By Ogala Igali
Ordinarily, the discovery of oil or any naturally occurring mineral resource that can enhance revenue and improve life would be a cheery news to any community everywhere. It becomes a natural blessing due to the chains of economic opportunities and wealth such discoveries could brings to the people except perhaps, Nigeria if the country’s long queues revenue issues are to be overlooked.
However, the desperate politics in the twist in conveying conflicting dates of exploration and spud by the APC controlled government of Nasarawa state raises some curious concerns as each time the governor gets an opportunity, he annouces a date. In one such instance, on a re-election campaign visit to Keana at the palace if the chief of Keana, the governor anounced that oil exploration would start 2027 in the area. One wondered his authority here as spokesmanof either the NNPLC or of the Ministry.
But a new and seemingly urgent date was recently released by the GMD of the NNPC Limited, Mele Kyari and the minister of state, Petroleum, Timiprye Marlin Silver.
Clearly politics in the discovery is being introduced in the latest date of exploration of oil in Keana, Nasarawa state as in the garb of Subsidy claims on the product in the sector. Analysts and industry watchers only got confused the more as a result of these official pronouncements.
While experts say they are still analysing seismic data and expecting major spud leading to commercial oil drilling activities in Keana to commence in the next four or five years, the state governor, Alhaji Abdullahi Sule led senior citizens and officials to visit the top managers of the industry and scraped a not so convincing date, raising hopes and planting what appear to be half truth or huriedly coblled message for the public. While 2027 is a more realistic date, March 2023 is definitely a political date for many reasons. This is general election year. Kolmani and its confusion is as fresh as the rush for photo frenzy and media coverage in the announcement over there and someone remarked: this old APC trick has been reactivated again to hoodwink frustrated and expectant communities in order to harvest undeserved votes at the next elections by the ruling party.
The governors heightened interest might not be unconnected to need to up his profile for the next Governorship election in which he is on the ballot seeking a second term. “They can only deny it,” said a source.
Recall that Governor Sule had said with certainty during his campaign visit to Keana recently, that oil exploration will commence in Keana in 2027. He also explained at another occasion in November last year at a fund raising event for his election, that only 2D data had been acquired for Keana while Kolmani in Bauchi or Gombe state already had 3D reason for the actuvation of spuding there. One wonders what has changed and the magic that has now given a new date of march 2023 for Keana. Meanwhile, in this haste, they have forgotten the people in whose domain the find was made. No one in Keana can tell you exactly the location of the find or envisaged activity. All they can recall is that the people came claiming to be on a data collection survey and have since packed out of the area and the place where they were encamped without any news. “Not even a rumour” quipped a local teacher in the area, can explain anything about what happened.
The governor also went for APC political rally at Obi LG, proximate local government area to Keana where he made similar pronouncements to the applause and admiration of the people.
At that event, the governor boasted that his administration will attract private investors to come in and develop the oil potentials of Keana and Obi just as it was done in Kolmani, in Gombe/Bauchi States.
However, he forgot to mention the series of technical and community lacuna involved in the Kolmani exploration and how he intended to solve it in his state even though, ownership of such natural resource still remain in the exclusive domain of the federal government, the last time I checked.
This kind of campaign rethoric is worrisome because this same governor had said before media cameras in Abuja earlier that: “God has blessed Keana with educated people and Nasarawa State with abundant mineral deposits. By the grace of God in the next four or five years, work will commence in Keana”.
To push for a deal, Governor Sule said that, aside the prevalence of the highest grade of coal deposits found in Obi Local government, there was also an unprecedented discovery of crude oil underneath the coal, and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is in Obi to carry out exploration activities as well, saying that the
NNPC Limited had disclosed that Nasarawa State is expected to join the league of oil-producing states in the country, as it will commence its first oil well drilling in 2027.
In a curious disclosure, Mele Kyari, Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the NNPCL said on Friday last week, that the official spud-in (testing) of the first oil well in Nasarawa State will commence in March 2023.
According to Daily Trust reports, Kyari, emphasized that it was in continuation of hydrocarbon exploration activities in Nigeria’s inland basins.
The NNPC boss made this known while receiving in audience a delegation of prominent Nasarawa State APC indigenes led by Governor Abdullahi Sule, to the NNPC Towers, Abuja.
Kyari said that available data had confirmed the presence of hydrocarbon in Nasarawa State, with the company ready to commence drilling the first oil well in Keana.
He explained that, once the Keana well proves successful, it can transform the potential of the state tremendously.
“We have carried out several exploratory activities in the form of gathering the right data and making the right decisions. We are very convinced at this point that very soon Nasarawa State will join the league of states with a hydrocarbon presence,” he said.
According to him however, experts have warned that the process need to be hastened as the world is now moving away from fossil fuels toward renewable energy.
Kyari further emphasized that, it is a work in progress but the opportunity of our lifetime is in our hands. This also must be done very fast. I must warn you that there is something called energy transition.
He further said that the whole world is turning away from fossil fuel, and the earlier you go to the market, the better for you. Otherwise, ten years from now, you will not find anyone agreeing to put money into the petroleum business, except if it comes from your cash flow.
“Everything we must do, we must do them now so that we can create the cash flow that will continue to sustain the project going forward,” he said.
While appreciating the sense of urgency, there is no presence of any rig or heavy duty equipment in Keana and the exact location for the activity is unknown. Farmers have not been communicated neither has the community been sensitised signalling that no lessons have been learned after more that 50 years of the experience in the Niger-Delta.
Apart from the twist in the Keana and Obi oil fines and mineral discoveries as political windows, the state government has also reported to mounting severe pressure on traditional rulers and community leaders to deliver their subjects to the APC in the next March Governorship election.
Investigation revealed that the Chiefs under intense pressure include the Etsu Karu, the Chum Mada, the Osana of Keana and others., reason for their crude and open involvement in matters and affairs of politics in the state. There is no gainsaying that such acts come with community consequences to the holders of such positions in the future.
Although even now, the youths and organize workers unions are rejecting the state government ploy to coarce them into Governor Sule’s style of crude partisanship. This means the end is not in sight for the expression of crude tactics to gain last minute popularity before the general elections due to commence February 25th, 2023