The latest directive from President Muhammadu Buhari to management of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC to expedite action in ensuring a speedy exploration of crude oil in northern Nigeria has been interpreted on two fronts: political and economic connotations.
Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Mr. Maikanti Baru on Monday, July 25 said President Buhari has instructed the NNPC to go into the frontier basin of Chad by Kolmani River in Bauchi State where oil is reported to have been discovered and commence exploration activities in the area without wasting time. Baru quickly remarked that “We will re-invigorate the Frontier Exploration Services and see how they collaborate with the Northern Nigeria Development Company, NNDC.”
According to the NNPC boss, the commission “is holding bloc 809 where we have some of the finds and also the Department for Petroleum Resources, DPR, for the other blocs that have not been assigned.” To many public analysts, the order is more political than economical. Buhari’s administration had reportedly allocated about N34 billion for the finding and commencement of oil exploration activities in the North. Some see it as a desperate move by the president to empower his region that has passionately criticized the 13% derivation allocation to oil producing States in the Delta Region of the South.
There had been a long standing political tussle between the North and South over what should be given to the host communities or oil producing States as proceeds from the exploration of oil in their land. Oil accounts for over 85% of Nigeria’s national revenue, and it is exclusively found and cheaply explored in the Niger Delta. Ironically, more than 72% of oil blocs in the region are reportedly owned by Northerners who have ruled the country more, while the Niger Delta Region has been degraded without compensation or development over the years, a situation that has sparked serial youth restiveness in the region.
The President’s order is also interpreted to mean giving voice to the North that is seen as currently not contributing to the National treasury. Apart from that, the move is also understood to mean a preparation by the North for the much talked about regionalization or restructuring of the country as it is being clamored for by some groups and individuals in the country. Industry experts have applauded the idea, they say it will increase Nigeria’s oil output as well as state revenues. The prognosis is, only time shall tell the true intent of the move.