First it was at Kolmani, in Bauchi/Gombe States, and now President Muhammadu Buhari has struck again. In a region some people have said was fated never to produce even a cup of oil, the second exploration exercise was flagged off this week.
The spud-in ceremony of the Ebenyi-A, Middle Benue Trough, was conducted virtually on Tuesday, March 28, 2023, pedestaling President Buhari as the leader under whom the oil wealth of the country snowballed into humongous quantity, guaranteeing the prosperity of Nigeria for now and the future.
Writing on the oil find in Kolmani last November, I had described is as “one small step for man, but a giant leap for mankind, for the whole country.” With Nasarawa also in the bag now, Nigeria is not only running as an oil-rich country, it is flying.
It was a visibly delighted President who welcomed guests and stakeholders to what he called “this very momentous occasion of the spudding of the Ebenyi-A well located in the Middle Benue Trough, Obi Local Government of Nasarawa State.”
He said it was in line with the ongoing campaigns for the exploration of crude oil and gas in the Nation’s Frontier Basins, including the Chad Basin, Dahomey Basin, Anambra Platform, the Calabar Embankment, Sokoto Basin, Bida Basin, Benue Trough as well as the Ultra-Deepwater Niger Delta.
Hear the President: “Today’s occasion marks the official commencement of exploration drilling activities in the Middle Benue Trough. This is consistent with the commercial discoveries of hydrocarbons in the Kolmani Area of the Upper Benue Trough. I am pleased to note that activities are currently ongoing to develop the Kolmani petroleum discoveries to commercial production to add to the nation’s considerable hydro-carbon assets.
“I am encouraged by the enormous work done by NNPC Limited to exploit the prospects in the Middle Benue Trough, leading to the event of today.
“I congratulate NNPC Limited, the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission and other partners for their immense contributions towards making this day and this event possible.”
It was possible for a less nationalist leader, who also hails from the northern part of the country, to start gloating about the balance of forces that oil find in that part of the country has wrought. But not Buhari. He thinks Nigeria, rather than region, and thus declared: “I am happy that the consequent positive outcomes of these drilling campaigns will lead to greater prosperity for our people and especially enhance overall energy security for our country. No doubt, the surrounding communities will particularly benefit from the value that will be created by the exploration and eventual production activities.”
Greater prosperity for our people, and especially enhance overall energy security for our country. That’s the way to go, the way to think Nigeria, and be the father of all.
Right at that point, the President was also futuristic in thought, borrowing from the experience of environmental degradation in the areas the country had prospected for oil in the past. He counseled: “I am also admonishing NNPC Limited and its partners to take due care of the environmental consequences of these oil exploration activities and to mitigate the negative effects.”
Oil exploration is often accompanied by social unrest and militancy, thus it was very germane for the President to address the Government and people of Nasarawa State- the host community- “for their unfettered support and collaboration towards the success of this exploration campaign.” Indeed, without their support and cooperation, oil would become doom, and not a boom.
Group Chief Executive Officer (GCEO) of NNPC Ltd, Mallam Mele Kolo Kyari, described the spud-in as “an important milestone in our efforts to harness the abundant natural resources of our country.
“This is a special occasion for us at the NNPC Ltd and the Nigeria Upstream Regulatory Commission, the Nasarawa people and Nigeria as we spud the first well in the middle Benue Trough while at the same time executing Mr President’s express mandate for us to pursue exploration in the frontier inland Basins with vigor. The mandate no doubt targets growth of hydrocarbon reserves in our country with the ultimate aim of enhancing national energy security and associated economic benefits to our people.”
Enhancing national energy security and associated economic benefits to our people. Did you hear of regionalism or the North? No. It was all about Nigeria. “National energy security,” and not solely about the people of a region, though they equally stand to benefit tremendously from the development. If only we can think Nigeria more, our country would be better.
Going down the memory lane, the GCEO said exploration in the mid Benue trough commenced over a decade ago. “Since 2010, we have executed several geophysical activities, applied niche technologies and conducted very integrated studies leading to the firming up of the Ebenyi-A well. Indeed, our findings are very indicative of potential commercial hydrocarbon discovery in this area.
“Today, we have mobilized the drilling rig to this site, here in Obi Local Government Area of Nasarawa State. We are optimistic that the positive outcome of this campaign will contribute to the National aspiration of increasing our hydrocarbon reserves from 37 billion barrels to 50 billion barrels, in the short to medium term and increase our crude oil production to a target of 3m barrels.”
Just like the President, Mallam Kyari was also thinking environment. “I would like to use this opportunity to assure our stakeholders that we will conduct this operation with the utmost care and attention to health, safety and the environment. We understand the responsibility that comes with exploring and exploiting natural resources, and we are committed to doing so in a way that will best benefit our country and its people.
“As NNPC Ltd we commit to leading practices and highest standards in the course of our operations and would be engaging in Impact Assessment studies during and after operations to mitigate possible effects of our exploration activities. We will also engage the host communities as major stakeholders and execute Community Assisted Projects in line with NNPC Ltd Corporate Social Responsibility policies and provisions of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA).
“Like we witnessed in the successful discovery of oil and gas in the Kolmani River Field, we are here today to celebrate another key milestone in Nigeria’s oil and gas history.”
Key milestone in Nigeria’s oil and gas history. Not Northern, not regional, not Nasarawa, but Nigeria’s oil and gas history. Those are the rhetorics that build and enhance a nation, not divisive, sectional tendencies.
Engineer Gbenga Komolafe, NUPRC Chief Executive, in his Goodwill Message, said the event marked another milestone in the decades of hydrocarbon exploration in the inland frontier basins and underscores the effort government is making in ensuring that requisite investments are made in Frontier Basin exploration in Nigeria.
He then gave honour to whom it was due, paying glowing tribute to President Muhammadu Buhari for his commitment to mitigate energy poverty, create shared prosperity and enthrone sustainable growth in the Nigerian Economy.
“We fervently believe that the outcome
of the drilling activity will usher in wealth creation and massive economic prosperity for the people of Nasarawa State and the Nation in general.”
For the people of Nasarawa State, and the Nation in general. Thinking Nigeria.
He said one of the key regulatory focus of the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) is to grow reserves from the current 37 Billion barrels of oil to 40 Billion barrels of oil by 2030.
“The PIA 2021 provided the regulatory support and framework for achieving this objective by providing for the Frontier Exploration Fund which the NNPC Limited can utilize to deploy world class cutting-edge technologies to de-risk exploration in the frontier basins. The spud-in of Ebenyi-A fields will benefit from the fund and this will significantly contribute to boosting our oil reserves and facilitate sustainable domestic energy security.”
The spud-in ceremony had a touch of royalty and prayers, as Chairman, Nasarawa State Council of Traditional Rulers, Justice Sidi Bage Muhammed 1, used the opportunity to thank President Buhari, all stakeholders in the oil industry, the people of the State, and prayed that the development would signpost the beginning of new things.
President Buhari is an oil man, who had served as Petroleum Minister for over three years in the 1970s, holds the oil portfolio now, and remains squeaky clean. His footprints loom large in the oil sector of the country. And those footprints will remain indelible.