In spite of several failed attempts in the past to find oil in the northern part of the country, the Federal Government has not given up, as it has stepped up the search by awarding a fresh contract for the exploration of oil and gas resources in the region.
Vice President Namadi Sambo said today in Kaduna at the opening of the two-day Arewa Conference on Peace and Unity organized by the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) that government remained convinced that oil would still be found in commercial quantity since Chad and Niger Republic located in the adjoining hydrocarbon basin with structural settings similar to Nigeria’s have since made commercial discoveries.
According to him, the contract award, for which he said work is currently in progress, is part of Federal Government efforts to boost the economy and development of the North.
He however did not name the company to which the contract was awarded.
“It is our hope that this (contract award) will lead to the discovery of commercially viable oil deposits in the Nigerian sector of the Lake Chad Basin, since both Chad and Niger have made such discoveries and are already utilising the products,” Mr Sambo said.
The most recent fruitless effort by the government, through the New Frontier Exploration Services Division of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), to find crude in the entire Inland Basins, had resulted in the acquisition of over 3,550 square kilometers of three dimensional (3-D) seismic data for processing and interpretation, in addition to about 6,000 km of 2-D data already acquired for processing.
Similar attempts by the NNPC/Chevron joint venture had resulted in the drilling of 23 wells, with two – Wadi-1 and Kinasar – encountering non- commercial gas deposits. The wells were later certified dry holes and abandoned.
Discoveries in Chad and Niger Republic were in basins with similar structural settings as Nigeria’s, including Doba, Doseo and Bongor in Chad reputed to hold reserves in excess of two billion barrels; Logone Birni in Southern Chad and Northern Cameroun, with one billion barrels reserves, and Termit-Agadem Basin in Niger, with over one billion barrels reserves.
Restating the present administration’s commitment to the development of the economy in the Northern part of the country, Mr. Sambo said efforts have been made to address the endemic problems militating against the economic growth of the region, particularly in the areas of power supply, transportation, water supply, agricultural development, education, healthcare delivery, access to finances and good governance.
Apart from a 215 mega watts (MW) thermal power plant currently under construction in Kaduna, to fully address the power supply problems of the textile mills and other industries in the state, the vice president said the Gurara dam project has already been completed with a capacity to generate about 30MW of hydro electric power, while work on the transmission line is in progress, and contract is to be awarded for the 700MW Zungeru power plant in Niger State.
He gave the second quarter of 2012 as deadline for the award of contract for the construction of the 2,600MW Mambilla power project in Taraba State, while over 17 small and medium sized dam projects are also ongoing in different locations in the region, including Kano, Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna, Gombe, Kogi, Taraba and Bauchi states. These are to provide a total of about 200MW of hydro electric power, to be embedded within the locality of the dams, in addition to the ongoing NIPP projects expected to inject 5,000MW into the national grid.
On transportation, he said all dual carriageways connecting Kano, Jigawa, Yobe and Borno States are being completed as well as the Abuja-Abaji-Lokoja road, while the dredging of River Niger is 70 percent completed.
“In 2012, we will witness ships delivering goods at Lokoja in Kogi and Baru in Niger State. On completion of the dredging, government will look at the possibility of dredging River Benue, up to Yola in Adamawa State,” he said, adding that all railway infrastructure abandoned for over 30 years, including the rail line connecting Kaduna, Kano, Jeba, Ilorin to Lagos, are currently being rehabilitated.
He said a new 3,700 kilometers standard rail line connecting Zaria, Funtua, Gusau to Karim Namoda in the eastern flank from Maiduguri, Bauchi, Jos, Kafanchan to Port Harcourt to connect Kaduna and Abuja is being constructed, while government has procured 25 new locomotive engines as well as rehabilitated several coaches and wagons ready for service.
Similarly, he said several water supply schemes have been completed in Sokoto, Kaduna, Dutse, Gombe, Bauchi, Kogi, Plateau, Zamfara, Yobe, Bornu and Federal Capital Territory as well as other rural water projects in the region.
He said government is currently implementing an agricultural policy aimed at making the sector a business and not a programme, by providing adequate extensive services that would help increase yield per hectare, pointing out all programmes in the agricultural value chain are being addressed to facilitate value addition.
“Government is revitalizing several irrigation schemes in Yobe, Adamawa, Taraba, Nasarawa, Kwara Jigawa, Plateau, Zamfara, Kaduna and Kebbi to boost the capacity to produce 400,000 metric tons of rice per annum to help reduce the country’s food import bill as well as stop importation of rice next year,” Mr Sambo said.
On education, he said government is determined to ensure that every state in the North has a Federal University to complement the ones already operational in Gombe, Jigawa, Kogi, Nasarawa, Kaduna and Taraba, adding that funds are being provided in partnership with the various state governments to provide the necessary infrastructure and facilities towards resolving education problems of the region.