Out of this figure, between 70 million and 80 million of them are Nigerians.
Kandeh Yumkela, the under secretary general and special representative of the secretary general of the UN, disclosed this on Monday at the International Legacy Lecture Series held at the Bamanga Tukur African Renaissance Centre, Abuja.
The event, which was part of activities to mark the 79th birthday of the immediate past national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Bamanga Tukur, was graced by the academia, political class, diplomatic community, amongst others.
Speaking on the theme, ‘The New International Development Agenda: Energy Transition and Sustainable Development’, Yumkela posited that 1.4 billion people around the world have no access to energy.
While positing that Africa will be worst hit by climate change, the UN envoy said women and children will be the greatest victim.
The guest speaker, who drew a nexus between energy demand and water demand, said: “We need energy to fight poverty”.
He called on Nigeria to emulate Ghana, describing her as “the most electrified West African country”, attributing it to policy consistency by successive governments in the country. He also harped on the need for African leaders to tap the resources in the energy sector, meet with potential investors as well as develop new initiative.
He, however, decried the spate of gas flaring in the continent, adding that Nigeria is sitting on 170 trillion cubic feet of gas which, when developed, can revolutionise the country.
While he canvassed for zero gas flaring, the two-time director general of UNIDO noted that proper incentives must be provided for oil companies to stop the practice.
His words, “Today, the world faces some significant challenges in terms of looking at the trend of increase in energy demand with increase of about 50 to 60 percent in the next 30 to 35 year.
“Africa remains the most energy poor. Globally, 600 million Africans have no access to electricity. We also see a connection between energy demand and water demand.
Nigeria probably has between 70 and 80 million people without electricity. Nigeria is a significant part of that energy poverty. Another statistics that is more frightening is that 80 percent of our people rely on firewood and charcoal for their family energy needs especially for cooking.
“This results in 800,000 premature deaths every year, cancer and a lot of problems for women and children”.
“We are pulling a global target of 30 to 40 percent reduction in gas flaring in the next five years to lead to zero flaring within the next decade. In the case of Africa, we are promoting gas to power project.
“If you have the right political environment, you will have a good public policy. We need to have the right pricing otherwise private investors will not come.”
Earlier in his address of welcome, Bamanga Tukur, the host and ambassador-at-large, submitted that African integration can only succeed when there is “free trade, free interaction and free movement”.
The elder statesman said the lecture was organised to dissect the transformation agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan, with emphasis on the energy sector.