Aug 8, 2020

Intellectual Property And Green Innovation | Adeniran Oluwabukunmi

The discovery of oil in the 1950s in Nigeria is regarded as one of the best things to happen to this country. Inversely, it is also one of the worst things to happen as the Niger Delta region is plagued by environmental degradation caused by oil spillage and gas flaring. Environmental degradation is one of the many impediments to achieving a green economy. Others include deforestation, poor waste management, mediocre urban planning, noise pollution, emission of greenhouse gases and concentration of ozone-depleting chemicals. Not only are they harmful to the planet, they spawn a variety of illnesses and outbreaks of chronic diseases, raising worldwide concerns that the protraction of these destructive behaviours may render humans extinct if not homeless in the future.

Despite the skepticism surrounding the belief in a green future in Nigeria for verifiable reasons, this writer opines that a green future is achievable in Nigeria, but is heavily dependent on our willingness to create sustainable alternatives to our existing pollutive way of life. We imagine a future where the environment is safe and fit for human lives to thrive, where reusables are the new trend, where the environment is free from pollutants and car engines are built to work with cleaner fuels and to produce lesser vehicular emissions, where waste is minimized, and most importantly, a future where environmental sustainability is entrenched in the mindset of the entire populace. Discussing green future will be incomplete without recourse to the sustainable development goals.

The major outcome of the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development was the agreement by member states to launch a process to develop a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Some of these goals are directly and eminently instrumental to the achievement of a green future. SDG 3 aims at ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages. SDG 3 also requires that deaths and illnesses caused by hazardous chemicals and air, water, and soil pollution or contamination are substantially reduced. The purpose of SDG 6 is to ensure the availability and sustainable management of clean water. SDGs 7 and 13 are related and are aimed at ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all, consequently combating climate change and its impacts. Finally, SDGs 14 and 15 agitate for sustainable use of oceans, seas, and marine resources and promotion of sustainable use of land, by managing forests, combating desertification, and reversing land degradation.

Tackling a problem which perturbs the entire planet is certainly not a piece of cake. A combination of expertise, innovation, responsibility, cooperation and a dramatic improvement of our living habits is required to save our planet from utter destruction. In addition to changing our destructive culture, scientists posit that mechanisms and structures must also be put in place (Cecelia, 2020). For example, it is not enough that we stop burning fossil fuels to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, we also need negative emissions technologies to help expel existing carbon dioxide (CO 2) from the atmosphere to combat global warming.

As the push for sustainable products and green technologies mounts, innovations spring up at an unprecedented rate. The world's first smog vacuum cleaner was created by Daan Roosegaarde to clean polluted air in public spaces, using only 1170 watts of green electricity and positive ionisation technology. Another remarkable invention, by two surfers in the hope to clean the world’s oceans, is the Seabin which can gather plastic and oil and filter through the structure of oceans. Also, memorable is the creation of Vegan-bottles which has the potential to rid the world of further production of plastic bottles (Saoirse, 2018). Lagos state, which is the most populous state and the commercial centre for Nigeria, has launched a green consumer initiative to have a consumer label detail the carbon footprint of a product/service and a commitment by its producer to reduce it. It is also expected that the initiative will encourage industries to embrace green solutions and to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere as a result of their activities (Sewanu & James, n.d.). The list goes on.

Innovation is fundamental to the realization of a green future as Intellectual property rights are fundamental to making innovation work. Hence, the progress and wellbeing of humanity are now dependent on Intellectual property rights. Intellectual property rights encourage creativity, artistry, out-of-the-box thinking, and inventiveness by providing exclusivity to owners, proprietors, and inventors, allowing them reap commercial and moral benefits, and expelling the fear of idea expropriation (Uche & Regina, 2020). Intellectual property rights like trade secrets, trademarks, copyright, and patent are relevant to protecting green innovation. Inventions generally start as a trade secret of the inventor. One or more types of intellectual property rights: patents, trademarks, and copyrights are required to market an invention (James, n.d.). These protections mean that an invention cannot be used, distributed or sold without consent from the inventor. Intellectual property rights are actionable in court in the event of an infringement.

Intellectual property rights also help disperse innovation to places of great need, through licensing agreements, joint ventures, and more. In Nigeria, contracts or agreements for the transfer of foreign technology to Nigeria must be registered with the National Office for Technological Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP) in accordance with the NOTAP Act. Pursuant to Section 7 of the NOTAP Act. no payment shall be made in Nigeria to the credit of the foreign transferring party unless a certificate of registration and a copy of the contract certified by the NOTAP is presented by the parties (Nta & Emmanual, 2020).

An also explorable approach, to making innovation work in Nigeria, is creating a platform that encourages and celebrates inventions, initiatives, and new ways of solving national or world problems within Nigeria. A platform that creates avenues for meet and greets between inventors and the public, government, or universities.

The government should invest in home-grown technologies. When Nigeria gained independence from colonial rule in 1960, there were bursts of ingenuity exhibited by indigenous people in all spheres of human endeavours. These attempts were discouraged due to derogatory remarks that these technologies were substandard or counterfeited. Uninspiring remarks like “Aba-made”, “Okrika”, “katako-made’, “Sharada-made” were common (Edwin, 2017). Foremost, a change of attitude towards home-grown inventions is necessary. It is also certain to go a long way if government can interface with innovative indigenous people, provide necessary material, financial and structural aid to advance their handicraft, showcase and give them credit for their creativity.

Top-notch education is paramount to unlocking sustainable development in Nigeria. Nigeria must invest heavily in her educational sector because quality education and research, up-to-date educational infrastructures, and standard learning environment are key driving factors to achieving sustainable socio-economic development in any nation (Chuks & Acquah, 2018). When we invest in education, innovation will no longer be a question.

It will be short-sighted to propose green future in Nigeria without first proffering a probable alternative to Petroleum. The Nigerian economy is heavily dependent on the oil sector which accounts for over 95% of export earnings and about 40% of government revenues, according to the International Monetary Fund. This raises the question of whether Nigeria can survive with the expulsion of her oil sector. Recently, the Department of Petroleum resources proposed the use of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) in automobiles as an alternative to petrol (Anon., n.d.). More so, if we take advantage of the neglected Agricultural Industry in Nigeria, it has the potential to overthrow the oil and gas industry in Nigeria. According to Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, president of the African development bank (AFDB) and previous minister of agriculture for Nigeria, ‘Agriculture must be at the centre of the economic diversification strategy and wealth creation in Africa’.

As American business magnate and philanthropist Bill Gates once said, “Never before in history has innovation offered promise of so much to so many in so short a time”, it is up to us to safeguard it. If we can protect and encourage inventions, then we can protect our planet (Daniel, n.d.).

Written by:

Adeniran Oluwabukunmi


Anon., n.d. Embrace CNG as petrol alternative, DPR advises motorists. Department of Petroleum Resources .

Cecelia, T., 2020. Climate change: now is the time to act.. March.

Chuks, M. & Acquah, S., 2018. Why investments in higher education and research in Africa are so important?. 26 July.

Daniel, R., n.d. Innovation for a Green Future: Protecting Intellectual Property to Protect the Planet.

Edwin, U., 2017. Indigenous Technological Innovations: Crossing the "Valley of Death" to the Marketplace. November.

James, Y., n.d. Four types of Intellectual property to protect your idea and how to use them.

Nta, E. & Emmanual, N., 2020. Innovate for a Green Future. 27 April.

Saoirse, K., 2018. 21 Sustainability Innovations and Initiatives That Might Just Change the World. 6 April.

Sewanu, A.-T. & James, O., n.d. Recent Developments on Green Growth in Nigeria.

Uche, N. & Regina, O., 2020. Innovate for a Green Future – Nigeria. April.