Niger Joins Quest for Hydrocarbon Exploration

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Laleye Dipo writes that the Niger State governments wants the federal government to commence exploration of crude oil in the Bida Basin

Not too long ago the Niger State government made a request to the federal government for the commencement of exploration for crude oil in the Bida Basin. The state government through the Commissioner for Information Mr. Jonathan Tsado Vatsa, argued that since President Muhammadu Buhari administration has decided to begin the search for oil in the Chad Basin, it is only fair that the exercise for Bida Basin should be placed on the front burner by the federal government. It is like a case of what is good for the goose is also good for the gander.

What Vatsa did not say, however, is that the search for crude oil in the Chad Basin had taken a long time and consumed a lot of human and financial resources without the promised land being reached whereas the exercise if commenced in the Bida Basin will require less stress and financial input because of the efforts already put into the project by the Niger State government.

Suffice it to say that the Bida Basin is a NW-SE trending intracratonic structure in North-central Nigeria extending from slightly South of Kontagora in the Niger North senatorial district to slightly beyond Lokoja in Kogi State. The basin is generally divided into two portions: the Northern Bida Basin and the Southern Bida Basin. The Northern Bida Basin comprise what is described as ‘the Bida sand stone’ while the Southern Bida Basin is made up of Lokoja sand stone.

The Niger State government a few years back established a Gubernatorial Technical Committee headed by Professor Adamu Kolo then Vice Chancellor of the Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, Lapai, to carry out feasibility survey into the presence of crude oil in the Bida Basin. The research team put together for the project was headed by Professor Nuhu Obaje also of the IBB University, Lapai.

Government interest in the project was further ignited by the viability of the Bida Basin and the opinion held that the dredging of the Baro Port will further enhance the exploration of oil in the Basin.

The job was swiftly done because of the interest shown in the project by the state government which was determined to break into the league of oil producing states in the country and by so doing create employment opportunities for its teeming youths not forgetting the huge income that would accrue to the state if a positive report was received from the research.

According to the summary of Technical Report on the Bida Basin Hydrocarbon Exploration, it was discovered that the Basin has been highly de-risked meaning that lots of data have been generated and gathered, while geological mappings had been undertaken on the basis of which deep areas with thick sediments piles and hence most prospective defined while shallow wells were drilled for collection of samples for source rock analysis.

As a result of the geochemical analysis carried out and the source rocks made up the Kudu shales was identified. Also geophysical aeromagnetic surveying was carried out on the basis of which the prospective areas were confirmed and expanded.

Interestingly, about a year after the Technical Committee headed by Professor Adamu Kolo and the Gubernatorial Committee chaired by Lieutenant General Muhammad Inuwa Wushishi, were inaugurated by the government these panels turned in their reports which confirmed the presence of oil and gas in the Bida Basin.

The committees said in their reports that exploratory test wells were sunk in Patti –Shaba –Kolo code named Talba-1 well and recommended that government should set out to sink two other wells to confirm the presence in commercial quantity of oil and gas in the basin.

The Gubernatorial Committee specifically asked the Niger State government “to set the pace in the exploration of oil and gas in the northern part of the country before the federal government comes in.”

The committee went ahead to establish two companies Midland Refinery and Petro Chemical Company and Midland Petrogas Resources Limited, to serve as special purpose vehicles for upstream and downstream activities for the states oil and gas resources development drive. The committee also suggested that the Niger State government should carry out feasibility studies into the possibility of the state establishing a petro chemical refinery plant at Baro.

The Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) were then brought in since the issue of crude oil and other related matters are on the exclusive legislative list. Then Minister Daziani Allison Maduake directed the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) to meet with officials of the Niger State government and in particular the Gubernatorial and Technical Committees on how the federal government would take over the prospecting for crude oil and gas in the Bida Basin following a clean bill of health that officials of the ministry gave the findings of the committees.

Former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was also said to had shown interest in the project when briefed by the then Niger State government and subsequently directed the Ministry of Petroleum Resources to take action on the matter.

However, until the mandate of the last administration expired and a new administration was installed for the country the directive of the then minister was not carried out.

While waiting for the federal government to show its interest in the project to which the Niger State government had committed several millions of naira the state also began plans to relocate the people in all the areas where activities for the exploration of oil and gas would take place within the Bida Basin while also searching for local and foreign investors to come into the project in order to reduce the financial stress the government would go through.

Government efforts paid off when a Chinese consortium, Shengkang Oil and Gas company engaged by the government also confirmed the presence in commercial quantity of crude oil in the Bida Basin. The firm also signaled intention to bring in state-of-the-art equipment to commence real exploration of oil and gas in the Bida Basin but the agreement did not come to fruition until the then government left office. Four other Chinese firms also showed interest in the project with one ready to invest close to $200 billion but a crisis that occurred in the country in 2013 stooped the memorandum of understanding from being signed.

The seriousness the state attached to the project was seen in its ability to ensure the formation of the Association of Petroleum Inland Basin States of Northern Nigeria APIBON a body made up of all the 19 Northern state governors to champion and kick start as well as sustain oil and gas exploration in the northern part of the country.

The forum at one of its meetings expressed support for the efforts of the Niger State government and urged the federal government to immediately take up the remaining part of the project in the Bida Basin and also refund all the money that the Niger State government had spent on the feasibility studies.

It is for these and other reasons that the Niger State government made the plea to President Muhammadu Buhari believing that investment in the project would be a safety valve for the country which is now in dire need of other means of income as a result of the activities of militants in the Niger Delta region of the country where all the oil resources of the country are domiciled.

Vatsa believes that Niger State being the most peaceful in the country especially with the state donating its land to the federal government for the establishment of the Federal Capital Abuja without raising any eyebrow and the construction of three hydro electric dams in the state without compensation yet the people had not raised a finger against the government or workers in the companies investing in the state will never be counterproductive.

Also virtually all the traditional rulers in the state especially those in the affected areas have thrown their weight behind the exploration for oil and gas in the Bida Basin.