Oil Discovery: Don’t Divide My North
By Nasir Abdu Chikaji
Years after the hope for oil discovery in Northern Nigeria appeared to have dimmed as successive governments after the demise of General Abacha jettisoned inland basins’ exploration activities, a renewed commitment by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari sees NNPC return rigs to Gongola Basin in 2016.
This has ignited new waves of hope across the Nation as NNPC deployed, for the first time, a more sophisticated exploration technology using 3D Seismic to scan part of the expansive and resource-rich Northern landmass within the Gongola basin.
The improved technology deployed by NNPC at the exploration theatre has yielded unprecedented success that encouraged the leadership of NNPC under the late former GMD Dr. Maikanti Baru to draw the attention of President Buhari to Kolmani Area for the flag-off of the drilling of Kolmani River-II Well in February 2019.
Seven months into the exploration journey with more than 1,000KM2 of 3D seismic data acquired over Kolmani area, NNPC under the leadership of the current Group Managing Director Mallam Mele Kolo Kyari, a Geologist per excellence stirred the spirit of the nation with announcement of the successful discovery of Hydrocarbon deposits in Kolmani River-II Well, on October 10th 2019.
This development has sparked celebrations across the North and especially in the two states of Bauchi and Gombe that share boundaries within the Kolmani Area, as the long-awaited oil discovery is expected to attract investments into the landlocked area, generate employment and improve government revenue. This is a discovery that will surely help galvanize the current administration’s drive for economic growth and youth-empowerment through gainful employment.
A new economic era for the North is now within sight, but divisive politics wants to throw spanner in the works.
The Bane of Managing Success: Another Niger Delta?
Recent controversies over the site ownership of Kolmani River-II Well, where Hydrocarbon discovery was announced is becoming worrisome for the most-sought-for unity and progress of the entire North. The storm of arguments between influential individuals and groups that claim to represent the views of border communities residing within the Kolmani Area on the sides of Alkaleri Local Government of Bauchi and Akko Local Government Area of Gombe state has continued to gather with a potential to stall the anticipated economic gains of the oil discovery.
The various groups in the two States have continued to hit hard their arguments without minding the horrific lessons from the Niger Delta region, where control of oil-rich locations set communities apart, promote violence and scared investors away. Today some people of Bauchi state are claiming that Kolmani River-II Well is in Alkaleri LGA, some Gombe State indigenes are also claiming that the actual location is at the Pindiga Emirate, in Akko LGA of the State.
This undesirable development if left unchecked can truncate an otherwise beautiful economic future for the North and constitute a string of threat to national peace and security.
Although Bauchi State Government on its part has reportedly taken the path of maturity and said it would not join issues with anyone over the location of the recent discovery, its Gombe State counterpart is yet to take a definitive position regarding the on-going debate over the location of the oil wells. This portends danger of avoidable divisive tendencies that could have a chilling effect on this beautiful discovery.
Northerners of good conscience have begun to sense the direction of the misunderstanding being engineered through undue interference by a section of the political class and a few vocal clergymen from both sides on the actual location of the oil well drilled by NNPC in Kolmani.
Facts aside, this is a controversy fuelled by closely-held political priorities, anticipated personal gains and the envisioned 13 percent Derivation Fund income attributable to volume of oil produced in a given State.
These vested interests must not be allowed to reduce what is a heart-warming news about the North into an avoidable bickering over ‘location’. The North cannot afford jumping into resource control crisis as we have witnessed in other parts of the world.
While the matter rages on, some stakeholders are advising that the snowballing misunderstanding on the exact location of the oil wells should be stopped in order to prevent unnecessary bitterness between the Twin-Sisters states of Bauchi and Gombe, who for now hold the key to the economic future of the North.
As a means towards resolving the conflict of ownership, some industry observers believe that for any bona-fide claim of ownership to the wells to be valid it is pertinent to first determine the exact location of the disputed wells in the administrative map published by the National Boundary Commission (NBC) and the Federal Surveyor-General’s Office. And that is presumably if the disagreements are reasonable enough.
All the concerned parties should therefore resort to ensuring an amicable resolution of any misconception between them and desist from using the discovery as a springboard for scoring cheap political gains.
Meanwhile, Nigerians especially northerners couldn’t be more eager as they anxiously await to reap the anticipated dividends of the oil discovery in the North, for it would definitely usher in a new dawn for the region and facilitate a balanced economic growth and prosperity of our great Nation.
Undoubtedly, if success is achieved, this laudable initiative of President Muhammadu Buhari on inland basin exploration would positively transform the lives of millions of people as well as the entire economic landscape of the Northern region and the Nation in general for the better.
President Buhari and the competent leadership of the NNPC have done their parts, we must also do our part as citizens of conscience, by not allowing few people with hidden agenda to truncate the North’s biggest dream for economic transformation in this 21st century.
With the current commitment to lead the Nigerian oil and gas industry to greater prosperity through the Mele Kyari’s Transparency, Accountability and Performance Excellence (TAPE) drive, Nigerians can expect more oil discoveries as the Geologist GMD continues to scan the geological nooks and crannies of the inland basins from Sokoto to Anambra basins.
But it is disheartening that supposedly enlightened Northerners and Clergies parading themselves as local compatriots would be plotting to seize an apparent economic blessing for the entire North by creating chaos, desperation and potential disaster.
This calls for the need for Nigerian security operatives to beam searchlights at all levels and take appropriate measures against those people who are bent on using the media to convert this new National fortune into an opportunity for divisive bickering.
These axes of evil must not divide my North.
Chikaji, an economist and public commentator wrote this from Sabon Gari, Zaria in Kaduna State and can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org