The discovery of hydrocarbon deposit (crude oil) in the Kolmani River 11 well on the upper Benue, through Gongola basin, in the northern east is a cheering news and welcome development. The discovery would not have become possible without the support of President Muhammadu Buhari and the strong commitment of the erstwhile group managing director of NNPC, Maikanti Baru. Now, northern Nigeria has joined the league of oil producing region. The discovery of crude oil in the region would provide or create job opportunities, revenue generation and above all attract investments. If the exploration begins and oil starts flowing, the once booming agricultural region will start enjoying petro-dollars. Like the Niger Delta region and other oil producing states, these luckier northern states will get the 13% derivation revenue. Besides, the oil companies, through their social corporate responsibilities will intervene in some areas such as education, health and economic empowerment. Added to this is the possibility of having Ministry of North East Development similar to the Ministry of Niger Delta. Although recently the government has created North East Development Commission to accelerate and foster economic development of the region.
Historically, north east is being considered as economically disadvantaged region with a high rate of poverty and unemployment. In the last one decade, the region has been experiencing Boko Haram insurgency, communal violence, kidnapping and violent attacks by suspected herdsmen. Looking at the menace of militancy in most of the oil producing states, with its attendant negative consequences, one expresses fears that the region’s insecurity may increase with the discovery of crude oil. The youths which rely on agriculture to eke out a living may abandon their farms and age-long farming practise to embrace the lucrative oil sector.
It is on record the north east contributes nearly about 40 per cent of the food we consume in the country. With the discovery of oil, it may likely affect farming activities and food production. Another fear being expressed in various quarters is the environmental hazard associated with oil exploration. For instance, in Niger Delta, environmental pollution and gas flaring have become major challenges in the last five decades. This eco-system problem has continued to affect the means of their livelihood such as farming and fishing. It has also affected their healthy living. Indeed, the oil drilling or exploration will create these environment challenges to the newly host oil producing communities.
Whatever may be the challenges of oil exploration in the region, the federal government and other stakeholders should take a cue and learn a lesson from Niger Delta experience. For the North, being an oil producing region offers it greater advantages to address the problems of poverty, un-employment and infrastructural development.
Ibrahim Mustapha, Pambegua, Kaduna State