Northern Oil: Chasing a Wild Goose

President Muhammadu Buhari, Minister of Petroleum

By Oji Odu

With over three billion US dollars already spent on the endless search for oil in the Northern parts of the country, the number of people asking for this now clear futile effort to stop has continued to increase, as the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and some stakeholders remain positive that it will find oil in the region.
What will the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration gain by wasting the scarce resources at this biting economic times? With the region harboring thousands of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), and the scare infrastructure destroyed by the Boko Haram insurgents, is this the right time to be persistent in this infutility? Or is this a hidden agenda by the zone to strongly lay claim to the oil wealth of the country which they had enjoyed for decades? These are the questions begging for answers.
While those in favour of the search are encouraged by the success of oil finds in neighbouring countries like Niger, Chad and others, and other underlying reasons that are far beyond the quest, in disregard of the huge economic waste it is incurring, geologists who are mindful of the soil composition of hydrocarbon reserves, think it is a futile venture.
They opine that nature has blessed each region of Nigeria with peculiar resources. While the south is enriched with hydrocarbons, the north is blessed with solid minerals, thus, solid minerals and hydrocarbons cannot coexist.
The Magazine’s findings reveal grave concern by Nigerians on the futility of the persistent push by some northern leaders, including President Muhammadu Buhari and the Northern Governors on the exploration of oil in the North, 40 years after the quest began. The quest which is devoid of being economically beneficial to the country points to alleged underlying political reasons which are capable of ending up enriching a few, while the region’s sufferings deepen.
Already, some northern governors recently visited the NNPC on the issue. The President, Governors Ibrahim Gaidam of Yobe; Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto and Abubakar Badaru of Jigawa states were recently in separate closed-door meetings to discuss oil exploration in the region.
Reacting to the visits, Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), and Head of Transparency International Nigeria, Auwal Musa, described the move as unnecessary and not in the best interest of the country.
“We should not bring regional politics to everything that can benefit the entire country. The project has not been seen as a national effort to diversify revenue. If it is seen as something meant for national interest, I don’t think there is the need for the Sokoto State governor or anyone to lobby. There are signals that it is going to favour one particular region,” he said.
In a similar vein, during a visit of members of the Kaduna State Students Union to his office in Kaduna, Senator Shehu Sani noted that, “past leaders have amassed wealth through this venture.” He rather called on President Buhari to investigate the over three billion US dollars already spent on the project. This raises the issue over lack of transparency and accountability in the NNPC, as only Prof. Jerry Gana, in 2013, while serving as chairman of the Northern Nigeria Economic Summit, disclosed that N27billion was spent on oil and gas exploration in the Lake Chad Basin at that time with additional $340million budgeted.
The Buhari-led administration’ directive had compelled the NNPC to aggressively pursue oil search in the frontier basins according to its Group Managing Director, Maikanti Baru. Regardless of the overwhelming negative facts against the move and criticisms, Baru said the corporation would not give up on the mandate given to it by President Buhari to aggressively explore the inland basins, including Anambra, Bida, Benue, Chad, Gongola, and Sokoto.
Baru said this, according to him, based on preliminary results from the exploration in the inland basins so far, especially the Benue Trough, which showed a strong indication that commercial quantity oil and gas find would soon be a reality.
Pathetically, this came amid a backlog of over $6billion Joint Venture cash call arrears, lack of support from the International Oil Companies (IOCs), global shift from fossil fuel to renewable energy, loss of interest in encouraging production of already discovered reserves and poor economic condition of the country.
The Magazine’s findings also show that Nigeria does not have the capacity to carry out complex operations in the trough, neither does it have the resources to engage qualified professionals, reason that have kept International Oil Companies (IOCs) away from drilling in the North.
Kenneth Ejim, an energy expert while reacting to the issue in a chat with the Magazine said: “ I don’t know why President Buhari and the North are further putting the country in deeper economic mess by this wild goose chase.
“How can we at this time be struggling to get a share of an unproven reserve of 2.3 billion barrels of oil reserves and about 14.65 trillion standard cubic feet of natural gas (scfg) available for four or more countries in the Chad Basin, while the nation is blessed with about 37 billion barrels of proven oil reserves and about 187 trillion scfg in Southern Nigeria?,” he asked, regretting that the NNPC has already spent over N130 billion on this questionable effort.
Meanwhile, despite the odds against continued oil exploration in the North as shale producers upset the global oil market order with speed to market advantages and outstanding production volumes expected to peak at 13 million barrels per day by 2030, the NNPC has expanded the oil search in the North to Sokoto, Nassarawa states after recording no successes in Borno and blaming the insurgent Boko Haram. Even if Nigeria were to become so prolific and can produce three million barrels, will it remove the directive by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) that caps members’ supply due to oil glut in the market?
“The market is already oversupplied and Nigeria has to look into other options beyond just sale of crude oil. This is time to start looking inwards, especially in refining, as this trend will continue,” Chuks Nwani, an energy lawyer stated.

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