18 November 2017

Nigeria: Tasks Before Oil Exploration in Bida, Sokoto Basins

Minna — The Niger State-owned Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University (IBBU) in Lapai recently assembled intellectuals from the academia and oil sector in Minna to brainstorm on the new interest by the federal government to explore hydrocarbon prospects in Bida and Sokoto basins.

The event was a culmination of plans by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to reinvigorate exploratory activities in the seven hydrocarbon basins including Sokoto and Bida to shore up the nation's reserve base.

Having been in the forefront of hydrocarbon research in Bida and Sokoto basins, IBBU became a natural partner in the new initiative. The Project's Technical Coordinator, Nuhu George Obaje, a professor of Geology and currently Director of the Centre for Applied Sciences & Technology Research (CASTER), told participants that the team would soon move over to Sokoto to interface with the Usmanu Danfodio University preparatory to another round of exploration activities in both basins.

The choice of IBBU as partner in the new endeavour was as a result of the outcome of its intensive research in the basins from which results were submitted to the presidency, the NNPC, DPR and the Niger State government.

Speaking on behalf of the chairman of Council of the university, Dr. Muhammad Santuraki, the Vice Chancellor of IBB University, Prof. Muhammad Nasir Maiturare, described the institution as a modern, outward-looking one committed to engaging with major issues of our time.

"At IBBUL, our research strategy commits us to addressing national development challenges that when resolved will promote economic growth and the wellbeing of the citizenry," he said.

He said the university had made national and international impacts on research outputs in oil and gas, mineral resource development, renewable energy, food security and biotechnology development as well as in many areas of sustainable physical environment.

The Bida Basin Hydrocarbon Exploration Research started at IBBU sometime in 2010 with a research proposal on the subject matter submitted to the governor of Niger State. The governor, having approved the proposal, also set up the Gubernatorial Committee on Bida Basin Development (GCBBD).

IBBU was to carry out the project entirely as a research activity but to interface with the government through the gubernatorial committee. In that relationship, IBBU served as the technical consultant to the committee and reported at regular intervals on progress made in the research activity.

The report of the research which was titled, "Preliminary Hydrocarbon Prospectivity Evaluation of the Bida Basin", was presented to the committee and subsequently to the government of Niger State in May 2013. The report was further forwarded to the president and presentations were made to the DPR and the NNPC/NAPIMS (presently FES) by IBBU accompanied by selected committee members.

On the basis of this report, the Energy Commission of Nigeria (ECN) entered into an MOU with the IBBU and the government of Niger State for further detailed investigation of the basin. The MOU, however, up until now has not been consummated due to budgetary constraints at the ECN.

On the basis of the aforementioned and deriving particularly from the letter sent to the president by the present governor of Niger State, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello and the publications of the research results and their interpretations in high impact journals, the NNPC/FES (Frontier Exploration Services Directorate) invited IBBU to its corporate headquarters in Abuja in March 2017 for a discussion on partnership for a detailed exploration of the Bida and Sokoto basins.

The vice chancellor reiterated the commitment of the university to the research project aimed at expanding the national hydrocarbon reserve base through possible additional bookings in the inland frontier basins.

He reiterated further that the university had demonstrated competencies in handling such project. He however averred that to achieve the overall objective, the university would need the collaboration of scholars of goodwill and that for this reason resource persons were selectively invited to brainstorm on the presentations at the workshop.

The vice chancellor said the university was also working collaboratively with geologists from the Federal University of Technology Minna and the Usmanu Danfodio University Sokoto. He said he had been briefing Governor Abubakar Sani Bello continuously on the partnership with the FES and the agreed deliverables and that the governor who is also a visitor to the Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, is deeply committed to the project. By his assurance, the government of Niger State will provide the enabling environment for a successful consummation of the partnership with the NNPC/FES.

The Project Technical Coordinator and Director of the University Research Centre, Prof. Nuhu George Obaje, said the nation must diversify her economy but cannot wish oil and gas away.

Prof. Obaje said countries and companies that succeed in the oil and gas industry recording huge discoveries are backed by applied and innovative research including the deployment of universities with demonstrable competencies.

He averred that it took 48 years for the first drop of commercial oil to be found in the Niger Delta starting from 1908 when the Nigerian Bitumen Company ventured into that business. According to him, it is therefore not out of place to continue to search for more oil and gas in the other basins outside the Niger Delta for just over the past few years.

"This should not be a North and South matter but a national interest", he said, adding, "The NNPC as presently constituted represents a great change in the forward direction". Prof. Obaje said further that this is the first time Nigerian intellectuals are being challenged to find oil for Nigeria in partnership with our rebranded national oil company.

He said for the past 25 years Nigeria had been playing politics with her own inland basins development while Sudan, Chad, Niger, Uganda, Kenya, Mauritania, Tanzania and virtually every African country is already producing from inland (intra-cratonic) basins in their geological terrains.

He said to find oil and gas anywhere, geologists must work on each of the petroleum system elements and make deductions at the end whether there are potentials or not and whether the potentials are marginal or commercial and where.

He added that during the workshop, there was no place for idle talks such as "There is oil", "There is no oil".

"We are scientists and we must be guided by scientific principles. This workshop is essentially a brainstorming session aimed at bringing ideas together for collaboration and achieving success," said Prof. Obaje who noted that the project would soon be officially flagged off by the NNPC.

The two-day workshop with the title; "Bida and Sokoto Basins Hydrocarbon Exploration Research" featured an array of resource persons including Prof. Muhammad Bello Abubakar, Director of the National Petroleum Research Centre at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University Bauchi, Mr. Muyiwa Olawoki formerly a geological executive with ExxonMobil and presently MD/CEO Geospectra Limited based in Lagos, Prof. Alexander Lar who currently occupies the PTDF chair in Geology at the University of Jos, Prof. Joseph Omada from the Kogi State University Anyigba and Prof. Abdullahi Bala from the Federal University of Technology, Lokoja.

Others were; Prof. Rafiu Bale from the University of Ilorin, Dr. Abdullahi Idris-Nda and Dr. Aliyu Isa Goro both from the Federal University of Technology Minna, Dr. Nathaniel Goki and Dr. Ishaq Tanko both from Nasarawa State University Keffi, among others.

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