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TALABI KOLAWOLE- Don’t Prospect for Oil in the Northeast. Search for Peace Instead



 

The Nigerian government led by President Muhammadu Buhari allocated a whopping sum of 39.4billion naira (almost $200 million) for oil exploration in the Lake Chad basin in the proposed 2016 budget.While presenting the budget before the National Assembly last December, the president assured Nigerians that the 2016 budget is unlike any other before it.


“This budget represents a major step in delivering a new opportunity for Nigeria, President Buhari said. “It demonstrates our confident optimism that despite challenging times, we have the will, resourcefulness and commitment to deliver prosperity to our people.”


At a time when the price of crude oil tethers ominously below the $30 per barrel mark in the global market, striking the black gold in a conflict-ridden region is hardly a sustainable way to deliver ‘a new opportunity for Nigeria.’ Although the proposed budget is currently being reviewed after the uncovering of unlawful padding of expenditures by civil servants, the fact the almost $200 million was initially earmarked to prospect for crude oil within the Lake Chad basin reveals the unpreparedness of the Nigerian government for transitioning the country into a post-fossil society.


The recent shuttle by the Nigerian leader between the capitals of major OPEC member states in the Middle East to boost the price of crude oil betrays the government’s lip service to diversifying our country’s ailing economy. In the last six months, the President Buhari has made repeated attempts to convince Iran, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar to reduce oil production with the end goal of boosting prices. His effort so far is yet to yield positive results. 


What is more, the Lake Chad basin is right in the middle of an ongoing insurgency by the Islamic terrorist group, Boko Haram. The northeast quadrant of the country where the oil exploration is expected to take place has seen over 2 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) since the height of the conflict in 2014. In a region renowned for being the least developed of all the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria, finding oil is unlikely to transform the livelihoods of peoplemore or less the Northeast will be affected in the same manner which the resource-rich Niger Delta had been neglected by successive governments for half acentury since the discovery of oil in commercial quantities in Oloibiri, a small village located in present-day Bayelsa State.


Furthermore, the Lake Chad basin is an important ecological zone, the site of one of Nigeria’s seven national parks. The Chingurmi-Duguma sector of the Lake Chad National Park (LCNP) contains floodplain wetlands, a habitat that attracts water birds and other Sahelian wildlife. The planned exploration and possible discovery of oil in such an ecologically significant area might result in a dangerous game-changer in terms of loss of biodiversity especially native species. The oil pollution in the Niger Delta is by far the largest environment damage to a river system in Africa and it is a constant reminder of government’s lack of political will in fostering a sustainable energy production in Africa’s largest economy.


Although the insurgency has created an atmosphere of uncertainty in the Lake Chad basin, renewable energy offers a route to reconstruction and the eventual resettlement of the IDPs of Nigeria’s northeast region. As a natural floodplain, the Lake Chad basin can be transformed into a commercial fishing zone with processing capacity for local consumption as well as foreign export. To achieve this, the government should deploy the $200 million originally intended for oil prospecting to build wind farms that will supply the both artisanal and commercial fishing entities with clean energy for their operations. The excess supply can be deployed for rural electrification. The spin-off of such investment will boost the quality of life in the area which in turn will discourage jobless youths from turning to terrorism. 


If the $200 million is used to install wind turbines at $50,000 per unit, over 4,000 houses and cottage industries will benefit from improved power supply. The direct jobs that will be created could number as high as 100, 000. And this is a more willing, resourceful and committed way of delivering prosperity to people.


 

 

Author

Kolawole Talabi is an award-winning Nigerian Writer. He has worked as a Journalist for the last three years. He is a passionate supporter of local culture to which he takes a purpose-driven approach. He tweets via @Kolawole_Talabi




 

Comments

  1. If i'm to divide Nigeria into different strata, you will discover that 90% of people in power belong to the lowest. very daft.

    In the absence of the oil revenue, they seem to be confused on how to run the nation. With all due respect to Buhari's supporters (I was one)he seems to be confused on all fronts. I had a similar conversation with a colleague and I mentioned that our budget does not show a nation in dire need to diversify it's economy. It's not rocket science people. An average WAEC holder can stir this nation in the right direction just by surrounding himself with the right people to implement very basic steps in turning our economy around.

    Someone was trying to convince me on the need for Mr Presidents tourism with the major reason being to attract foreign investment. How can he succeed when we lack the most basic thing to drive any business which is power. Do you know how easy it will be to convince these guys if you can attest that power is available all day everyday. That Nigeria is a manufacturers haven cos we manufacture little or nothing? We don't even need a genius to figure that out....then I read the above post and wonder, which way Nigeria. J

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I share your sentiments on President's Buhari's waka waka. I have come to conclude that he travels frequently because he is fed up with Nigeria's challenges. In recent years, the world has turned to Africa to push the frontiers of the world's growth and development. If Africa had to be narrowed down to a single country, it'd be Nigeria. What I am getting at is that every nation, global business or foreign policy of any nation takes Nigeria into account. His trips are an unneeded distraction in this dire times. If President Buhari could focus on strengthening the judicial system, focusing on the dilapidated physical infrastructure, education, healthcare and relevant amenities of a society, Nigeria would thrive. He should also put a finality to this partisan and almost senseless phony fight on corruption. Development of any nation is efficiently carried out by the private sector but the private sector would only come if the public sector/government rises up to its basic responsibilities.

      To the article at hand, Well said! The North-East is too fragile to start prospecting for oil there. Besides the geological features of that region don't make it a viable prospect for commercial deposits of the valued black gold. I reckon that $200 million isn't so much an expense to prospect for oil seeing that expenditures in that industry can run into billions (in dollars) and that finding oil could give a sense of geographical national security. But, the opportunity cost of such choice is high, hence a rethink (and reversal) of that decision is apt. I believe that the frontier exploration in the Lake Chad basin was pushed forward by Northern leaders who wanted a sense of belonging to Nigeria's claim to wealth - Oil. Let's leave the exploration to the private oil companies who have done far better than their NNPC counterpart in all respects of the Petroleum business and focus on more pressing demands of the Nigerian populace.

      Delete
  2. #OneChanceChange

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