FG’s search for oil in Sokoto, Benue basins

THE Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr. Maikanti Baru, while playing host to the Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal in Abuja, recently revealed that crude oil exploration had commenced in the Sokoto Basin and Benue Trough. He explained that the steps taken by his corporation to facilitate the process included procuring aeromagnetic data on the Sokoto Basin from the Nigerian Geophysical Survey, awarding contract for the mapping and procurement of apt samples to further the understanding of the area, and contracting Integrated Data Services Limited (IDSL) to carry out various geochemistry investigations to boost the gathering and integration of all relevant data.

That the NNPC is committing huge resources to the search of oil at a time when the world is seeking an alternative to crude oil is not only sickening but also alarmingly exasperating, especially given the statement by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the Course 25 graduation ceremony of the National Defence College, Abuja, that Nigeria must look beyond oil for its survival. Every available indicator suggests that the end of crude oil reign is in sight, yet Nigeria continues to act as if oil will forever be gold. The stark reality is that irrespective of Nigeria’s obsession with crude oil, the world is leaving crude oil behind in the search for cleaner energy sources. So, crude oil will no longer attract as much revenue as Nigeria is used to.

Already, both Britain and France have announced their plans to ban all petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040. India and China, two of the biggest importers of Nigeria’s crude oil, have also announced dates when fossil-powered automobiles will no longer be allowed in their territories. Tesla Inc. is investing a fortune on the mass production of electric vehicles. Volvo has resolved to stop the manufacture of both diesel and petrol vehicles by 2019 and many automobile companies are joining the fray. Battery-powered cars, buses, trucks, forklifts, rail cars, among others, are coming on stream daily. Solar-powered vehicles are also becoming commonplace. The more these become the vogue, the less need there will be for crude oil. It is not that crude oil will become totally useless, but the reality is that its usefulness will decline so seriously that no wise country will hinge its survival and sustenance on it. So, it will not matter even if every state in Nigeria flows with crude oil because it will no longer attract the sort of returns that will keep the nation afloat. Knowing this, why is the government expending energy and scarce resources on a venture that is doomed to yield less than satisfactory benefits?

The Federal Government and its agencies need to wake up to the reality that the era of crude oil is racing to its end. This is not because the oil wells are running dry but because human nature is never content with having the same thing all the time. The truth is that new technology will always replace old ones, and new findings will always take the shine off older ones. So, cleaner energy is set to rubbish the glory of crude oil.

However, in spite of these well-known facts, Nigeria has been sinking huge resources in the search of crude oil in the North. Over the last 30 years, a total of $340 million and N27 billion has been deployed to crude oil exploration in the North-East. The government is increasing this with the needless adventure in the Sokoto Basin and Benue Trough. If a fortune has already been sunk in search of a fleeting fortune, what is the wisdom in staking more fortunes to secure an unsure fortune? According to a study carried out in the North-East, there is an unproven reserve of about 2.3 billion barrels of oil reserves and about 14.65 trillion standard cubic feet of natural gas available for a minimum of four countries in the Chad Basin area. Recent studies even suggest that the combination of both the Sokoto Basin and Benue Trough have less crude oil and natural gas than the Chad Basin, whereas there are about 37 billion barrels of proven oil reserves and about 187 trillion standard cubic feet of gas in the Niger Delta region. So, while there is the likelihood of oil and gas being available in the northern part of the country, the quantity does not give much cause for cheer.

Therefore, it is high time those who romanticise crude oil and the pecuniary returns from it sprang out of their self-inflicted myopia and realised that the days of crude oil as a means of economic power are numbered. Crude oil will never sell at $100 per barrel again. In less than 10 years, the cost of extracting and refining crude oil will likely be higher than its market value. So, the faster the nation moves on to something else, the better for it.

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