Imperial College London

Imperial celebrates Nigerian ties as VP Yemi Osinbajo visits

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His Excellency Professor Oluyemi Osinbajo, Vice President of Nigeria

His Excellency Professor Oluyemi Osinbajo, Vice President of Nigeria, speaking at Imperial

Imperial College London celebrated its longstanding links and collaborations with Nigeria during a visit from Professor Oluyemi Osinbajo.

During the visit, held on Friday 8 October, the Vice President of Nigeria met students and academics to discuss Nigeria’s transition to clean energy and identify potential opportunities for collaboration in this area between the College and Nigeria. 

He was joined at the visit by His Excellency Ambassador Isola, Nigeria’s High Commissioner to the UK and by Her Excellency Sharon Ikeazor, Federal Minister of State of Environment.

The visit also included a delegation from Sustainable Energy for ALL, an international organisation that works in partnership with the United Nations and leaders in government, the private sector, financial institutions, civil society and philanthropists to drive faster action towards the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7). SEforALL is led by Damilola Ogunbiyi, Honorary Practice Fellow at the Centre for Environmental Policy.

Welcoming the delegation, Professor Alice Gast, President of Imperial College London emphasised the importance of international collaboration and developing equitable partnerships with Nigeria. “The transition to an inclusive energy system is critical to our future,” she said.   

President Alice Gast with the VP Nigeria delegation
Professor Alice Gast, President of Imperial with the Vice President

Deep ties 

From the first Nigerian student enrolling in 1942 in the Department of Chemistry, Nigerians continue to be the largest African student cohort at the College, with over 100 students enrolling each year. Nigeria is the College’s second top co-publishing partner in Sub-Saharan Africa, after South Africa.  

In the last five years the College has published over 300 papers with Nigerian collaborators, across 53 institutions. The College’s Faculties of Medicine and Engineering, as well as the Business School enjoy active links with partners in Nigeria.  

2050 Calculator 

At the visit, the Vice President of Nigeria heard from a number of research groups across the College who are collaborating with partners in Nigeria on the country’s transition to clean energy.  

Dr Jem Woods from the Centre for Environmental Policy is working on a 2050 Calculator specifically aimed at Nigeria. The 2050 Calculator is an open, transparent and interactive energy model that can be used by governments and stakeholders to understand how to decarbonise a country or region and develop evidence-based policies. The aim of Nigeria’s Calculator is to identify energy secure pathways in the country for energy demand and supply between 2020 and 2050. 

The Calculator will help users, which may include government, businesses, scholars and individuals, to understand the wide range of possible energy pathways available to the country as it develops its energy sector. It will provide quantities of energy demand, supply, emissions and potential implications on issues such as import dependence, cost and land requirements, and offer a platform to facilitate policy debate about the possible future pathways for the Nigerian energy sector, while enabling prioritisation of potential policy interventions for deeper analysis.  

Professors Nilay Shah, Alice Gast, Oluyemi Osinbajo, Dr Jem Woods and Professor Mark Howells (L-R)
Professors Nilay Shah, Alice Gast, Oluyemi Osinbajo, Dr Jem Woods and Professor Mark Howells (L-R)

Climate compatible growth and rapid responses 

Professor Mark Howells, also from the Centre of Environmental Policy, is working on the Climate Compatible Growth Programme. The programme helps developing countries to take a path of low carbon development while simultaneously unlocking profitable investment in green infrastructure, opening up new markets and supporting delivery of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.  

Professor Nilay Shah from the Department of Chemical Engineering works with the Rapid Response Facility (RRF), a technical assistance initiative to support countries’ energy transitions. The RRF provides a broad range of assistance to developing countries, such as Nigeria, incorporating strategic planning, capacity building and technical expertise to streamline decision-making and accelerate energy transitions in advance of COP26. As part of this, Professor Shah works with 14 countries worldwide to look at their plans for climate mitigation, focused on electricity.  

A fair transition 

During his visit to the College, Professor Osinbajo addressed the two different existential challenges facing a developing country like Nigeria – extreme poverty and global warming. He shared concerns around improving the standard of living while reducing the carbon footprint of the country, asking: “How do we deal with extreme poverty and at the same time meet our climate change objectives?”  

A student asks a questionProfessor Osinbajo also discussed how a fair energy transition might look in Nigeria, stating that the country could not have a fair transition if it is following a programme laid out by wealthier countries, and that the process of transitioning to cleaner energy is just as important as the objective. He also answered questions from Imperial students on the role of gas in the energy transition, the decentralisation of power plants, the importance of consumer behaviour and Nigeria’s plans for a gradual transition.  

Rebecca Adomakoh, President of the Africa Business Club: “To not only hear from, but to also actively engage with and question the Nigerian Vice President on the country’s green energy transition was a rare, insightful and exciting opportunity.

"His excellency clearly laid out Nigeria’s pathway to a clean energy transition and highlighted the necessity of taking an approach that was unique to the country and region. The additional overview provided by the Imperial College researchers also allowed us to glean a fuller understanding of the scope of the challenge.” 

Jesse Ovia, MEng Molecular Bioengineering added: “It was inspiring to hear a government official speak so candidly about the future of energy as it pertains to Nigeria. It was shocking to note that even though the whole of Sub Saharan Africa’s energy consumption is six times than the UK and it generates less than 1% of the global CO2, emissions plans to defund liquified natural gas (our transition fuel) are being pushed onto us.” 

Notable Nigerian alumni 

Notable Nigerian alumni of the College include Rilwanu Lukman, an engineer who held several ministerial positions in the Nigerian federal government before becoming Secretary General of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). He studied Mining Engineering at the College and was the first African to be given a fellowship of the College. 

Academic, author and inventor Ayodele Awojobi was awarded a scholarship to study at the College in 1962 and became the first African to be awarded a PhD in Mechanical Engineering.  

 Photography: Brendan Foster


Joanna Wilson

Joanna Wilson
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Sharon Obahor

Sharon Obahor
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