MINISTER of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr Ibe Kachikwu, has stated that rescuing over 200 abducted Chibok girls from Boko Haram captivity in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, was more important than the protection of oil and gas installations in the Niger Delta region.
Dr Kachikwu, who dismissed allegation that President Muhammadu Buhari led the All Progressives Congress (APC) government was paying more attention to the protection of oil installations than to rescue the missing girls, made this known on CNN’s Quest Means Business Monday night.
According to him, “if you remember, most of his first state visits were to neighbouring countries, trying to gather alignment among neighbouring countries military forces in fighting this issue and the military has been engaged in that territory.
“One of the crises the president had to inherit was the fact that once he came in, he found that monies that were allocated to the military to be able to deal with these issues, were largely diverted and he spent a lot of time trying to find funds.
“He first had to deal with that problem, but once he dealt with that, the army has got more brisk in its business, however, we haven’t found the girls and its sorrowful for every Nigerian who thinks about it.
“I have children, the last thing I want is for people’s children to be in the forest abandoned and we are doing everything we can, I sympathise with all parents, who are in this situation, but the president hasn’t given upon this,” he reassured.
A critic of the Buhari-led administration, who was aired on the programme anchored by Richard Quest, had said the military was leaving the North-East for the Niger Delta to guard the pipelines.
Dr Kachikwu disagreed by saying: “Not quite so, at all. On the contrary, since President Buhari resumed, I think his first steps were targeted at the North-East and the Chibok girls.”
He stressed that Nigeria needed to produce as much as 900,000 barrels of excess crude per day to make up for lost crude and to meet the benchmark of the 2016 budget.
“It is a difficult time, production is about 1.5 million barrels a day, but we intend to get that up. We are putting a lot of energy around it, a lot of dialogue, a lot of engagement, a lot of security meetings to try and resolve it.
“President Muhammadu Buhari is very concerned about these things, a lot of executive time is being given to this. We are expecting that over the next one month, two months, we would find some final solution that would bring production upward.
“Beyond that, the reality is that we have lost a lot quite a lot of months, about five, six months of continuous problems. So, it is going to be difficult to catch up with the 2.2 million barrels on which the 2016 budget is based.
“But we are certainly going to try, once things are calmer. We need an average of 900,000 barrels per day, excess production to catch up. That is going to be very tough, but we are going to work on that,” he explained further.