Last week, Senator Smart Adeyemi presented a draft Bill for the establishment of a Frontier Exploration Agency, supported by Senator Ndoma Egba, who argued that it was absurd not to make effort to explore for petroleum in other basins around our country. Adeyemi’s Bill is actually one of the most important economic laws in recent times.
Northerners have been lukewarm about Diezani’s draft Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, because of perception that it was skewed to make it almost impossible to explore for oil in the North. Yet industry experts have talked up possibilities for petroleum deposits in various basins and troughs located in Northern Nigeria: Benue, Borno, Bida and Sokoto.
They argued that the geological contiguity with Niger and Chad, where commercial quantities of oil deposits were found, made geological sense for oil finds in related Nigerian zones.
But there is a controversial content to the politics of Nigerian oil. There is an almost apocryphal story that is quite indicative.
Leading Jonathan administration officials were allegedly urged by Nigerian diplomats accredited to the Chad Basin Commission to intensify exploration efforts in the BornoBasin; these officials pointedly asked why the diplomats thought Jonathan’s government would facilitate emergence of oil deposits that will compete with Niger Delta’s! Many in the North believe these conspiracy theories and these feelings have also inspired the lukewarm attitude to PIB, seen rightly or wrongly, as prepared to facilitate a Niger Delta elite stranglehold on the Nigerian oil industry.
When the agency is established, adequately funded and given the mandate to effectively function, the possibilities that oil might be discovered in basins and troughs outside the Niger Delta will come closer to realisation.
Such a possibility will in fact add immeasurably to Nigeria’s revenue base. It is in anticipation of that future, that the BornoState government recently issued several scholarships to its indigenes for post-graduate studies in several fields related to petroleum development. The Bill potentially offers a win-win possibility for our country.
We had very bitter differences with Adeyemi in the past, related to the politics of NUJ, mainly. But I think the Frontier Exploration Agency Bill will be one of his remarkable contributions to Nigeria’s development. That is why it is an initiative to be applauded.