November 10, 2023

A wake-up call from Indonesia, By Adekunle Adekoya

A wake-up call from Indonesia, By Adekunle Adekoya

ON Friday, October 27, newswires worldwide reported that Indonesia operated its first commercial flight using palm oil-blended jet fuel, as the world’s biggest producer of the commodity pushes for wider use of biofuels to cut fuel imports.

The flight, operated by Indonesian flag carrier, Garuda Indonesia, used a Boeing 737-800NG aircraft which carried more than 100 passengers from the capital, Jakarta to Surakarta city, about 550 kilometres (342 miles) away, according to the airline’s chief executive, Irfan Setiaputra.

Global news agency, Reuters reported further that “the palm-oil blended jet fuel is produced by Indonesian state energy firm, PT Pertamina at its Cilacap refinery, using hydro-processed esters and fatty acid, HEFA, technology and is made of refined, bleached deodorised palm kernel oil.

“Pertamina has said the palm-based fuel emits less atmosphere warming greenhouse gases compared with fossil fuels, and palm oil producing countries have called for the edible oil to be included in feedstock for the production of sustainable aviation fuel, SAF.”

The Indonesian experience, like that of many other nations, is a wake-up call for us here in Nigeria. Indonesia and Nigeria share some commonalities and at the same time, huge differences. While Nigeria is a solid land mass with a coastline that is about 850 kilometres long, Indonesia is a nation of islands, an archipelago that consists of about 17,000 islands, with the main ones being Java, Sumatra, Sulawesi, and parts of Borneo and New Guinea.

But the climate experience is similar, at least with the Southern part of Nigeria. That means the oil palm grows very well in both countries. Now see the level Indonesia has taken the oil palm to, using palm oil as biofuel. The international palm oil exchange is in Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, though Indonesia has launched its own exchange to rival the Malaysian.

Indonesia is the world’s largest producer and exporter of palm oil, and accounts for nearly 60% of both the world’s palm oil production and exports, followed by Malaysia with around 20% of production and around 30% of exports, according to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Those who said the oil boom that we had is in reality a a curse may be saying the truth. Alongside palm oil, cocoa, rubber, groundnut and other agricultural products were our foreign exchange earners when Nigeria was a country. See where both Malaysia and Indonesia are with palm oil alone, and see where we are.

Once upon a time, we were global leaders in groundnut production, with sacks of the product stacked into pyramids in Kano. The pyramids were tourist attractions; people paid good money to come to Kano to see groundnut pyramids. But the last groundnut pyramid disappeared from Kano in 1982, and the Kanawa (as Kano indigenes are called), the state government, and even the Federal Government have collectively failed to take any discernible action towards resuscitation of the groundnut pyramids.

Similarly, governments and people of states in the South-West, South-East, and South-South have equally not done enough to see that rubber, cocoa, and oil palm regain their pride of place as revenue earners and avenues of employment. Now we are crying as the Naira continues to fall against other global currencies. Why will Naira not fall when we have shunned the production of items that can earn us foreign exchange?

Even the crude oil we depend on, we cannot even produce enough to meet OPEC quota as a result of just being Nigerian. Same situation applies to electricity. What has stopped the Ministry of Power from exploring the solar option? By now, solar farms should be sprawling across the arid lands of the northern states, if we know what we are doing.

But there is a hypnotic fixation on generated power, thermal and hydro. In the oil and gas sector, we continue to destroy so-called “illegal refineries” while the legal refineries failed us miserably. Also, why couldn’t the nation have invested in modular refineries that take a very short time to deliver, instead of wasting billions on TAM for refineries whose parts the manufacturers no longer make. There is nothing, except the imbecility of the power elite, that says Nigeria couldn’t have had 30 or 40 modular refineries since 1999. Instead, every year, the power elite opts to appropriate billions for the payment of subsidy on imported products.

The only thing we know how to do is spin useless rhetoric. For once, I pray that the present administration can make a difference in our fortunes by looking inwards to resuscitate the production of those things we were once very good at. That would be a surer way of shoring up the value of the naira than some economic sakamanje that will only bring ephemeral relief. But the optics are disappointing; N160m SUVs for members of NASS alongside other frivolous expenditure, including a N5 billion presidential yacht are disappointing. Still, we have no other country. I pray the power elite will have a change of heart and decide to love the ordinary Nigerian by working things to favour him/her. TGIF.