Chineme Okafor in Abuja
The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, on Wednesday indicated that but for the timely interventions of the government, first through back-channel consultations and then open dialogues with militants who resumed bombing of oil facilities in the Niger Delta in 2015, the country could have been crippled.
Speaking through a podcast he sent out in Abuja, Kachikwu explained that at the height of the oil militancy, Nigeriaâ€™s oil production dropped to about 800,000 barrels per day (bpd), a production volume he said was inadequate to fund the national budget or investments in infrastructure.
He stated that bombing of oil facilities in the region went on for a stretch of 10 months within which the integrity of the facilities were compromised.
According to him, the government realised that if it failed to act fast, the militants would cripple the oil industry and Nigeriaâ€™s economy which is still heavily reliant on revenues from oil produced in the region.
â€œHis Excellency, the President was kind enough to appoint me to hold the twin positions of both the GMD of NNPC and the Minister of State for Petroleum. Niger Delta was a burning issue at the time, there was key unrest in the Niger Delta.
â€œA huge amount of militancy activities going on, there were reductions in production volumes, a consistent loss that led to almost crippling of the oil industry,â€ said Kachikwu.
He noted: â€œAt the lowest point, we were down to 800,000 barrels. All the infrastructure that we had were compromised. The integrity of the infrastructure, vandalism and militancy compelled the integrity of the infrastructure to disappear.
â€œThis sustained attack continued to for over a 10-month period. Forcados was breached in February 2016. In May 2016, the Nembe Creek Trunkline was attacked. In November 2016, series and series of attacks.
â€œThe cheer amount of problems we inherited in the Niger Delta meant that literarily if nothing was done, the country was getting crippled. No money for investments, no money for infrastructures or to run the budget.â€
The minister also explained that when he assumed office, he realised there was no coordinated effort to develop the region and that potential investors shied away from putting their monies there.
â€œEverybody basically watched out for when the next alarm bell was going to be. We moved in rapidly and dealt with three main fundamentals,â€ he added.
According to him, the government took up the environmental and security issues in the region, within which it engaged key stakeholders and created the Pan Niger Delta Development Forum (PANDEF) to amplify its efforts.
He also noted that the cleanup of Ogoniland was the next issue it took up, as well as initiating a gas flare commercialisation framework to ensure that the immoral practice of gas flare was tackled.
Modular refineries, he stated, have also been initiated to help the regionâ€™s communities get involved in productive activities.
â€œModular refineries concept was initiated. 10 had been approved, two are on ground constructing and could be ready in the next one year. Eight more are ready for financing,â€ the minister stated.
He said capacity development for communities in the region had also been taken up by the government, but warned that more needs to be done to sustain peace in the region.
â€œA lot of works need to be done. Sustained engagements, active exploration of opportunities to ensure that communities get benefits. Ogoni clean-up must continue and funds budgeted must be released on time to enable the clean-up move from the drawing board to the field,â€ Kachikwu, said.
He also noted that communities would be involved in the protection and policing of oil pipelines in the region.
According to him, the work done so far to keep the region stable would be sustained if the government remained focused, oil companies focus on their key social responsibilities in the areas, government agencies keep up with their intervention responsibilities and communities realise that destruction of oil platforms would always lead to confusion and mayhem.