The Politics of Oil Deposits

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Abdulfatah Ahmed, Kwara State governor
Abdulfatah Ahmed, Kwara State governor

The urge to be counted as an oil producing state has forced many states to announce unverifiable claims of crude oil deposits within their territories

|  By Ishaya Ibrahim  |  Jan. 21, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

IT HAS almost become a cliché to hear governors of non-oil producing states, making claims of the discovery of crude oil deposits in their domains. Over the years, many state governors have made such claims publicly. But years after such pronouncements, mum is still the word.  For instance, in August 2011, the media was awash with the news that the Kwara State government had discovered crude oil deposits in the state.

Gbenga Daniel, former governor of Ogun State
Gbenga Daniel, former governor of Ogun State

According to the report credited to Muideen Akorede, senior special assistant to the governor on media and communications, the said discovery was in Ara Orin in Irepodun local government area of the state. But late Levi Ajuonuma, the then group general manager, group public affairs of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, was quick to react to such claim. He advised the state government to hold its breadth until the corporation verified the claim since petroleum resources belong to the entire federation.

Seventeen months down the line, there is still no information on the veracity or otherwise of the claim. When Realnews recently asked Prince Olatunji Moronfoye, the State commissioner for information and communications, about the status of the oil find, he said the subject “is a no go area” because only the NNPC and the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, are by law empowered to comment on it.

 But why did the state government make the announcement first without waiting for the relevant government agencies to brief the nation? Sources in Kwara state said the claim was a political gimmick by the government which was then only four months old. One of the sources said the government wanted to make the point that it was proactive and so it detailed its information handlers to release the information without first dotting all the ‘i’s’ and crossing the ‘t’s’.

 Kwara state is not the only state that claimed to have crude oil deposit in its domain without the knowledge of either the DPR or the NNPC.  In Sokoto, Aliyu Wamakko, the governor had commissioned a team of experts to explore the presence of crude oil in the state. The team, according to the governor, had found huge deposits of hydrocarbon. “We have concrete evidence that there are oil deposits in Sokoto, so, the onus is on the federal government to commence its exploitation,” Wamakko said.

But the DPR in the state said the governor has not intimated it on the issue. That notwithstanding,   the governor has insisted that a recent study by some experts in the state has revealed that Sokoto State has huge deposits of hydrocarbon. He then urged the federal government to commence the oil exploration in earnest. Like Wamakko, Gbenga Daniel, former governor of Ogun State, had also made a similar claim of having large deposits of oil and gas in his state in 2008. But since then, there hasn’t been any development on the issue.

Aliyu Wamakko, Soko State governor
Aliyu Wamakko, Soko State governor

Similarly, the Niger State government also announced that it has discovered crude oil within its territory. Babangida Alyu, the state governor, then hurriedly inaugurated a team of experts to liaise with the NNPC, in order to commence the exploration of the crude oil which, he said, was located in Bida Basin  within the state. Since then, the issue has died down.

So far, it is only in Borno state that there appears to be sufficient proof of large deposits of crude oil. In September last year, the NNPC announced the discovery of crude oil in about 3350 square metres in the Lake Chad Basin.  The news excited Vice President Namadi Sambo, who said the federal government had already made budgetary provisions to facilitate the exploration this year.

But the security situation is still an issue there as the state is the hotbed of Boko Haram activities. Andrew Yakubu, group managing director of the NNPC, said the security situation in that part of the country has contributed significantly to the lack of progress in exploration. “We hope that as security improves, greater progress will be registered in the exploration activities”, he said.

Efforts to get the reaction of the DPR and the NNPC on the claims of the states, were not successful. As at press time, Paul Osu, spokesperson of the DPR, did not reply to the mail he asked Realnews to send to him on the issues raised. The NNPC did not reply to a similar mail sent to it.

However, in Ebonyi the State government has begun moves to start the exploitation of the deposits of crude oil and natural gas in the state which it claimed were discovered since 1928 by the colonial government.  Last December, the federal ministry of mines and steel, commenced preliminary investigation to ascertain the veracity or otherwise of the claim.

In August last year, President Goodluck Jonathan announced that Anambra State had joined the league of oil producing states in the country. Even though information on the discovery preceded that date, the state government did not jump the gun by announcing that it has oil. It waited for the federal government to make the announcement, although that has already sparked off controversy.  Kogi State whose oil well is close to that of Anambra, has also asked President Jonathan to join it too among the oil producing states.  Similarly, Enugu State has also laid claims that the oil deposits erroneously credited to Anambra State are, in fact, located within its territory. It also wants to be a member of the league of oil producing states.

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