Eventually, the search for hydrocarbon in the North has yielded result with the inauguration of oil drilling in the Kolmani Integrated Development Project, at the Kolmani oil field site, Alkaleri in Bauchi State. Kolmani Oil Fields, actually, spread between Gombe and Bauchi states in the North east belt of the country. This is coming 63 years after the natural resource was first drilled in Oloibiri, Bayelsa State. A visit to this pioneering community will sure rein in the exhilaration so far on display on account of the presence of oil in the North.
However, with the commencement of operations, Nigeria is expected to tap into the one billion barrels of crude oil from the first reservoir of the Kolmani oil fields and oil exploration could reach 19 billion barrels of crude with the discovery of more reservoirs. The country will also reap over 500 billion standard cubic feet of gas from the first reservoir with prospects for higher volumes of gas.
The field, according to its promoters, is to start producing about 50,000 barrels of crude oil per day and holds over one billion barrels of crude oil reserves, shooting up Nigeria’s oil reserves to over 38 billion barrels.
This development is generating considerable excitement not just in the North but in other parts of the country as well. The reason is not far-fetched. The natural resource is a major wealth enhancer for nations endowed with it except, unfortunately, Nigeria.
Already, President Muhammadu Buhari, while flagging-off the drilling project, announced that the discovery has already attracted a whopping $3 billion investment despite the lack of appetite in the oil sector.
The interesting part of the story is that the managers of the nation’s oil and gas industry may have learnt a lesson or two on how best to explore and exploit to the fullest the benefits of the commodities, that is to say, oil and gas, so as not to repeat the disaster that is oil exploration in the Niger Delta.
Also, there are media reports of admonitions from high profile personalities warning against a repeat of the environmental degradation that has devastated other places in the country where oil and gas were first discovered.
There are also reports that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited (NNPCL) has plans in the first phase of the project to put in place an oil refinery, a gas processing plant, a 300-megawatt power plant and a fertilizer plant producing 2,500 tonnes a day.
In the opinion of this newspaper, if these are achieved, the multiplier effect in terms of infrastructural development, environment protection, job creation and impact on the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will be enormous.
There are others, too, who are apprehensive that not much will change from what obtains presently in the Niger Delta. Or even for that matter, the rest of the country and the people in general who are not benefitting as they should from the goodies accruable from the resource. For these set of Nigerians, they cite the pervasive poverty in the land, the dilapidated infrastructure, high level of unemployment as evidence that oil in Nigeria may, after all, be a curse because the country was fairing relatively better before oil was discovered.
Actually, a government agency recently raised an alarm that 133 million Nigerians are multidimensionally poor. Earlier, the international community had described Nigeria as the poverty capital of the world. This, in spite of the fact that the country is the eight largest oil producer in the world. The also cite the fact that even with refineries dotting the landscape, Nigeria still imports refined petroleum products. To this extent, industry watchers are expressing guarded optimism over the discovery of oil in the North based on experiences of how the sector is, so far, managed in the country
In the opinion of this newspaper, there is nothing much to cheer with the discovery of oil in the North. The resource will still be controlled by the same cartel that has held a vice-like grip on the industry and denied Nigerians, in the process, the benefits they had expected to derive from being citizens of an oil producing country.
We are persuaded to make reference to other countries that are even less endowed and how they have managed to use the resource to improve the lot of their people. For Nigerians, not much has been done for the people in this regard by the ruling class. Instead, by-products of oil like premium motor spirit (PMS) aviation fuel (Jet-A1) and diesel are all priced locally based on international market operations.
We are still battling with the scourge of oil theft perpetrated by the rich and mighty in the society who have the financial muscle, political clout and international connection required to pull off such high-risk ventures. These same set of people are waiting in the wings for Kolmani to come on stream.
Regardless of the antics of these buccaneers, we are hopeful that the government and the agency in charge will do the needful in terms of changing the narrative in favour of Nigerians. In particular, the soothing effects of the fresh opportunity nature has just offered the nation with the discovery of oil in the North.