This Day (Lagos)

10 February 2014

Nigeria: Hope Dims for Nigeria, Cameroun Cross Border Oil Wells Exploration

Photo: David Hecht/IRIN
Houses along the coast of Bakassi.

Hopes that Nigeria and Cameroon would jointly exploit hydrocarbons deposits found in their common borders may have been dashed as the two countries are yet to implement an agreement to that effect, entered three years ago at a meeting of a joint commission set up by the United Nations.

Nigeria and Cameroun, in March 2011, agreed to jointly exploit oil and other cross-border reserves for their mutual benefits. The joint exploitation agreement was reached at a meeting of a joint commission of the two countries, set up by the United Nations to implement the 2002 ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that the Bakassi region belonged to Cameroun.

Under the agreement, exploration of the cross border oil wells had been planned to start in 2011 and Canadian exploration company, Addax Petroleum, which has investments in Nigeria's and Cameroon's oil and gas sectors, was named as a possible candidate for the joint exploration of the oil wells.

Authorities of both countries reasoned that exploration would be faster, cheaper and easier when one company carries out the operations on behalf of the two countries. But indications have emerged that Cameroon, might have shelved the joint exploitation agreement and instead has opened discussions with several drilling companies to begin prospecting for oil in the Bakassi peninsula and Bolongo zone, which are viewed as fertile area.

However, an oil industry source, told THISDAY during the weekend that there is glimmer of hope for the proposed joint venture, though talks have not progressed since the agreement in 2011. He noted that Nigeria might be interested in harnessing hydrocarbon resources in the areas ceded it, as the country was to discover that its area contained more economic resources than the portions ceded to Cameroun. Bakassi, an area of about 1,000 square kilometers, rich hydrocarbon resources was the subject of a dispute for 15 years between Nigeria and Cameroon. Nigeria ceded the Bakassi peninsula to Cameroon, in line with the court decision.

Former Attorney-General of the Federal and Chief Nigerian negotiator Prince Bola Ajibola had in 2011, confirmed that exploration of the oil wells would start that year.

"This time around, there's been cooperation and good understanding between our two countries to come together and jointly exploit the hydrocarbons deposits that we've on our common borders, he said back then, adding that "The exploited hydrocarbons will be for the mutual benefits of both of countries (Cameroon and Nigeria). We think exploration will be faster, cheaper and easier when both of us have one company to do the operations." He also disclosed that oil fields on the portion of the territory ceded to Nigeria were worth $300billion as at then.

The former AGF had also noted Nigeria's gain in the peninsula could transform the economic fortunes of the country if properly harnessed.

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Houses along the coast of Bakassi.

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