrid Football Club in Spain, Inter-Milan Football Club in Italy prior to returning to Chelsea. He is still a world-class coach. Obama lived in Southeast Asia before. Even Ghandi was active in South Africa before his accomplishments in India. For the next five years, I want to lead global initiatives from Africa where my heritage is. I am still a Nigerian-American with full rights. Many of us in the United States are hyphenated Americans. Ronald Reagan was an Irish-American; Colin Powell is a Jamaican-American. Besides, it is in everybody’s interest that Africa be developed to equilibrate opportunities with those of other global regions. Global peace depends on this.
In 2009, when I attended the final interview at the New York Headquarters for selection as an Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations to be based in Tokyo, Japan, one of the four interview panelists from France annoyed me by commenting that I must thank my stars that I left Nigeria at a young age to the United States at where I received the nomination for the position. I told him directly that I hate French bread and left the rest to his interpretation. I am currently slated to play many more roles at the global level. My African sojourn is not a disadvantage and has given me a different experience and emotional satisfaction when I can safely state that of the expected 40 years of professional service by the time that I will eventually “retire”, perhaps 10 years would have been in Africa.
 [spacer height=”20px”]
Will you accept another nomination as a Candidate for Under-Secretary General of the United Nations after your term in Botswana?
Yes, prior to the infamous interview for the job of United Nations Assistant Secretary General for which I did not apply initially, I was nominated in the United States and supported for by the US State Department for the higher position of United Nations Under-Secretary General and Rector (President/ Vice-Chancellor) of the United Nations University (UNU) in Tokyo. I appreciate the support that I received from many scientists worldwide, General Obasanjo, friends, governments and other supporters. I lost in the later stages of that competition to a much older and more experienced candidate from Switzerland. Things are a bit different now. My term in Botswana runs out in mid-2017 with the possibility of my continuation.
 [spacer height=”20px”]
What do you think the government should do to effectively position the energy and environment sectors for sustainable development?
Not just for energy and environmental sectors, the government should pick technocrats for Ministerial appointments and resist the pressure to appoint politicians and/or party stalwarts that are pushed in by patrons in the states and elsewhere as reward for political service. Politicians should test their mettle in the ballot boxes. The government will be blamed for every inept action and insincerity of appointees, from brown grass to the kitchen sink. More directly, an appropriately constituted non-partisan, non-political Committee should identify all uncompleted and abandoned projects and ask unit leaders to explain circumstances surrounding the observations on those projects with recommendations on approaches to address them. Each Minister or agency leader should develop, present plans with implementation schedules for actions on cataloged issues, including realistic resource requirements, failing of which they should be asked to resign.
 [spacer height=”20px”]
-          This interview was first published in the National Mirror, Lagos, Nigeria. In this interview, the Distinguished Professor of Environmental Engineering & Science who received the 2013 Nigerian National Order of Merit (NNOM) Award for Engineering and Technology from the Federal Government provides an insight and solutions to deep-seated problems in Nigeria and other parts




About Alison_Godswill

Check Also

Why African economies are facing a double threat

African economies currently face a double threat. First, commodity prices are at their lowest in …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *