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How insecurity is hampering oil exploration in Niger

The delay in oil exploration activities in the Bida Basin of Niger State has continued to generate concerns among citizens of the state, Daily Trust…

The delay in oil exploration activities in the Bida Basin of Niger State has continued to generate concerns among citizens of the state, Daily Trust on Sunday reports.

The House of Representatives recently asked the federal government to fast-track geophysical survey and seismic data acquisition to ascertain the availability of hydrocarbons in the Bida Basin.

The house, while adopting a motion sponsored by Saidu Musa Abdul, the Member Representing Bida, Gbako and Katcha, urged the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) and the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited to conclude the geophysical survey begun by the defunct Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) to ascertain the availability of hydrocarbon in the area.

The Niger State Governor, Abubakar Sani Bello, also made a similar appeal at the seventh National Council on Hydrocarbons which was held in Minna recently.

The governor said there was presence of commercially viable hydrocarbons in the basin as proved by preliminary surveys carried out both by the state and federal governmentsHe said, “In an effort to explore and harness the hydrocarbon opportunities in the Bida Basin, Niger State Government under our leadership has engaged Whitepages International Company Limited as a consultant, in collaboration with the Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, Lapai; and the Federal University of Technology, Minna, and the results have been impressive.”

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Bello explained that in an interaction with the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources through the defunct DPR towards an accelerated development of the Bida Basin hydrocarbon deposits, the 3-D Seismic Geophysics Survey System by the Frontier Exploration Service (FES), in collaboration with the Integrated Data Service Limited (IDSL), had been completed.

He, therefore, appealed to the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources and its relevant agencies to expedite action for the continuation of the next stage of the exploration.

The project’s Technical Coordinator and NNPC Chair for Oil Exploration in Bida Basin, Professor Nuhu George Obaje, of the Department of Geology, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, Lapai, Niger State told Daily Trust on Sunday that all the preliminary surveys had been completed with high prospect of oil presence, but cited the worsening security challenge in the state as the major cause of delay to begin drilling.

He said, “While the current government had given the NNPC the mandate, they were supposed to have finished drilling all the basins. The government has been moving well but we didn’t move fast enough because of constraints such as insecurity that slowed down the exploration. Even researchers from universities sometime were afraid of entering the bush because of worsening security problems that came with incessant attacks and abductions. Otherwise, by the Federal Government’s mandate, we were supposed to finish all the drilling before the end of this administration. And also, NNPC could not send its contactors to the bush. So, insecurity slowed down the drilling.

“This oil and gas exploration by the Buhari administration is commendable and if we move fast enough, before May 2023, we should drill in the Bida Basin and we should be able to make success and progress in the Bida Basin. There is need to move fast enough to ensure that Bida Basin begins production and declares Niger State an oil producing state. Enough funds were made available by Maikanti Kacalla Baru to see to full exploration of oil and gas in Bida Basin but the major challenge was insecurity.”

Professor Obaje further said that while all surveys had been concluded, the next thing was to find a drillable location, noting that, “Before you drill, you have to do some environmental impact assessment, and the next line of action is for the NNPC or any investor to go and drill. And all the studies that have been done by the IBB University, FUT and NNPC would be put together to see the point to drill. There could be oil in the basin, but you have to drill at the correct point to be able to hit the accumulation.

So, we are looking for a trap; which is an accumulation point; a trap could be about three kilometres down and that is what the sizing is trying to see.”

He added that he was hopeful that in the next few months the drilling would start, especially that the security situation in the state was improving.

Professor Obaje explained that the first drilling would be done by the NNPC to woo other companies to the basin, explaining that, “By the time we try the oil, many companies would start coming because if they find oil in Gbako LGA people will know that there is enough oil in the Bida Basin and other companies would come, but the first oil has to be drilled by the government; which will be done by the NNPC.

He added that, “The problem with inland basins is that frontier basins are high risk basins and most companies are not eager to go there. Even the big companies that are far in the oil business in Nigeria have refused to come. So, what the government is doing is that we would build the confidence of investors or companies. We will use government money to look for this oil. If we find the oil, the companies will begin to come, because at that time the risk is low. It is the same thing they did in Gombe and Bauchi. So, NNPC is the one looking at this basin through a department called Frontier Exploration Services. They are the ones looking at all the frontier or inland basins that are of high risk. So, NNPC was the one that did the one in Gombe/Bauchi and is the one that is also doing the one in Bida Basin. “

The Emir of Agaie, Alhaji Yusuf Nuhu, told Daily Trust on Sunday that the traditional institution and local government councils had already started sensitising communities in addressing the fear of insecurity expressed by contractors and surveyors.

He said, “The NNPC which went round confirmed to us that oil is very much available, just like that of Kolmani and Nasarawa State. Now that the federal government has started drilling that of Bauchi and Gombe states, we plead that the federal government should also hasten to come to the Bida Basin. I think it will go a long way to boost economic activities and bring growth to the country.

“So, we are urging the federal government to as a matter of urgency start drilling oil in the Bida Basin.

“We have already made it known to our people. Our people have already been informed to make sure they report anything strange, anything that they are not familiar with to the district heads so that the emirate council will know, the local government and state will also know and quickly they will come to take care of the situation. And of course, hunters are there and the vigilantes and we are going to organise them in such a way that they are going to protect whatever facility that is going to be put in place.”

The emir also urged the federal government to complete the dredging of the Baro Port as it prepared to drill oil in the Bida Basin.

Also speaking, the Chairman of Agaie LGA, Ibrahim Halil Sayuti, said the immediate exploration of oil and gas in the Bida Basin would boost the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of all LGAs in the state and the nation as a whole.

He said the drilling would also make Baro a more strategic place in moving products across the country, noting that, “Baro is one of the best tourist sites in Northern Nigeria. So, drilling this oil and having Baro as a well will create millions of jobs.”

Sayuti further said that the necessary measures were already in place to curtail the security situation in the area, noting that things were improving.

The Bida Basin covers over 150 kilometres long and 50 kilometres wide across the 10 LGAs of Bida, Gbako, Agaie, Lapai, Lavun, Mokwa, Edati, Katcha, Mashegu and Kontagora in Niger State; and four LGAs in Kogi and two LGAs in Kwara States and Abaji Area Council of the FCT, with Niger State owning about 80 per cent of the basin with its centre around Bida. 

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