The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation has received an express order from President Muhammadu Buhari to explore for oil in the North.This is the third time in two weeks Buhari is giving that order
This time, the President directed the national oil firm to commence exploration activities in the Benue Trough. The Benue Trough is a major geological formation underlying a large part of Nigeria, extending about 1,000km North-East from the Bight of Benin to Lake Chad.
The Group Managing Director, NNPC, Dr. Maikanti Baru, disclosed the President’s directive on the oil expolration in the North while receiving a delegation from the Benue State Government at the corporation’s headquarters in Abuja.
About three weeks ago, the President had directed the corporation to speed up its prospect for oil in the region, specifically in the Chad Basin and Kolmani River, following the reported discovery of hydrocarbons by Shell in the area.
The 19 northern state governors are also fired up about the prospect of oil production in their domain as they have hired a British firm through the Northern Nigeria Development Company, which they jointly own, to carry out the exploration activities.
But energy analysts and several socio-cultural and other interest groups on Tuesday expressed divergent views on the pressure by the President on the NNPC as regards oil exploration in the North.
The NNPC GMD, in a statement from the corporation on Tuesday, said the new directive was in line with the current efforts to guarantee energy security of the country.
Baru said, “Very close home, we have exploration activities on the Frontier Basin, that is in the Chad; and there are some areas close to the Kolmani River where Shell has made indicative discovery of hydrocarbons and Mr. President has directed me to go into that area to further explore the magnitude and prospects of those finds.
“We are taking steps to get into those regions. We will reinvigorate the frontier exploration and see how they collaborate with the Northern Nigeria Development Company that is holding Block 809 where some of the finds have been found. We will also do the same at the Department of Petroleum Resources for the other blocks that have not been assigned, and work towards proving the prospects of that region.”
But the Ijaw Youth Council and Urhobo Monitoring and Development Group while reacting to the presidential directive said it was a good initiative but came at a wrong time.
The IYC, an umbrella body for the Ijaw youths worldwide, said that the timing for the directive was wrong because of the prevailing situation in the oil industry at the international market, which made such a venture economically unwise.
A statement signed by the spokesman for the group, Eric Omare, said one would have expected that President Buhari-led government should focus on diversifying the nation’s ailing economy, especially areas where the different regions had comparative advantage over the other.
“Ordinary, the IYC would be excited by not just a Presidential directive to explore for oil in any part of the North but discovery of oil in the North. This is so because we strongly believe that the struggle of the people of the Niger Delta region for equitable distribution of oil money would become a reality once oil is found in the North as well.”