HARNESSING THE POTENTIALS OF BIO FUEL FOR NIGERIA’S ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

By Omolola Fadile

Nigeria could earn up to One hundred and fifty million Dollars annually from the production of bio fuels if well harnessed.

Nigeria is currently the leading producer of cassava in the world with about thirty million tons annually and more than four hundred thousand hectares of land available to support high yield sugarcane cultivation.

These two products, cassava and sugarcane, if well harnessed could be used to create at least ten percent Bio fuel and ninety percent fossil fuel blend annually.

Since acknowledging that Bio fuel is the future combustible energy in place of petroleum products, the Nigerian government has intensified efforts to diversify the economy, reduce dependence on fossil fuels including imported petroleum products.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC has therefore challenged the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) to fast track a review and development of the National Bio fuels Policy and initiate document to provide an enabling environment for the industry to strive.

This is to expedite action that could engender the development and commercialization of bio fuel products as would be consistent with global trends.

It will also help to ensure that all stakeholders make inputs on how the policy could be managed with a view to ensuring wider acceptability to meet international best practices.

Though the policy was initiated in 2007, the government has been slow to give it the necessary political will that would make the dream a reality and thus increase its sources of revenue earning through a sustainable programme of implementation.

Moreover, cheap fuels like the Premium Motor Spirit, popularly known as petrol became the preferred choice with less challenges until the oil crisis of the 1970s.

But with the new understanding that Nigeria’s oil reserve may not last the  test of time, the President  Muhammadu Buhari administration has eased the country’s investment policy making it possible for business developers to put resources into the purposeful production of Biofuel.

For instance, the NNPC is set to invest about One Hundred Million Dollars in the proposed Mayoine Sugar Project in Adamawa State, Northern Nigeria.

Though in its early stages, technical teams from NNPC and the Adamawa State Government are set to enter into a joint venture agreement to further plan the project.

Bio fuel or Bio diesel energy potentials abound in Obudu Cross River, southern Nigeria and Plateau State in north central part of the country due to the existence of sustainable biophysical condition for the cultivation of energy products.

It can be sourced from crops such as sugarcane, sugar beets, cassava, vegetable oils derived from plant seeds like sunflower, linseed and oilseed, as well as animal waste.

Although production of Bio fuel is expensive compared to petrol, it has the potentials of helping to ensure the removal of health hazards by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improved air quality good environment, and increased energy security among others.

Bio fuel can be used as fuel for vehicles in its pure form with the advantage of lowering the cost of transportation. It can also be used to generate and increase the level of energy that would be available for use in the country.

If well harnessed, it can provide significant social and economic benefits, reduce environmental degradation and become an additional source of foreign exchange inflow for Nigeria.

There exist natural bio physical features in places like Obudu in Cross River State and the high lands of Plateau State among others that could guarantee a sustainable production of relevant raw materials needed to give a push to the proposed bio fuel production for energy.

Though the production of Bio fuel is attractive because of the overall benefit and availability of raw materials, it is however not without challenges.

This include lack of adequate manpower and expertise for extraction of energy from recognized high yielding plants and the relevant equipment needed to keep the project going.

The encouragement, however, is the political will of the Nigerian government and the attractive business policy which Nigeria has presented to give investors some peculiar incentives which is capable of helping Nigeria to surmount her economic challenges.

Moreover, creating awareness on the benefits of bio fuel for economic growth and development of the nation should be given utmost priority, especially with the current economic diversification policy of the present government which is expected to elevate agriculture to a higher level of activity and encourage a wider participation so that there would be less dependence on the oil sector.

Nigeria has all it takes to produce bio fuel for internal consumption and export for economic growth and this could help to end the era of deficiency which the country is experiencing due to underutilization of its vast resources and potentials.