Why Osinbajo’s Debt-For-Climate Swap Deal Should Be Rejected — Nnimmo Bassey

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Leading Climate Activist, Nnimmo Bassey has faulted proposal and arguments advanced in support of a Debt-For-Climate (DFC) swap deal as solution to Nigeria’s debt crisis.

The New Diplomat recalls that Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo while delivering a lecture at the Center for Global Development in Washington D.C, United States (U.S.) in early September, had said the DFC swap deal is a very useful debt/climate intervention as it would help reduce the nation’s disturbing debt burdens, while advancing the Climate Change objectives of the international community.

Bassey, Director of Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), an Environmental Justice and Ecological think tank, while decrying the proposed DFC swap deal, also described it as a “life jacket to avoid drowning,” saying it will not address the specific climate crises ravaging Nigeria and other African countries, which he said are matters of urgency.

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Bassey spoke at a media training on ‘Agroecology As A Viable Solution To Climate Change’ in Lagos. He urged Osinbajo, other African leaders and governments to have a rethink, adding that the DFC swap deal will further exploit and expose countries on the continent to further manipulations by polluting entities and global Corporations.

Nigeria’s Vice President, in his recent speech in Washington DC had pushed for the DFC deal, arguing that the swap deal if accepted, would enable the Federal Government reap a huge debt relief from some creditors ranging in the order of billions of US dollars.

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“Debt for climate swaps is a type of debt swap where bilateral or multilateral debt is forgiven by creditors in exchange for a commitment by the debtor to use the outstanding debt service payments for national climate action programs.” Osinbajo had stated.

Though the idea has since received some positive comments from certain quarters, Bassey told The New Diplomat that the proposed deal will cause more harm than good for Nigeria and Africa.

According to him, the debt-for-climate swap arrangement will encourage marketization of nature and promote risky and unproven technologies in Africa, which will in turn continue to devastate the environment, displace communities and further feed climate change.

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In Bassey’s words: “The argument that forfeit our debt so we could use the debt to make the climate more resilient sounds beautiful, but to me it’s an argument that doesn’t hold water considering the pedigree of the system and the structure we have on ground that could build climate resilience for our people. Are you going to use the money you’re to pay for the debt to stop gas flaring? Are you going to use it to restore forest in Cross River or in Ondo State?… We have to be sincere to ourselves by sitting down and talking to ourselves and doing the right thing, not to look for more resources to waste because now we don’t even have enough money to pay the debt. Now, what he’s talking about? He (Osinbajo) is looking for a life jacket to avoid drowning.”

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He continued: “There was an article written in Foreign Policy Magazine, US (by Vice President Osinbajo) and the president of Uganda (Yoweri Museveni) wrote almost the same thing in the Telegraph of UK and they were saying that Africans have a right to keep on extracting fossils fuels and use it because we have energy deficit in Africa. Does it sound reasonable. They say the US, Europe are ready to provide energy, so why can’t we? But if you look at the map of Africa, all the infrastructure that deal will energy, fossil fuel, they start from where the extraction is taking place and go to the sea port, why? Because they are all for export. Now Nigeria wants to build pipeline from Bayelsa to Morocco to Spain, is that going to bring energy to Nigeria? They want to build pipeline from Uganda to Tanzania, to the sea port there, is it for the Ugandans? NO!”

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Citing instances, Bassey explained that with the fossil fuel companies  springing up in several parts of Africa, including in Namibia and Nigeria, Morocco, Algeria, false climate solutions like net-zero, carbon capture and storage as well as the debt-for-climate swap deal are “colonial extraction” which will only benefit the western countries than Africa.

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Enunciating on major contributors to global warming, Babawale Obayanju of the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria lamented that “annually 3.5% of Nigeria’s forest, accounting for 350,000 hectares of land are lost” due to deforestation.

Obayanju urged the Nigerian government and stakeholders to urgently curb the trend as “80% of world’s biodiversity are in the forest,” hence the need to embrace agroecology as against the industrial agricultural practices which he said, has exacerbated the climate crisis in Africa.

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