Why an Independent Oil and Gas Exploration Agency Is Overdue

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It is generally agreed that there is evidence of hydrocarbons not only in the Lake Chad Basin but also in other parts of the country other than the oil rich Niger Delta region.

However, for over three decades since the issue came to lime light, nothing has been done by successive governments to actualise the dream of oil explorations outside the Niger Delta. The reasons are not far-fetched.

I think there is lack of commitment and political will on the part of previous governments, which the Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, we hope will address once and for all. I say this because the Chad basin trough is being shared by Cameroon, Niger, Chad and Nigeria. On the Nigerien side, oil has since been discovered and is being sold in commercial quantities. On the Chadian side too they have found oil, so logically I don’t think there’s any reason for us to say we can’t find oil there except there is another reason. I’m not trying to sing praises of this government but where they do well, we should also appreciate them. President Jonathan had asked the Group Managing Director of the NNPC to go to Maiduguri and he went there to see the progress on the oil wells there and briefed the Shehu of Borno and the then governor.

In light of this, I am presently sponsoring a bill that is seeking to establish an independent and autonomous agency that would be solely saddled with the responsibility of discovering and exploring oil and gas deposits in the frontiers of Sokoto-Rima basin covering areas in states of Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara and Kastina, Dahomey Basin covering states of Lagos and Ogun; Chad Basin covering areas in Borno, Yobe and Jigawa states, Benue Trough which covers Taraba, Benue, Bauchi and Nasarawa states and finally the Anambra Basin which covers states of Anambra, Kogi and Enugu.

The argument against oil exploration outside the Niger Delta is hinged on the assumption that there might not by hydrocarbon deposits in commercial quantities in there. However, Professor Cornelius Kogbe, a Paris-based geoscientist has this to say concerning the frontier basins in Nigeria: “we should not neglect basins as if they are not important rather we should investigate to see if there is oil. We need to carry out more research on these basins and with the tool at our disposal I can assure you that petroleum exists around these basins. I have conducted research in the past to confirm this thesis”.

Also, Professor Robert Muhammadinikov, Director of Russian Aerospace device engineering institute said: “preliminary research conducted using complex interpretation date by the method Mukhamedyarov thermal Generalisation Method (MTGM), data of geophysical aerial surveying and a prior data via space survey has indicated the presence of considerable deposits of hydrocarbon (oil and gas) in the basins of Chad, Sokoto and Benue trough”.

As indicated earlier, already Chad is exporting oil and by the end of second quota of this year, total oil export from Chad reached 111 shipments to the international markets, nearly 103 million barrels, while Niger Republic is now producing and refining 20,000 barrels per day.

All new frontiers all over the world are explored through special purpose scheme and always with specialised agency established to mature the basins as examples are Tanzania, Uganda and Botswana. A practice that countries even farther from Africa such as China have adopted as the best solution to oil and gas exploration in new frontiers.

With over 30,000 km of 25 data and 29 wells drilled in the Chad basin, Benue Trough and Anambra platform by the NNPC without any significant positive outcomes, there is need to refocus the exploration activities in Nigeria’s frontier basins.

Government must therefore, provide the right legislative and institutional framework for sustained exploration activity through provision of specific and uninterrupted funding mechanism via establishment of robust institutional framework with adequate technical capacity to ensure fruitful campaigns.

Subsuming the critical role of exploration in the frontier basins within a commercial NNPC or left at the mercy of the proposed National Petroleum Directorate will stipple any potential off commercial oil finding in the frontier areas.

President Jonathan’s government’s strategy to boost the country’s oil and gas reserve via exploration in the new frontiers from its current level of 37 billion barrels of oil and about 187 trillion cubic feet of gas can only be achieved by adopting practices and strategies proven to be most suitable and successful in other countries of the world which is the creation of a robust independent and autonomous body with the sole mandate for that purpose.

Interest in this basin is hinged on the discoveries of commercial hydrocarbon deposits in Chad, Niger and Sudan which have similar geological formations. No wonder, Minister of Science and Technology Professor Ita Iwa, recently said that this government’s drive must “involve extensive search in the entire Nigerian frontier inland sedimentary basins. The previous exploration efforts in these areas had so far yielded no significant results in spite of the fact that those basins showed signs of possible hydrocarbon deposits”. Now there is no louder call for a change of strategy than the minister’s statement.

Where as Chad, Niger and Sudan were successful in commencing exploration and achieving production within a span of less than 10 years, Nigeria’s attempt in these basins have remained a mere dream due to the absence of a robust autonomous agency.

Gujbawu is a member of the House of Representatives, representing Maiduguri Metropolitan Council.

 

In : Technology