6 April 2013

Nigeria: Oil Search in the North


Recently, the Northern Economic Summit (NES) announced that the Federal Government provided the sum of $100 million in 2013 for the hydrocarbon exploration in the Lake Chad basin and other Northern hydrocarbon basins. The group, which comprised of all the 19 northern states and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja also said that government had provided a total sum of $140 million for 2011 and 2012 respectively, for the same purpose.

NES also said that in 2011, the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had, through its technical consultants, concluded the search, evaluation and identification of capable Airborne Geophysical Survey companies for hydrocarbon exploration of the inland basin of the country.

We are encouraged by this development. The provision of substantial funds to facilitate the exploration activities for oil and gas in the Chad basin, Benue trough, Bida basin, Sokoto-Rima basin, among others, when completed will give the nation's economy a quantum leap. The would-be oil-producing states will also enjoy the statutory right of 13 percent derivation from the Federation Accounts.

The chieftains of NES should be selfless in this onerous task it has given itself. They would write their names in gold if they achieve this singular goal for the North. We, however, want to sound a note of warning; that their being the front men does not confer on them the right to front companies which they have interests to corner the contracts which they may not be able to execute. They should, rather, insist on tracking the funds and ensuring that the contractors meet the deadlines. We implore NES to raise the alarm whenever they notice lapses in the execution of these projects.

The economy of Northern Nigeria is in dire straits and the result is the current socio-economic upheavals. The exploration of oil from the North will definitely open a flood gate of opportunities to the millions of unemployed in the region. Obviously, it will abridge the inequality between the North and South.

While the oil search project is on-going, the NES is also challenged to keep an eye on the speedy implementation of the Zungeru and the Mambilla hydro power projects. When completed, these two power projects will not only boost the economy of the region, but will serve as a catalyst to the benefits that will accrue from oil.

The challenge before the Northern elite, irrespective of their political leanings, is to avoid the mistakes oil communities of the South made. First, there must be a blueprint of operational manual for the would-be oil companies. Second, compensation modus for the host communities, including employment quota etc, should be well thought out. This is to ensure that the people who are the real owners of the resources are not willfully short-changed by the oil exploring companies.

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