By FESTUS OKOROMADU,
Nigeria’s Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, yesterday said the federal government has suspended crude oil exploration in the Chad Basin until further notice.
The announcement is coming on the heels of Tuesday’s attack of personnel of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), in Borno State by suspected members of the Boko Haram terrorist group.
The Minister who disclosed this while addressing newsmen in Abuja yesterday stated that the Corporation would only resume production if it gets sufficient assurance and security clearance from the military authorities, guaranteeing the safety of its personnel and operations.
Kachikwu was doubles as the Chairman of the NNPC Board, said, “Whether we will resume, obviously, will depend again on what security clearance is given. Certainly, we will not go back unless they give us clearance; just like we did not go in before they gave us clearance. Provided they are sufficient security clearance, I don’t see why we would not continue to push.”
Speaking on the need to review the security apparatus working with those engaged in the crude exploration in the region, the Minister said, “The lessons we are going to take away from this incidence is that we are going to look at the security apparatus and find out whether they are a little bit more we can do. I know that they were over 200 security personnel, between the military, the CJTF and others. They were very well protected, and as I said, the activities had been going on for over six months.
“Obviously, we can imagine that the security operatives, who are more of experts in this, would take a second look at what has happened, and like the learning that they take from every area where Boko Haram is operating, they would look to see what more protection that would be put in place.”
Kachikwu stated that the search for crude in the region was intensified after getting clearance from the military, “In November 2016, based on the advice from the military after the successful campaign and degrading of the insurgency in that zone, the NNPC resumed exploration activities in area namely Gubio, Magumeri, Monguno, Kukawa, Abadam, Guzamala and Mobar,’’ he stated.
He added that the exploration program in the Chad Basin was necessitated by nation’s desire to grow its reserve to over 37 billion barrels. “In line with the aspiration of Mr. President for the country to grow its current crude oil reserve base of over 37 billion barrels of oil, the NNPC has resumed exploration activities in the Inland sedimentary basins,” he stated.
While commiserating with the family of those who dead due to the incident, the Minister said, “Let me say this is a sad moment, not just for the nation, but also for the NNPC. These are individuals that gave their very best. They are hardworking people who continued to grow the means of livelihoods of Nigerians and opportunities for the country.”
“We sympathise with the families of the deceased and we offer our condolences. We pray that the souls lost rest in peace,” he stated.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg report late Thursday that at least 48 people were killed in the Tuesday attack, claiming that it got the figures from hospital and military officials in the northeast city of Maiduguri.
Breakdown of those who died, according to the report include 18 soldiers, 15 local vigilantes, five geologists from the University of Maiduguri, four drivers working for NNPC and six others.