By Mardiyyah Omikunle
Recent moves by President Buhari to implement Climate Change Act 2021, Nigeria’s framework law to deliver green growth for sustainable economic development, are rubbing against bureaucratic infighting over the form and composition of the implementing mechanism the National Climate Change Council (NCCC) and its secretariat. The NCCC is chaired by the President with broad participation from government and civil society, and is supported by a Secretariat headed by a Director General who is recommended by NCCC and appointed by the President. Because the NCCC is chaired by the President and Vice President and located within the presidency, it signals to the world that Nigeria is taking a whole-of-Government approach to low carbon development and is not merely delegating the issue to a line ministry. Recent pronouncements by the Minister of Environment, Mohammed Abdullahi, questioned both the ‘humongous bureaucracy’ CCA created and the composition of the NCCC. Such doubts as COP 27 approaches, may be misinterpreted as sending mixed signals to development partners interested in supporting Nigeria’s energy transition.
Recently, the Minister vented his frustration at the unwieldy ‘humongous bureaucracy” of “state and zonal directors” in the NCCC’s secretariat. He went further adding that “membership of the council also inadvertently takes out commissioners of environment as members of the Climate Change Council. The secretariat has no directorates to support functions of the director-general, no transitional provisions in relation to functions of the department of climate change and the Climate Change Council.” The minister then announced that he had set up a technical review committee within the Ministry of Environment to initiate “amendments of the Act”.
An internal ministry of environment technical review committee to amend the Act is the classic bureaucratic response to a bureaucratic problem. The Act’s implementing structure appear designed to avoid capture by a single ministry and be nimble enough to respond to reform priorities across ministries departments and agencies and between the levels of government. While this may have drawbacks, the more pertinent question relating to structure and institutional transition is whether the NCCC and the secretariat can provide the framework for sustainable economic development achieved through low carbon means to occur across government and society. Here, the ministry of environment has specific inputs to make the climate diagnosis. The treatment plan or cure is actually provided by other stakeholders responsible for the policies, technologies and societal changes that make sustainable economic growth a reality. The treatment aspects of the CCA’s objectives and NCCC’s mandate involve inputs primarily from other agencies such as the petroleum, power, transport, water, works and housing sectors among others. The CCA and NCCC thus require a whole-of-government review, and not just a ministry of environment technical review.
While, the Minister and the ministry are understandably territorial about the CCA and NCCC, the NCCC is unlike other councils or committees superintending particular sectors as with say communications with the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC). The NCCC and its secretariat are crosscutting institutions that resemble the defunct Office of the Senior-Special-Assistant to the President on Millennium-Development-Goals (OSSAP-MDGs) and the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE). The BPE as secretariat to the National Council on Privatisation (NCP) closely resembles the NCCC and its secretariat. Both OSSAP-MDGs and BPE were created within the Presidency and operated on a whole-of-government premise rather than being hived-off from a parent-ministry – a kind of prodigal children as the Minister seems to think the NCCC and secretariat are.
It is worth mentioning that the pioneering Director-Generals or leaders of both OSSAP-MDGs and BPE had successful non-civil service professional and managerial careers and brought that private sector drive, energy, can-do spirit and organisational discipline to the new institution. They also possessed the requisite stakeholder management skills to navigate social and political interests across all levels of government. This does raise questions, given the vast all-encompassing and existential challenge climate change poses, whether the Minister sees the proverbial forest from the ministerial tree.
Seeing the forest from the ministerial tree generates the perspective needed to discern the internal inconsistencies in the Minister’s position. As it is difficult to reconcile the minister’s criticism of the CCA with his proud announcement, in the same breathe, “that just last week, Mr. President appointed the pioneer director-general of the National Climate Change Council.” If the deficiencies in the Act can prompt the minister to review and recommend amendments, why then announce the appointment of a Director-General when the CCA expressly says that such an appointment can only be made after the NCCC recommends a Director-General to the President? Such an appointment and announcement fits squarely into the problems the CCA has that the technical review committee should have also reviewed. It is even more irregular when the appointment is announced by the minister or the ministry rather than the Presidency, which usually announces such appointments. It is unclear whether the appointment has been announced by the President or presidency at all. These irregularities and inconsistencies will not have gone unnoticed by the international community, private sector investors and interested parties to Nigeria’s climate change objectives.
In the end raising issues about the CCA while making unconfirmed pronouncements on staffing this close to the 27th Conference of Parties (COP 27) in November in Egypt sends the signal that Nigeria is not ready politically, institutionally or policy-wise to receive the investment required to transition to a low carbon economy. This ultimately defeats the very objectives of the CCA.
If Nigeria is to achieve the objectives in the CCA, the Minister and Ministry of Environment will need to play their indispensable part by not going it alone, but by being in lock step with the entire government and people of Nigeria. We all go farther on the road to net zero when we go together.
Mardiyyah Omikunle, specialises in Energy Law and Climate Change, she writes from Lagos.